Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Palomitas de Colores: Colorful Fruity Popcorn

So...A recipe for popcorn in a Mexican food blog? Of course! Corn is a quintessential Mexican food, with lots of symbolic meanings, check the previous post. Back in grammar school my friend's mother made colorful popcorn like this. The first time I saw it in his lunchbox I found the colors fascinating! My friend's mom used a syrup made out of hard candy (similar to jolly ranchers) to color the popcorn. This version uses less sugar and fresh fruit to flavor it, and it uses stovetop popped popcorn. It is crunchy, toasty and better than the microwave kinds, that are full of hydrogenated fats. Let's get cooking! You'll need the following ingredients:

  • Half a cup of Maiz Palomero, divided into eights of a cup (or any quality brand of popping corn)
  • Vegetable oil, two tablespoons
  • Salt, just a pinch (optional, it just brings out the flavor)
  • A sauce pan with a lid (it should hold at least 3 quarts)

Add the oil to the pan, and heat on high, together with one fat kernel of popcorn to test. Once the kernel pops, you are ready to add one eight of a cup of popcorn to the pan, and a pinch of salt. Shake it a bit so it divides evenly into a single layer. Cover and let it rest for about 15 seconds away from the heat - then place it over the flame once again. The popcorn should start popping, go ahead and hold on to the lid and shake the pan vigorously over the stove to prevent burning. Once the popcorn is almost all popped you won't hear rattling. Open the pan halfway so the steam escapes, that way you'll have crunchy toasty popcorn. Place the popcorn in an oven so it stays warm and crunchy, before covering it with the flavored syrup.

  • One cup of flavoring agent. In this case I used fresh blue berries, raspberries, vanilla, fresh lime and lemon.
  • One cup of organic, evaporated cane juice sugar or piloncillo (Note: using piloncillo will result in darker colored popcorn).
  • Three quarters of a cup of water
  • A drop or two of vegetable coloring (optional).

Fruit syrup is created in a similar manner as the one used for this Agua Fresca, but it uses less water. Combine the water and the fruit of your choice in a blender, strain in a fine sieve. Combine the sugar and the flavored water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. You can add a couple of drops of food coloring at this point, if you are using it. Boil and stir until the sugar has thickened. This is the tricky part! If your caramel is too tick, you'll end up with a messy sugary clump. If the syrup is too thin, it will shrivel your popcorn. You'll know your syrup is the right consistency if you pick it up with a spoon and it falls back to the pot in the shape of a ribbon. Put the warm popcorn in a bowl and cover with the syrup evenly, using a wooden spatula to carefully coat it. The correct ratio of popcorn to caramel is about half a cup of syrup to three cups of popcorn, depending on taste. Place the finished product on a sheet of wax paper and let dry.

If you are making different flavored popcorn I recommend you have your fruit flavor based prepared ahead of time, before making the syrup. That way your warm popcorn doesn't have to sit in the oven for a long time. Once the popcorn is dry and cool to the touch, it is ready. Put it in a pretty bowl and serve. Oh wait...It doesn't matter where you'll put it, it usually gets eaten right the way! Enjoy.

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