The obsession began decades ago.

At 2 or 3, my mother found me head-first in the trash can, eating popcorn my dad had tossed out the night before.

At 4 or 5, I begged and pleaded every time I heard corn’s tell-tail sounds after I’d gone to bed.

Pop. Pop. Pop pop. Pop pop pop.

“Can I have some?” I’d whine.

“Go to bed,” Mom and Dad would say.

When I grow up, I vowed, I will eat as much popcorn as I want, anytime I want.

I have. My college roommate will attest to the ludicrous amounts of corn I popped every night we lived together. My husband and children will describe how I plow through huge bowls by myself; how I pop corn for lunch, for dinner, for afternoon snacks and for late-night binges.

Now, I’m popping it for dessert.

Every year, the husband and I host a dinner party for managers at his firm who make partner. I always try to come up with a fun twist for dessert. (Last year it was gin-and-tonic gelées; the year before, a play on the old orange Creamsicle.) This year, I’ve decided to make popcorn.

In her new tome, The A.O.C. Cookbook, Suzanne Goin shares a recipe for caramel corn. How cool would it be to serve little boxes of popcorn as a side to creamy, chocolaty pudding or mousse? The crunch would offset the creaminess; the salt would complement the sweetness; the corn would satisfy my cravings!

I tested the recipe yesterday afternoon. It was surprisingly simple and oh so delicious: Crispy caramel-coated kernels, rich with butter, dark brown sugar and just enough kosher salt to keep the dish from cloying.

“Hands off!” I told the boys as they crowded around the pan.

I tasted a few clusters. Then tasted some more. Then realized I needed to make another batch, pronto.

I have a new obsession.

Suzanne Goin’s Caramel Popcorn

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup popcorn
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

Place the vegetable oil and popcorn in a large saute pan set over medium-high heat. Cover the pan with a lid and pop the corn, shaking the pan continuously so the kernels don’t stick. When the popcorn is done, turn it into a big bowl, being careful not to include any unpopped kernels:

popcorn plain

Wipe out the skillet. Place it over high heat, and add the brown sugar, corn syrup and butter. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil:

popcorn caramel step1

Add the baking soda, vanilla and 1 teaspoon of salt, and stir to combine. The caramel will thicken and change colors:

popcorn caramel step2

Pour the caramel over the popcorn, being careful not to spill it on yourself. (It’s hot!) Using a rubber spatula, toss the kernels until they’re completely coated:

popcorn stirred

Turn the popcorn out on a large, rimmed, parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure it lies in a single layer.

Place the baking sheet in a 300-degree oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then stir the corn and rotate the baking sheet. Bake for another 10 minutes.

Remove the popcorn from the oven, take a kernel or two and let them cool for a couple of minutes. Taste to ensure the sugar is hard and doesn’t stick to your teeth. (If it does, continue baking the corn, checking after every 2-3 minutes so it doesn’t burn.) Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt:

popcorn baked

Let the popcorn cool completely, then transfer it to an airtight container, breaking up any clumps with your fingers. Put the container in a hard-to-reach spot so you don’t immediately devour all 6 cups.

Or sit down, dig in and enjoy.