Ready? It's a big one ...
Kettle corn changed my life.
I remember as a young kid going to Kempenfest with my parents. Picture something along the lines of a county fair, or something similarly small-town. We walked past tent after tent of kitschy crafts - woodworks and breakables for all of your "personal totem pole and stained glass depiction of the last supper" needs, and that guy with the pan flute who was there EVERY YEAR.
But as a six year old whose idea of art consisted of macaroni and glue, and colouring outside of the lines (I was a rebel, what can i say?) these things just could not hold my interest. While everyone else seemed to be following the flow of traffic, I was following my little nose to the best part of the event ... the food tents and trucks!
There were hotdogs and hamburgers and sausages (oh my!) and then I saw it ... a whole tent devoted to popcorn!
*I need to stop here and add some vital information. At this point in my life, popcorn only had one flavour: popcorn flavour. This was before movie theatres sold those packets of "sour cream and onion" and "bbq" flavoured carcinogens that somehow end up more in your airway than on your popcorn. So when I see this tent of popcorn I'm thinking something along the lines of like what you get at the movie theatre or what comes out of the microwave. Alright, everybody good? We're on the same page? Okay moving on*
So there I was, standing in front of this tent of kernel-y goodness, my interest suddenly piqued. Of course being the very persuasive (read: whiny) youngling that I was, within minutes I had my own bag of popcorn in my hands. I stuck my little hand into the bag and shoved a handful into my mouth ... but what greeted my taste buds was not the familiar popcorn taste I knew. Oh no. Sure, that taste was there, but overtop, and more overwhelmingly, was a permeating sweetness I had never experienced before. At that moment, everything I thought I knew vanished. My little life was forever changed.
Kettle corn became a gateway snack for other sweet and salty treats, and years later that passion for contrasting yet complementary taste profiles has grown even stronger than ever. That love is very much present in these cupcakes.
This recipe is not mine, although I very much wish that it was (darn it). It's from one of my very favourite websites, Sprinkle Bakes! This website has so many beautiful and creative recipes to play with, feeding your eyes just as much as it feeds your belly. I received the Sprinkle Bakes book as a gift from a friend, and as soon as my eyes read the world Triple Salted Caramel Cupcakes, I knew that I had my next project.
Now, dear readers, caramel definitely isn't the easiest thing to get right the first time, and trust me when I say it's not one of those things that you can set on the stove and walk away from to answer the phone, paint your toe nails, or master the art of origami; it is the "needy partner" of the baking world and requires your undivided attention. There is literally a few seconds difference between a beautiful amber coloured caramel and a burnt syrup of disappointment and sadness, so it's extremely important to have all of your ingredients scaled (measured and waiting in your work area) before you start the caramel.
It should also go without saying that hot sugar is, well, hot. Please, my lovely readers, do be careful when you're in the kitchen always, but particularly when you're making these different caramels. As someone who has received more sugar burns than I care to count ... just trust me on this one. I love you all and care for your wellbeing ... really, I do.
These cupcakes are definitely labour intensive, and a bit messy, as we are making salted caramel three different ways! Holy cow! But trust me when I say, the finished product is so worth the time, effort, and caramel splattered kitchen.
I've been in the kitchen pretty much non stop lately, so I will have some more delicious original recipes for you all soon!
Until then, Happy Baking!