This Christmas Popcorn should come with a warning. It’s dangerously addictive, and the likely cause of many a sugar crashes during this holiday season!
It’s my caramel corn with a Christmas twist – traditional spices and a sprinkle of almonds. Great Christmas candy and food gift option that’s easy to make in bulk, economical and lasts for 2 – 3 weeks.
While everybody loves a good Caramel Popcorn, it really is just flat out sweet, and that’s it.
On the other hand, this caramel popcorn is far beyond just sweet. It’s loaded with warm Christmas spices and studded with nutty almonds. It is insanely, completely and ridiculously addictive!
What you need for Christmas Popcorn
Here’s what you need to make this:
- Popcorn kernels – just plain kernels
- Holiday spices – I’ve use a mix reminiscent of Gingerbread Men, but you could even just use cinnamon and it would still be wonderful!
Corn syrup (or glucose) – this is required to ensure the caramel doesn’t crystallise ie instead of turning into liquid, you end up with sugar grains. You can make caramel without it, but it’s a bit temperamental so corn syrup makes it a sure thing. Corn syrup is not sold in Australian grocery stores but that’s not a problem, just use glucose instead. It’s just a thicker form of corn syrup which works just as well. I get corn syrup online from USA Foods because I make caramel popcorn regularly for
- Baking soda / bi-carb – an important ingredient which makes the caramel foam up and lighten a bit so you get a more even, thin coverage on the popcorn (rather than thick globs that get stuck in your teeth);
- Brown sugar – better than white for extra caramely flavour;
- Salt – just a touch, to balance out all the sweet; and
- Almonds – because I think of nuts when I think of Christmas candy! Switch it out with literally any other nut you want – or pepitas, sunflower seeds or anything else that will hold up in the oven.
How to make Christmas Popcorn Candy
1. The Popcorn
You can either air pop the popcorn using a popcorn machine – in which case no oil is required – or cook it on the stove.
PRO TIP: while air popped popcorn is fat free, it is not as crispy as stove popped popcorn!
2.Christmas Caramel for Popcorn
Plonk > simmer > whisk!
- Combine the sugar, butter and corn syrup in a saucepan;
- Once it starts foaming, simmer for 4 minutes without stirring;
- Take it off the stove, then add the spices and baking soda; and
- Foam it! Whisk vigorously and you’ll notice that the caramel increases in volume slightly and becomes a bit foamy. It looks a bit like honeycomb. This is due to the baking soda and is key to achieving a thin even coverage of caramel over all the popcorn. Without the baking soda, you end up with thick globs of caramel here and there and it gets stuck in your teeth.
3. Bake to crisp it!
- Pour the caramel over the popcorn;
- Toss well to coat. You won’t be able to get an even coating at this stage because the caramel will harden too quickly. But don’t worry, we’ll fix this during the oven tossing stage!
- Bake & toss! Spread the popcorn across two lined baking trays, then bake in a low 110°C/230°F oven for 45 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes or so. Baking makes the caramel melt again so it coats the popcorn more evenly when you toss it, and also dries the popcorn and caramel coating so the caramel coating is crispy instead of sticky and chewy;
- Cool on the trays then break it up into small or large chunks before storing in airtight containers or bags.
What I plan to do with Christmas Popcorn Candy
This particular type of Caramel Popcorn is new to my stable of recipes so I haven’t used it to its full potential yet! But here’s what I envisage:
BribingGifting – who doesn’t love a homemade edible gift?? (Bonus that it’s super duper economical, easy to make in bulk and has a shelf life of 2 – 3 weeks!)
Nibbly dessert – if your family is anything like mine, we go hard on the mains and everyone is always too full for dessert, so snack-size sweet treats like this are ideal. I am forever scarred by the giant gingerbread house that took me hours to construct that was completely rejected by the entire family because everyone was so full after dinner. Only the chimney got eaten. Reluctantly, at that!! I was
seriously peevedshattered, and vowed never again to make an enormous effort for Christmas dinner dessert; and
- Candy – certainly with the amount of sugar in this, it totally qualifies as a candy! And it has the shelf life of candy too (2 -3 weeks).
Of course, it also makes for an excellent secret stash of treats, just for yourself. Shh! I won’t tell if you don’t… – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Christmas Popcorn Candy
Use for snacky dessert option, gifting and store like candy. Stays crispy 2 – 3 weeks!
Baking soda makes the caramel coating foamy so it coats the popcorn thinly and evenly, rather than ending up with sticky globs.
CARAMEL COVEREAGE: Use 1/3 cup kernels for full caramel coverage (very sweet, like candy pieces, pictured in post), 3/4 cup for a lighter coating (still sweet enough but you get some white patches, see this photo for comparison)
For the popcorn
- 1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil (not required if air popping with a popcorn maker)
- 1/3 cup popping corn (10 cups popcorn, Note 1 for lighter caramel coverage)
For the caramel
- 100g / 7 tbsp butter , unsalted
- 1 cup (220g) brown sugar , packed
- 1/2 cup (170g) corn syrup , light (substitute glucose, Note 2)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3 tsp cinnamon powder
- 2 tsp ginger powder
- 1/2 tsp allspice powder (or more cinnamon)
- 1/4 tsp cloves (or more cinnamon)
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add a few pieces of popcorn and wait until it pops, then quickly remove.
Add remaining popcorn, elevate off stove to shake and spread corn out evenly. Cover with a lid. Once the popcorn starts popping in earnest, shake the pot gently once.
Remove from heat when the popping stops (when you can count to 3 between pops) and transfer to a (very!) large bowl. You need 10 cups of popcorn.
Preheat oven to 110°C/230°F.
Melt butter in a saucepaan over medium heat.
Add sugar, corn syrup and salt. Stir until just combined.
When it starts to bubble, simmer for 4 minutes – DO NOT STIR!
Remove from heat then quickly whisk in Christmas Spices, vanilla and baking soda. Whisk vigorously for 10 seconds, then when you stop whisking, the caramel will foam and increase in volume.
Quickly pour straight over popcorn, toss until caramel cools and starts to harden.
Baking to crisp:
Spread popcorn on 2 baking trays.
Bake for 45 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes or so. Caramel will remelt for the first 2-3 tosses – tossing coats popcorn more evenly with caramel. (If using glucose, bake further 15 minutes).
Remove from oven, leave to cool. Gently break into pieces then transfer to airtight container for storage. Stays crisp 2 – 3 weeks!
2. Corn Syrup is called for to stabilise the caramel to ensure sugar crystallisation doesn’t occur. Corn syrup is a common grocery item in the US and Canada – I stock up every time I go! It can be purchased online in Australia from USAFoods.com.au (here).
Glucose is a perfect substitute for corn syrup which is available in Australian supermarkets (baking aisle, clear thick syrup with honey consistency). However, the popcorn needs to be baked for 15 minutes longer (because glucose as higher water content).
3. Storage – stays 100% crisp and fresh for 2 – 3 weeks in an airtight container!
Life of Dozer
I’d be pretty happy if I found a Dozer under MY Christmas Tree…..