It's important that your popcorn be fresh and sturdy. Which is why we recommend popping your own. Dump the popcorn into a large bowl and, if you want to get creative,add nuts or dried fruit too.
Carmel: Melt 1 1/2 sticks of butter, then add a cup of brown sugar and a tablespoon or two of molasses. After the sugar's melted, crank up the heat and boil for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir constantly so that the caramel doesn't stick and burn.
It's helpful to know that the longer the caramel is on the stove, the crunchier your corn will be. Just don't leave the caramel on the stove so long that it starts to smoke. Add vanilla,salt (1 teaspoon if you want a salted caramel corn) and the magic ingredient:baking soda. Baking soda makes the caramel airy and foamy, giving it a softer texture and allowing it to better coat the corn.
The air bubbles that form when baking soda is added will make the caramel lighter in color and texture. Working quickly, pour the caramel into the bowl of popcorn and stir until all of the corn glistens with the golden sauce.
Into the oven it goes! Spread your caramel corn into an even layer on a lined baking sheet and bake at 250° F for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how dry you like the corn. Stir every 15 minutes, breaking up any clumps (or leaving them intact, if you're a fan). Let it cool completely.