Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday Sugar Rush: Caramel Corn Balls

This caramel corn is perhaps the most delicious I've ever tasted. I know, that's kind of a bold statement. But this is really delicious. The last time I made this, I told myself I would only take a bite out of one of the balls. But once I started I couldn't stop! I have to be very careful when I make this because it is just so good I'm quite certain I could eat a whole batch. I got the recipe from the ever reliable AllRecipes and with just a couple tweaks I think it's perfect. I'm feeling pretty bold today. :)

For this recipe, I recommend using a candy thermometer just because it makes really easy. You can get them pretty inexpensively at WalMart. My thermometer is pretty nifty and even has "soft ball" printed right on the exact temperature that makes it perfect. However, if you don't have a candy thermometer, you can still make this without it. Just see the note below about cooking candy to soft ball stage.

This recipe can be cut in half pretty well. If you want to cut it in half, I recommend using about three bags of popcorn. The other ingredients easily divide in half. 

Soft Caramel Corn
 Recipe adapted from AllRecipes
 Makes: approx 40 popcorn balls, about the size of my fist or slightly larger

5 bag microwave popcorn, popped {or the equivalent in home popped}
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla


Spread the popcorn onto a clean surface and carefully pick up the popped kernels, putting them in a bowl, until all that is left is the unpopped kernels; discard.
In a sauce pan over medium-high heat, cook the brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter, stirring constantly. Heat to 235-245 degrees, soft ball stage {see note below}. In my experience this takes between 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully pour in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla; stir until smooth.
Slowly pour about 1/4 of the caramel sauce at a time over the popcorn, stirring the popcorn after each addition until all the popcorn is equally covered. Cool about ten minutes before forming into balls.
Store in an airtight container and it will stay nice and soft. :) 

*Note: Soft Ball Stage refers to syrups being cooked to between 235-245 degrees F. If you don't have a candy thermometer, you can test the syrup to see if it has reached the right stage by placing a small spoonful of the hot syrup into really cold water. You'll know the stage is right if the syrup balls up easily with your fingers in the water but flattens out when you remove it from the water.

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