Popcorn Balls, Reinvented

By: Matt Armendariz

Double, double toil and trouble, I’m gonna stuff my face with Halloween candy.

OK, so that didn’t rhyme and I now owe Mr. S. an apology, but it’s everyone’s favorite time of year, so I’m going with it.

For me it’s my excuse to skip all meals in favor of candy and all sorts of nontraditional sweets. I think nothing of overindulging in all things sticky and sweet, and I’m pretty sure my dentist appreciates that.

This year I wanted to adapt my recipe for Popcorn Balls on a Stick from my book, On a Stick! It’s a very easy recipe to make. They travel well, are fun and easy to eat, and they can be made ahead so you can tend to those pesky trick-or-treaters as they try to steal all of your candy.

Figuring everything is better with bacon, I added pieces of cooked chopped bacon, some salt and a tiny bit of rum to these balls to create a Bacon Rum Salted Caramel Popcorn Ball. Sure, they’re more adult in flavor, but everything is better with bacon, right? You’ll need to pay attention to the hot caramel as you mix it with the popcorn. It’s HOT.

The great thing about these popcorn caramel balls is their versatility, allowing you to mix practically anything into the gooey, sticky popcorn mixture before forming them into balls. In fact, I thought it’d be fun for us to create Marshmallow Popcorn Balls, as well, taking the best of Rice Krispies Treats and adding some popcorn flavor.

Since you might have some extra candy on hand for Halloween, experiment with various additions to your popcorn or caramel balls. You can add candy, nuts, nonpareils, chocolate chips, gummy bears, Red Hots, potato chips (yes) and just about anything else right after you’ve mixed the caramel or melted marshmallows with your popcorn.

Feel like adding a touch of color to your caramel balls? Go for it by including it as you are melting the caramel.

Salted Caramel Bacon Popcorn Balls
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
• 1/2 cup light corn syrup
• 2 Tbs. butter
• 1 1/2 tsp.rum or maple extract
• 2 tsp. baking soda
• 1 1/2 tsp. salt
• 8 cups popped popcorn
• 6 pieces cooked bacon, chopped
• 1 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste

1. Combine sugars and corn syrup with 1/3 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugars dissolve. Once mixture has reached 240° F, remove from the heat and stir in butter.

2. Return to heat and continue cooking until mixture reaches 300°F. Remove from heat and carefully stir in extract, baking soda and salt. (The mixture will bubble aggressively, so stir with caution.)

3. Place popcorn, bacon and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl, and gently fold in caramel mixture until everything is well-coated. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

4. Using greased heatproof gloves, take a handful of caramel corn and roll it into a ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat to form 12 balls. Let sit at room temperature about 15 minutes before serving. Wrap individual popcorn balls in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container.

Marshmallow Popcorn Balls
8oz. mini marshmallows
• 1/4 cupunsalted butter
• 8 cupspopped popcorn
• 1/2 cuppretzels *
• 1/2 cupmixed salted nuts *

1. Place popcorn in a large mixing bowl.

2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, stir in marshmallows and stir until just melted.

3. Quickly pour melted marshmallows over the popcorn and fold to combine. Pour in pretzels and mixed nuts. Stir to mix.

4. Using greased heatproof gloves, take a handful of popcorn mixture and roll it into a ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat to form 12 balls. Let sit at room temperature about 15 minutes before serving. Wrap individual popcorn balls in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container.

* You can use seasonal candies to replace the pretzels or nuts. Or you can use both. Go crazy!

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