Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Yields: 1 2/3 cups caramel sauce
Several weeks ago, I went to Fomu in Allston and tried their salted caramel ice cream. Even though I was stuffed from dinner (a vegan po’ boy and unnecessary but delicious hush puppies) earlier at Root around the corner, I consumed the hilariously large ice cream and instantly became obsessed with salted caramel. In the following weeks, when I would see prepared salted caramel in grocery stores, I’d snatch it up to read the ingredients, knowing full well it wouldn’t be vegan, yet still hoping that it somehow it would be. But, no.
I made my first batch with all of the ingredients listed below, except the whisky and sriracha, and it tasted amazing: rich and buttery, without being sticky or too sweet. But I wanted to introduce these two things into my second batch just to see what would happen. The whisky delivered a subtle kiss of smoke on contact, while the sriracha rounded everything out with a gentle slap of spice at the end. The flavor was addictive without being too aggressive, making this a unique snack that’s perfect to gift to another or keep for yourself.
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight
1/4 cup water
1 TB whisky
1 TB sriracha
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup Earth Balance
2/3 cup brown sugar
16 cups fresh-popped unsalted and unflavored popcorn
1/3 cup peanuts
Preheat your oven to 225 °F.
Drain the soaked cashews, rinse, then blend with the 1/4 cup water until smooth. Set aside.
Whisk the whisky, sriracha, salt and baking soda together. Set aside.
Melt the vegan butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add in the brown sugar and whisk continuously for about 3 minutes, taking care not to let it burn—and watch out for any sugar sputters!
Remove from the heat. Add the whisky, sriracha, salt and baking soda mixture to it. It will bubble and steam vigorously.
Once settled, add the cashew cream to the saucepan and stir until combined.
Place the popcorn into a large prep bowl. Drizzle about half of the caramel over the top, then gently stir with a wooden spoon to coat. Throw the peanuts over the top, then drizzle the remaining caramel over top and gently stir again.
Transfer to a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 1 hour, gently stirring it around after 30 minutes and scraping the bottom to prevent burning.
Remove from the oven and let it rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then gently separate it by gently scraping the bottom of the sheet with a metal spatula. Allow it to cool and set a bit more on the baking sheet for about 15 minutes, then transfer it to an airtight container or serve immediately.