Last month for the Secret Recipe Club I made the Nutella Granola and one of my favorite comments on that post came from a lovely gal who found me through SRC and was in my same group. I hadn’t found her blog before and was thrilled that she found me because I loved it (and her) – thank goodness for SRC! We have a lot in common (not the least of which is her obvious love of ice cream and especially the caramel/chocolate/pecan combination – aka Turtles! – seriously… I’ve never seen such a fantabulous collection of chocolate-caramel-pecan related ideas!).
It was therefore super funny to me when I received my blog assignment for this month and found out that my new BBFF (Best Bloggy Friend Forever) Kim at Cravings of a Lunatic was my assignment for June! Her blog is not only filled with awesome ideas and fantastic recipes, but her writing and humor are right up my alley and never fail to make me smile or really laugh out loud.
I had a hard time narrowing things down since she has so many recipes I wanted to try – most especially her Turtle Popcorn Gone Wild! – but the month of May conspired against me with the end of school to be just as crazy as the rest of the school year was. By the time school let out last Friday, I felt like I could finally take a breath – you know…. the breath right before I realized this meant I had the kids home all the time for the summer and then therefore just crashed!
Anyway, I realized that although I had been looking at recipes all month, I still hadn’t gotten my act together to make that insanely good looking popcorn covered in toffee bits, pecans, chocolate and caramel onto of the caramel candy coating – oh my!! So. I decided to try a version of another popcorn recipe she shares on her blog, which was originally for a pretty, pastel pink, old fashioned popcorn that Kim grew up with. I wanted to change the colors a bit in honor of the upcoming Independence Day holiday in case you wanted another patriotic treat idea to make.
This recipe was really pretty easy to make and although working with the sugar can take a little while on the stovetop to keep from letting it caramelize and still get to the right temperature, it was a really fun treat to make and eat. Thanks to Kim for the fun recipes to browse through and for inspiring a new fun treat that my boys loved!
Red, White & Blue Candied Popcorn
Adapted from Kim at Cravings of a Lunatic
12 cups popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup popcorn kernels and 6 tablespoons vegetable oil)
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup whole milk or half and half
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 drop red (super red) gel food coloring, or enough drops liquid to get a nice red color
1 drop blue (royal blue) gel food coloring, or enough drops liquid to get a deep blue color
To pop the popcorn on the stovetop, in a large pot with a tight fitting lid, add the 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2 kernels of the popcorn and heat over medium heat, uncovered. When the kernels pop, add the remaining 1/2 cup of kernels and fit the lid on the pot. Shake the pot on the stove to heat the kernels. Shake a few times and keep the kernels moving. When the kernels start popping keep the pan moving until the pops are about 2 seconds apart and slowing down (it will take a few minutes to get up to heat, but don’t be tempted to turn the heat up or you’ll scorch the kernels).
Remove the popcorn from the heat and divide into about 4 cups per bowl in 3 large bowls and set aside.
In a medium sized saucepan combine the sugar, milk or half and half, corn syrup and salt. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then bring the mixture to a low boil until the temperature reaches 230 degrees F (soft ball stage – this is where if you drop a small drop of the sugar mixture into a very cold cup of water it should form a soft ball in the water that flattens out when it is out of the water. Don’t rush this part of the process or turn your heat up and get impatient because you’ll end up with caramel instead of a well cooked sugar syrup that you can color with the food coloring. Still tasty, but not what we’re going for here. This part of the cooking process took a good 15 minutes for me on a barely medium flame (at high altitude).
Once your sugar syrup has reached the soft ball stage at 230 degrees, stir in the vanilla extract. It will bubble and hiss, and that’s ok. Once it is all stirred in, pour 1/3 of the mixture into a small heat proof bowl. Add another 1/3 of the mixture from the pan into another heat proof bowl. Add the red food coloring to one of the bowls and the blue food coloring to the other bowl. Whisk the food coloring quickly and carefully into each bowl separately to get your colored syrups.
(NOTE: Please work carefully with the hot sugar syrup – it’s like kitchen napalm! Don’t worry too much about any little spills – the great thing is that sugar dissolves with a wet towel or in your sink really well so don’t try to wipe it up too quickly and end up burning yourself – trust me, I know!
Working as quickly as possible so your syrup doesn’t cool too much pour the colored sugar syrup each over one of the bowls of popcorn you separated earlier and use a rubber spatula to fold and stir the candy over the popcorn gently to coat. Repeat with the other two syrups in the other two bowls – if your syrup has cooled too much to pour, reheat it quickly in the microwave for a few seconds to make it more pourable, but not enough to bubble it – it should be about the consistency of corn syrup and still warm.
Spread the stirred and coated popcorn out onto a large piece of parchment to cool and dry for a few minutes. Toss the colors together (or line them up on a pan in stripes!) and serve.