May 3, 2015

Salted Caramel Death Star Popcorn Balls

Tomorrow is Star Wars Day! YAAAAAAY! (For those of you that are new here, May 4th is Star Wars Day because May the fourth be with you. Get it?)

To celebrate, I made multiple Death Stars. Out of popcorn and caramel. And then I covered them in candy. I don't think that's what the actual Death Star was made out of, because then the rebels wouldn't have needed Luke's Force-guided missile aim to blow it up. They could have just sent a couple Wookiees in to eat it. I'm sure Chewie would volunteer.
I've never actually made popcorn balls before. I mean, I've done marshmallow popcorn treats (like krispie treats, but with popcorn), and while I suppose that you could make those into balls and call them popcorn balls, I wanted to try something a little closer to the old fashioned method.

Except that the old fashioned method uses sugar and corn syrup, and I was worried that dipping them in the melted candy would make them too sweet. So I found this recipe from Food Network for caramel popcorn balls that was basically the same but used honey and brown sugar instead.
For my part, I thought the honey flavor was a little too strong, so if I made them again, I'd probably try some maple syrup or maybe dark corn syrup, but other than that, they were delicious. And fairly simple to make, providing you have the time and patience required for boiling sugar. (Never take your eyes off the stove when cooking sugar. CONSTANT VIGILANCE). Bonus, I had some extra popcorn left because the caramel had hardened too much to make another popcorn ball, so I spread it on a lined baking sheet to cool, and it made the perfect caramel corn. It was like the stuff you get in the tins at Christmas, only better because you made it.

One thing I didn't love was that the caramel, by necessity, was still pretty warm when I was shaping the popcorn balls. You have a very small window of opportunity between cool enough to not burn and hardened caramel, and I have very sensitive hands. So if you have sensitive hands like I do, use a pair of rubber gloves for that part (just spray them with cooking spray so the candy doesn't stick).
Then, when they had set, I dipped them in a mix of melted black and white candy wafers to get a dark grey, and I used some black sparkle gel to do some very simple detailing. Easy peasy.

Salted Caramel Popcorn Balls
Yield: About 12 popcorn balls

Approx. 8 cups popped popcorn
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/4 tsp. salt*
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
To decorate: black and white candy melts, black decorating icing

Generously grease a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Pop your popcorn using your preferred method and place it in the bowl.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, honey, and unsalted butter, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil. Allow it to boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until it reaches 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the salt and baking soda. Stir in the vanilla and pour over the popcorn, stirring until well coated. Let sit until cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes (it will still be very warm).

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Dip your hands in water to prevent sticking and shape the popcorn into balls about 3 1/2 inches wide. Place on the prepared baking sheet and let them sit until the caramel has completely set, about 10 minutes.

Melt the black and white candy melts together. Coat each popcorn ball in the melted candy, letting the excess drip off, then place back on the lined baking sheet. Chill in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, or until the candy has hardened. Decorate with black decorating icing. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

*Adjust this amount to suit your personal preference. If using prepackaged microwave popcorn, add only 1/4 tsp salt, since your popcorn will already be salted.

Recipe adapted slightly from Food Network

Things you may need (affiliate links):

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Other Star Wars Day Treats: