Caramel Candy Popcorn Balls
Author: 
Yield: 12 to 16 (2- to 3-inch / 5- to 7.5-cm) popcorn balls
 
Ingredients
  • 18 cups (about 250 g, depending on the brand) lightly salted popped popcorn (about 2 to 3 microwave-popcorn bags’ worth)
  • 2 cups (440 g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) light corn syrup
  • 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 ounces (1⁄2 stick/55 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus more for the bowl
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 11⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup (210 g) M&M’s, or any other mix-in (like salty peanuts, tofee bits, or coarsely chopped salted, toasted almonds)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Divide the popcorn between the sheets and spread it in an even layer. Place the sheets in the oven for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to flip the popcorn. Return the sheets to the oven and continue baking until the popcorn is very dry and crunchy, about 5 more minutes; bake longer if you can, but do not let it brown or burn. Remove the sheets from the oven and place them on a cooling rack.
  3. Lightly grease a large (preferably shallow, wide, and metal) bowl - the largest bowl you have - with butter or nonstick spray.
  4. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine both sugars, the corn syrup, heavy cream, and butter. Cook the mixture over medium heat, gently stirring together with the handle of a wooden spoon until the sugar is almost dissolved. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure the bulb of the thermometer is immersed in the syrup. Stop stirring and increase the heat to high. Boil the mixture until it reaches the soft-ball stage (238°F to 240°F / 114°C to 116°C), about 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, transfer the popcorn to the large prepared bowl. Lightly grease or spray a heatproof rubber spatula and the existing parchment paper on the sheet pans (you do not need to change it).
  6. Once the sugar mixture has reached the soft-ball stage, remove it from the heat and add the vanilla and baking soda. The mixture will foam for a few seconds; when it subsides, stir gently to combine.
  7. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and, working very quickly with the prepared spatula, coat the popcorn with the caramel. Add the M&M's and quickly distribute throughout the mixture (you can fully integrate the mix-ins while shaping the popcorn balls). Working quickly, use your hands to form the popcorn into 2- to 3-inch (5- to 7.5-cm) balls. Place them on the prepared baking sheets to set.
Notes
How to Store: The popcorn balls can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Recipe by Baked Sunday Mornings at http://bakedsundaymornings.com/2017/04/15/oven-caramel-candy-popcorn-balls/