Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Popcorn Balls Two Ways (Peanut Butter and Vanilla)

 pin it
Every year, it is a tradition for me to make Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls. The recipe is actually one for "Caramel Popcorn" that I enjoyed eating over at my best-friend's house when I was younger. When I was in high school, I asked my dear friend to write it down for me and I have been making it ever since.
   This year, I decided to make my popcorn balls to hand out as Halloween treats for our church's Trunk or Treat. (The members of the church all join together in the church parking lot, open their -usually decorated- car trunks and hand out treats while the kids "trick-or-treat" from car to car instead of from house to house.) Since I was going to be handing out a large amount of popcorn balls to many children, I thought it would be a good idea if I had a "peanut-free" version in case anyone had any allergies. So, I found this recipe on the Food Network, changed it slightly and made it green. So now I have two recipes to share.
  I liked them both, but there is just to topping my Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls. They are more chewy while the Vanilla Popcorn Balls are crunchy all the way. I hope you enjoy them.

No matter which recipe you make, the first step is to pop the popcorn and separate out the un-popped kernels. I find it's easiest to do this with two large bowls. I dump the popcorn into the bowl on the left and gently shake it around a bit so the kernels fall to the bottom of the bowl. Then I scoop out the popcorn into the bowl on the right by handfulls. This way I can see if there are any un-popped kernels trying to sneak their way into the final product. Handful by handful I transfer the popcorn until the kernels are all left in the bowl on the left and all the popped popcorn is in the bowl on the right.
It takes a few minutes but it's worth not sending someone to the dentist for breaking their tooth on a kernel. ;)

This is the recipe that my childhood best friend Erica gave to me. I lovingly keep it in my Family recipe book, and bring it out every-time I make it (although I've made it so often I could probably do it in my sleep).

First step is to put the sugar, honey and corn syrup into a pot on the stove.

Turn the heat to medium and stir everything together. It won't look like it's comming together, but it will. Just keep stirring.

As the heat warms everything up, it will come together nicely.

When the mixture comes to a boil, set a timer and boil for 2 minutes.

When 2 minutes are up, the color will be slightly darker and you will really be able to smell the honey! This is the time to kill the heat and add the peanut butter.

It will take a minute to melt in, but just keep stirring. (Carefully! This stuff is HOT!)

When the peanut butter is all stirred in you are done!

Slowly pour the peanut butter caramel over the popcorn and stir it all together. (This is best done with a helper! If one person pours while the other person stirs it works out very well.)

When all the kernels are covered you can stop stirring. This is where my friend and her family would just sit on the couch with the bowl and have at it. No ball forming necessary. Just dig in and eat! :) That is perfectly fine, but I have gotten in the habit of making popcorn balls. So if you want to follow my example then keep reading.

First step is to coat your hands in butter. I know, it looks and feels kinda gross but it's necessary. The butter keeps the caramel popcorn from sticking to your hands and burning you. This stuff is still VERY HOT so please be careful! I good coating of butter will help protect your hands. (I'm all about your safety.)

Next, just grab a handful (however big you want your popcorn balls to be) and gently squeeze the popcorn between your buttered hands until a ball forms. (I apologize for the poor lighting. My Handsome Man did did his best with the pictures.)

When the ball is the shape/size that you want place it down on a sheet of wax paper.

They are done at this point. If you don't eat them all right away (which is never a problem I have run into in my house) then you can wrap them individually in plastic wrap or put them in zip-lock bags. If you live in a moist climate, they might get gummy by the second day. Incidentally, if you find that your popcorn balls are too hard (maybe you accidentally boiled the caramel for 3 minutes instead of 2) you can put the popcorn balls into a container with some rice-crispy treats, or even just plain marshmallows if you don't have the prepared treats on hand, and the moisture from the marshmallows will make the popcorn balls a little softer and chewier for you. (I know this from experience.)

This is where I would usually stop and consume the delicious popcorn balls that I had just created, but this day was for the trick-or-treaters. So, there are more balls to be made. Green Vanilla Popcorn Balls to be exact. :)

In a medium sauce pot, clamp on a candy thermometer and add some sugar and water to the pan. Gently stir them together.

Turn the heat to medium high and add the corn syrup. (I actually turned my heat on before I even added my sugar and water, so that is why it is already starting to bubble.)

Last, but definitely not least, add some butter to the pan.

When everything is combined and boiling it is time to be patient. (Not something I'm great at.) Continue to boil the mixture over medium or medium high heat. If it looks like it will boil over, then turn it down, but you want it to boil continuously.

Stir it only a couple times, and be careful not to bring the mixture up the sides of the pan - you don't want the caramel to go sugary/grainy. When the mixture has reached 275F turn off the heat. (Mine actually got up to about 278 but it's close enough. The hotter it gets the crunchier it will be. If you want more of a chewy popcorn ball, I would turn off the heat at the "soft" or "firm ball" stage.)

Now that the heat is off you can add the Vanilla.

And food coloring if you wish . . . I do. :)

Just like with the Peanut Butter Caramel, you'll want to drizzle the sugar mixture slowly over to popcorn while stirring the popcorn simultaneously. Again, this is a good time for a helper!

Keep stirring until all the kernels are coated.

Like this:

As the mixture cools it will harden so you'll need to work quickly. Again, cover your hands with butter. This mixture is even hotter than the peanut butter mixture is so please be extra cautious! This will burn you if you're not careful!

Again, grab as much popcorn as you want and gently push the popcorn together between your buttered hands to form a ball. You don't want to squeeze the popcorn together too hard or you will have a very dense popcorn ball and it will be very difficult to eat! Instead, just gently form it into a ball shape and it will stick together on it's own.

Same as before, place the completely formed popcorn balls on a sheet of wax paper.

Very Halloween-y don't you think?

That's it. That's all there is to having your own amazing popcorn balls. This is a fall-time tradition that is treasured in our home and I hope will be in yours as well. Happy popping! :)

Here are the recipes:

Peanut Butter Caramel Popcorn
(I always double this because it goes so fast in our house, but here is the original recipe)

 7 (to 8) cups popped popcorn (no un-popped kernels)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter
*butter (for hands, if making popcorn balls)

In a medium sauce pot, add the sugar, corn syrup and honey. Bring to a boil, and continue to boil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter. When it's completely combined, drizzle over the popcorn while stirring to coat. Enjoy as is or form into balls. (*If making popcorn balls, coat the palms of your hands in butter before handling the popcorn. This will help prevent sticking and burns.) Place the balls onto wax paper to cool. Enjoy!

(Green) Vanilla Popcorn Balls
adapted from Elsie's Easy Popcorn Balls

about 8 cups popcorn (no un-popped kernels)
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup light corn syrup
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
couple drops food coloring (optional)
butter (for hands)

In a medium sauce pan, fitted with a candy thermometer, combine the sugar, water, corn syrup and butter. Cook over medium high heat until the mixture reaches 275F. Take the mixture off the heat and add the vanilla (and food coloring if using). Stir to combine and drizzle over the popcorn, while stirring to coat. When all the kernels are evenly covered, coat the palms of your hands in butter and very carefully form small handfuls of the popcorn into balls. DO NOT press them firmly together, but instead be gentle and lightly form the balls. Place onto wax paper to cool. Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment