Caramel popcorn is a distinctly American snack that has been popular since the 1890s when early versions of popped corn kernels coated in a sugar and molasses based candy shell were introduced.
Over the last decade, as artisan confectioners and chocolate makers are cropping up around the country, we noticed a bastion of smaller popcorn and caramel corn producers have also been keeping it real. You may find some of the brands in a grocery store, but they are different from their commercial counterparts. These companies use natural ingredients and attempt innovative twists on one of the nation’s favorite snacks. Here are five superlative candy popcorn makers from across the country:
1. ANGIE’S KETTLECORN
AngiesPopcorn.com from Mankato, Minnesota.
Started as a project to demonstrate to their kids the value of hard work, Angie and Dan Bastien came up with popcorn as a project the family could do together. Angie’s Kettlecorn is light, and their Sweet & Spicy is coated in caramelized cane crystals and seasoned with garlic, paprika, cumin and cayenne. It’s non-GMO, kosher, has no trans-fats and no high fructose corn syrup.
Small batch and Artisan Caramel and Kettle Corn: Angie’s Kettlecorn, Too Haute Cowgirls, Pop! Gourmet popcorn and Berco’s. Photo by JMPurePastry.
BercosPopcorn.com, Chicago, Illinois.
Berco’s is new to the scene with just a single shop in Chicago. In a city with an established favorite, Berco’s Best Caramel Corn Ever stands out with super-premium ingredients common in the best pastry shops: Vermont Creamery Butter, Nielsen-Massey Vanilla, and Belgian chocolate. And where else can you drop $500 on a 2- gallon tin of billion dollar popcorn? We didn’t get to try it, but Berco tells us it’s rolled in 23 Karat gold flakes and finished with Danish Laeso salt.
PopGourmetPopcorn.com from Renton, Washington has been around just over a year.
Their line boasts ‘natural, gluten-free and high quality ingredients’ resulting in an ‘ultra-premium’ popcorn product. Try Butter Toffee Almond Roca, a super-rich caramel corn or their Cascade mix, a white cheddar popcorn and caramel corn combo that is a lighter twist on a classic.
Close-up of Best Caramel Corn Ever, Sweet & Spicy, Butter Toffee Almond Roca, and Cowgirl Coffee. Photo by JMPurePastry.
4. TOO HAUTE COWGIRLS
TooHauteCowgirls.com, Aspen, Colorado.
One cowgirl is an ex-wedding cake designer and graduate of New York Culinary Institute of America, the other cowgirl a chocolatier and friend from the Culinary School of the Rockies. Together, the duo translated caramel popcorn into a chocolate covered confection. Created with ‘care and artistry’ Too Haute’s flavors are unique and adventurous. We recommend their Cowgirl Coffee: caramel corn smothered in rich dark, coffee infused chocolate, tossed with chocolate covered espresso beans, then drizzled with white chocolate.
WHAT’S HOP CORN? What’s so addictive about Hop Corn? At Marion Street Cheese Market Bistro in Oak Park, Illinois, Executive Chef Leonard Hollander has created a tasty treat to accompany his inspired cuisine with sustainable sourced foods. Hop Corn, a mixture of local hops and honey is a stroke of genius. Bitter and complex cascade hops with sweet notes of local honey; Hop Corn packs a punch that is strangely addictive as your taste buds bounce from bitter to sweet and back again for more.
CORN GELATO AND FAUX POPCORN And finally we follow our popcorn exploration all the way into the dining room. Uchi’s creative Executive Pastry Chef Philip Speer gives us Sweet Corn Gelato, Popcorn Mousse, and Corn Soil which laces sweet corn and popcorn flavors into a gelato-centric dessert. Capturing the flavors of corn in three distinct textures delivers a familiar flavor with new sensations.
Jimmy & Julie MacMillan of JMPurePastry. Photo by Anthony Tahlier.
JMPurePastry is a Chicago-based pastry solutions group specializing in high quality, well designed products for the restaurant, baking and hospitality industry. The group is also responsible for the Emmy- Award winning Chicago Restaurant Pastry Competition video series. For more information, visit www.JMPurePastry.com.
Find JMPurePastry's 'Sweet Corn Gelato, Popcorn Mousse, Corn Soil' and 'Hopcorn' recipes in the DessertProfessional.com Recipe section or click the links below.