A form of sweet relief

Tax preparation requires fortification through caramel corn

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Tax Crunch Crunch (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune / March 25, 2010)

Tax day is a taxing holiday. Like most, it rolls around once a year — yet always comes as a surprise. Like most, it calls for preparation.

Which is to say three months of procrastination, followed by a single frantic night of hunting and toting. It calls for a sigh.

Slump. And snack.

Which is where many a taxpayer comes up short. He might be the sort to fell, stuff and mount the wily receipt. He might slice and serve a brilliant electronic pie chart. He might text the accountant mercilessly. But no citizen of the United States of America need endure taxation without snackification. Isn't this why we tossed tea in the harbor?

The Internal Revenue Service recognizes two options. Intermittent Tax-Filing Incentive Snackification calls for the taxpayer to prepare a huge bowl of something sweet and salty and crunchy and set it a short reach from the 1040. He files and munches, until one or the other is done.

Culmination Tax-Filing Incentive Snackification calls for the taxpayer to prepare a huge bowl of something sweet and salty and crunchy and not touch it until he returns the return. One study found that Americans who checked off this box completed their taxes 72 percent faster than those using Schedule A.

Of course, many a savvy taxpayer employs both Intermittent and Culmination Snackification on a single return. Which might qualify popcorn, almonds and brown sugar for tax-deductible status.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor.


Tax-Crunch Crunch

Prep: 30 minutes procrastination

Bake: 1 hourMakes: 1 big bowl

1/2 cup slivered almonds

3 tablespoons corn oil

3/4 cup popcorn kernels

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up

1 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

2 tablespoons water

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Toast: Cast almonds in a small heavy skillet. Toast over medium heat, shaking regularly, until golden brown, 5 minutes.

Pop: Stir together oil and popcorn in a large heavy pot. Cover, leaving lid a sliver ajar, and set over medium-high heat. Cook, shaking regularly, until popping sound slows, 5 minutes. When quiet, tumble popped corn into a very large mixing bowl. Discard unpopped bachelors.

Thicken: Measure butter, sugar, corn syrup, water and salt into a large saucepan. Set over medium-high heat and stir until mixture comes to a boil, 4 minutes. Cook without stirring until caramel reaches 240 degrees, 5 minutes. Pull off heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. Caramel will foam up. Stir in nuts.

Mix: Pour hot caramel over the popped corn. Fold together with a rubber spatula. Turn out onto 2 parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets.

Bake: Slide sheets into a 250-degree oven and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until crisp, 1 hour. Cool and crunch.

Provenance: Adapted from Ceiba restaurant, located not far from the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C.
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