“Aren’t we enlarged
by the scale of what we’re able
to desire? Everything,
the choir insists,
inside these wrappings
burns another, brighter life,
by song: hear how
it cascades, in overlapping,
lapidary waves of praise? Still time.
Still time to change.”
– from “Messiah (Christmas Portions),” by Mark Doty
This poem was a perfect match for our church service this afternoon, which was a celebration of Christmas music. With organ, piano, trumpet, horn, trombone, flute, a bell choir and three vocal choirs, we sang anthems like “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and heard performances of “Rise Up and Follow that Star” and “O Holy Night.” It was inspiring and beautiful.
My only difficulty was finding a recipe that was sufficiently glorious to match the music and the poem. As always, I’m a few recipes ahead, but none of them seemed quite noble enough to merit comparison to Handel’s Messiah.
So my answer was to post a recipe for … popcorn?
Perhaps there are more than six degrees of separation between George Frederick Handel and Orville Redenbacher. But this is a terrific recipe, with sweet from the caramel, savoury from the peanuts and pretzels, and a dash of the unexpected from the cayenne pepper. It may not be messianic, but it’s one crackerjack treat.
Spicy Maple Kettle Corn
(from In The Kitchen with Stefano Faita)
8 cups popped popcorn
1 1/2 cups roasted peanuts (unsalted)
1 1/2 cups pretzels
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup butter (unsalted)
sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
cayenne, to taste
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper.
Combine popcorn, peanuts and pretzels in large bowl and set aside.
Over medium heat, bring maple syrup and corn syrup to a boil and cook to soft ball stage (240 degrees). Add butter, salt and cayenne pepper.
Carefully pour the maple caramel mixture over popcorn and toss with wooden spoon or tongs to combine. Bake, turning every 8 to 10 minutes, until caramel hardens on popcorn, about 30 minutes.
Let cool completely. Store in airtight container.