Trader Joe’s sells these “Unburied Treasure White Cheddar Corn Puffs” that are remarkably similar to Pirate’s Booty. Unburied treasure, pirate booty… I don’t know, isn’t it the same thing? Anyway, Trader Joe’s is know to sell brand name products under their label (kind of like Costco/Kirkland), so perhaps that’s the situation? Some people like the cheesy puffs, as they’re like Cheetos but without the crunch. Others think the stuff is more like cheese-flavored packing peanuts. Neither view is the point here, though. The point has to do more with caramel corn.
Have you ever been to a Harvest Festival? It’s like a huge craft fair where people come to sell their wares and foods and whatnots that people can store away for Christmas presents. There was one in Las Vegas and my mom went and discovered Dazzles Gourmet Oven Baked Corn, Caramel flavor. She loved it because it was good, crispy, light, and kernel-free. How do they make that? My mom loved it so much, she wanted to buy more to give to people. She tried ordering it, but the website is really not great. She tried calling, but didn’t get a call back for weeks. Then, she tried to find a recipe, but every recipe started with acquiring corn puffs. Where on earth do you purchase corn puffs?
Somehow, she stumbled across these Trader Joe’s Unburied Treasure puffs and, somehow, made a connection that these puffs were like the Dazzles corn puffs, only with white cheddar cheese powder. Back at home, she whipped up her caramel corn recipe (which is pretty awesome in its original form) but used the cheddar corn puffs instead of air popped popcorn. Lo and behold, she made Caramel Corn Puffs! Puffs that were so good, T couldn’t tell the difference between hers and the Dazzles. Puffs that were, kind of, better than the Dazzles! You don’t even notice the white cheddar under the caramel coating. You get bags and bags of this yummy, poofy, low-fat-ish (there is butter in the caramel, after all) snacky treat to enjoy and share without having to deal with ordering from an unresponsive seller. And I’m sure they’re cheaper, too.
So, let this be a lesson to all you beginning entrepreneurs. If you want to succeed, you should 1) build a good working site that doesn’t take forever to load and 2) answer the questions of potential new customers before they go and figure out how to get the goods without you. I guess it’s possible that Dazzles is so successful they don’t need new customers. I suppose they figured that it’s so hard to buy corn puffs that no one would attempt to make their own. Certainly not starting with cheese puffs! And, so none of you (all 4 that read these posts) have to ever deal with Dazzles’ spotty customer service, I am going to give you my mom’s delectable caramel corn puffs recipe. And while you’re at Trader Joe’s, go pick up a box of the Peach Blueberry Panna Cotta in the frozen section. I’ll tell you why tomorrow.
p.s. – The Dazzles lady called my mom back after a few weeks but got the answering machine. My mom didn’t call her back. I said she should and tell the lady that because she had to wait so long for an answer she just went and made her own!
Caramel Corn Puffs
1 c. butter
2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup (Karo brand)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
24 c. corn puffs (Trader Joe’s White Cheddar Corn Puffs work great!)
Pour the corn puffs into a large (large!) bowl or pan.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Then, boil without stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda, cream of tartar, and vanilla.
Gradually pour the caramel over the corn puffs, mixing well (and quickly).
Bake at 250°F for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and stir until slightly cooled. Break apart when completely cooled.