Another recent food obsession!
I think the instigation was a YouTube food video which led me to try making popcorn at home from scratch with Nico. It was enormous fun! And several weeks later it’s still really entertaining to make (especially when a stray kernel pops after I take the lid off the pan, catapaulting a few pieces in random directions!)
Turn on the captions while watching the YouTube vid!
There is a standard measure of popcorn quality called the Metric Weight Volume Test, which states the volume (ml) of popcorn produced per weight (g) of kernels. Typical figures are around 40 ml/g, which was useful to know when I was working out how much corn to put in a pan when I was not yet familiar enough to eyeball it.
The MWVT is weird:
- it’s American, but it’s metric
- it’s the inverse of the density of the popcorn
- maybe a volume ratio would make more sense?
There are a couple of kinds of popcorn:
- butterfly, which has wings sticking out when popped
- mushroom, which is roughly spherical
Mushroom popcorn is good for heavy coatings such as caramel, which is more faff than I care for. Butterfly popcorn has a better crunch and texture for lighter seasoning.
I did some experiments with different fats, trying to get a good flavour.
Butter is nice but it burns at popcorn temperatures. I tried doing a quick-and-dirty clarified butter, by melting it in the microwave and pouring the fat off the solids, but it was kind of faffy and didn’t help much. Some recipes suggest adding the butter after the corn has been popped, but I thought that would make it too greasy. (I have not actually tried it, tho.)
Eventually I settled on sunflower oil, which has a nice subtle nutty flavour.
Our favourite is based on an idea from another random YouTube video. I combine roughly equal parts by weight of:
- nutritional yeast
The latter has a nice yellow-ish colour and a delicious umami flavour.
I whiz them together in a blender to make a fine powder, which I keep in the cupboard in an old spice jar. A jar of 75g of seasoning is enough for many batches of popcorn.
We have a steel pan with a thick base that’s good for making about 50g (2 litres) of popcorn.
I have also used our larger cast iron casserole for bigger batches. For some reason it works a bit slower than the steel pan, so some of the popcorn can get a bit Cricket St Thomas (near Chard). But the cast iron gets nicely seasoned in the process.
We have glass lids for both pans, which is great, it’s so fun to be able to watch the corn popping as well as listen to it!
Put a generous splash of sunflower oil in the pan with the popcorn kernels. The eyeball quantity is at most one layer of kernels in the bottom of the pan.
Set it on a medium heat with a lid on.
Wait a few minutes to get up to temperature, then wait for the popping to proceed until all is quiet for 5 seconds or so.
Pour the popcorn into a big bowl in thirds or quarters, with a sprinkle of seasoning in between each one. Put a plate on top and give it a good shake to distribute the seasoning evenly.