Did you know that the second Thursday in March is Popcorn Lovers Day? Well, it is in the US - but being in the wrong country isn't going to stop us from celebrating one our favorite, salty snacks.
While I do love popcorn as a standalone snack, it also lends itself perfectly to a dessert board (perhaps with a chocolate dipping sauce), and also as a topping for ice cream, cakes and other sweet treats.
One of the best uses of popcorn we've seen is in Charlotte Ree's drool-worthy new cookbook, Just Desserts. Her Shortbread Caramel Slice is truly a popcorn lovers dream.
(image by Louisa Brimble / goodfood.com.au)
A shortbread biscuit base combines with a salted caramel sauce, which is then topped off with dark chocolate and, of course, popcorn.
What could be better than the perfect combination of sweet and salty, crunchy and gooey? Please let us know in the comments if you give this a try - we'd love to know how you go.
Shortbread Caramel Slice
8 oz / 225g plain ﬂour, sifted
4 oz / 115g rice ﬂour, sifted
4 oz / 120g superfine / castor sugar
pinch of sea salt
7 oz / 200g salted butter, at room temperature
5 oz / 150g salted butter
5 oz / 150g caster sugar
5 tablespoons / 80ml golden syrup*
1 x 400g (14 fl oz) tin sweetened condensed milk
½ tsp sea salt, or more if you are a salt ﬁend like me
7 oz / 200g dark cooking chocolate (70 per cent cocoa), roughly chopped
caramel popcorn, to decorate (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 300F / 150C. Grease and line a 30cm x 20cm x 3.5cm (8 x 12 inch) baking tray with baking paper.
2. Combine the ﬂours, sugar and salt in a bowl. Rub the butter in with your ﬁngers until a crumble begins to form. Place in the tray and ﬂatten out evenly with the back of a wooden spoon. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and prick the shortbread with a fork. Allow to cool completely in the tin.
3. To make the topping, place the butter, sugar, golden syrup, condensed milk and salt in a wide, heavy based saucepan and heat gently, stirring to melt the butter. Bring to a simmer and continue to simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly to stop the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. When the caramel is thick and fudgy, pour it over the shortbread and smooth out with a palette knife. Leave to set for 30 minutes.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (ensuring the bowl doesn't touch the water). When melted, spread it evenly over the set caramel. Leave for two hours to set, then turn out and cut into 18 pieces. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Although Charlotte suggests the popcorn is optional, we think it elevates your usual caramel slice into something that little bit more special.
If you find the caramel popcorn too sweet, you could use salted popcorn and omit the salt in the caramel sauce. We think you could also try topping this slice with pretzels for a saltier crunch.
To give the popcorn a little more staying power (of you didn't stick it on in time like us!) you can go over the top with a chocolate drizzle to keep everything in place.
* in the US and Canada, if golden syrup isn't available in the baking section of your grocery store, you could try the international section, or Amazon.
If you'd like more recipes like this, please be sure to check our Charlotte Ree's book, Just Desserts. Her easy, user-friendly creations are designed to taste amazing, rather than just look pretty (though pretty they most certainly are!)