15 cups plain popped popcorn (from about 1/2 cup kernels), unpopped kernels removed
3/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, plus more for coating the pan
3 tablespoonslight corn syrup
2 tablespoonsdark molasses, such as Grandma’s Robust
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 teaspoonvanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoonbaking soda
Immortalized in song as a timeless ballpark snack, Cracker Jack is still going strong after more than 100 years in the game. In the CHOW Test Kitchen, we came up with our own version of the molasses-and-caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts, along with a nifty cone you can print out and roll up to serve it in. Tuck in a surprise, and you’ll have a crunchy, munchy treat that Sailor Jack would salute.
What to buy: There are various intensities of molasses available, from light to blackstrap. Dark (sometimes marketed as robust) tastes best in this recipe. Molasses can be found in the baking aisle at grocery stores.
1Heat the oven to 250°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a large roasting pan with butter. Place the popcorn and peanuts in the pan and stir to combine; set aside.
2Place the brown sugar, measured butter, corn syrup, molasses, and salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Continue to boil without stirring for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and baking soda, and whisk until the caramel is light in color, foamy, and has doubled in volume, about 10 seconds.
3Immediately drizzle over the popcorn and peanuts, stir with the rubber spatula until thoroughly coated, and spread into an even layer.
4Bake, stirring with the rubber spatula every 15 minutes and scraping up any caramel from the bottom of the pan, until a cooled piece of popcorn is very crunchy, about 45 minutes total. (To test for doneness, take a few pieces of popcorn out of the oven and let cool for 30 seconds. If they’re crunchy, then the Cracky Snack is done.)
5Transfer the Cracky Snack to a work surface or rimmed baking sheet to cool completely (it will crisp as it cools). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.