Holiday Nuts Recipes

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

I swear… the holidays bring out the best in me.  

By the best, I’m specifically referring to each of the kitschy, crafty and resourceful Girl Scout badges I earned between the ages of 8 years and 16 years of age. Those were some of my best years.  Let’s not call it peaking early because all you have to do is ring a holiday bell and all of those cross stitching, stained-glass-cookie-making, and popcorn crafting come bubbling right back to the surface like I haven’t ignored them for the last 50 weeks.  

Introducing:  Eggnog-ish Popcorn Balls.  The edible craft you make with your hands and choose between wrapping as a gift or throwing at your sister.  A Choose Your Own Adventure gift or weapon…. at least that’s how it was advertised to me in the Girl Scout Handbook (this is an exaggeration at best, but still very funny to me… so I’m letting it ride). 

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

Popcorn balls are essentially an edible decoration.  Like caramel corn you added nutmeg to and bunched together on purpose.  I mean… what more could you ask for (rhetorical)?    Shall we?

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

Here’s how these start:  

Popcorn is popped (microwave or otherwise).  

Gather sugar and corn syrup, water, and vanilla extract, vinegar, butter, salt, and fresh nutmeg! 

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

First we’ll make a sugar syrup, pliable and sticky enough to hold together our popcorn.  

Sugar and corn syrup in a small pot.  

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

We’ll add water, sea salt, and vinegar (which will keep sugar crystals from forming) before bringing the mixture to a simmer to precisely 260 degrees F.  

This is again one of those times when I pester you to buy a candy thermometer.  

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

Once the mixture simmers to 260 degrees, it’s removed from the heat and softened butter is added.  

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

The mixture bubbles up as the butter melts.  Perfect time to add pure vanilla extract. 

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

And stir like a whizzz.  

This is super satisfying.  

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

Fresh nutmeg is added.  

You know.  Holiday flare.  Home comfort.  General good vibes.  Plus, in December you’re allowed to make everything taste like eggnog… mostly all it takes is nutmeg. 

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

Stir to combine and now is the fun part.  

Place popcorn in a giant bowl, and gently pour sugar syrup over the popcorn.  

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

Don’t dig your hands in just yet.  The sugar syrup is likely too hot and could stick to your hands and burn you. 

See?  This is the part that made this sort of baking worth a Girl Scout badge: a hint of danger.  

Add the almonds while the mixture is still warm and sticky and stir it up! 

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

Toss to thoroughly coat and, once cool enough, about 4 minutes or so (but test for yourself)… grease your hands with something like butter or nonstick cooking spray, and press into balls. 

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

Give the balls a few minutes to cool and harden to hold their shape.  

Wrap the balls individually and huzzah!  You’ve got some sweet little gifts.  Chewy and crunchy.  Sweet and salty.  Weapon or gift. 

Buttery Eggnog-ish Candied Popcorn Balls

Photos with Jon Melendez

Eggnog-ish Popcorn Balls
Yields 10
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 9 cups plain popped popcorn
  2. 1 cup granulated sugar
  3. 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  4. 1/3 cup water
  5. 1 teaspoon distilled white or apple cider vinegar
  6. 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for coating the bowl and your hands
  8. 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  10. 1/2 cup dry roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
Instructions
  1. Coat a large heatproof bowl with butter or nonstick cooking spray and place the popcorn in the bowl. Set aside.
  2. Place the sugar, corn syrup, water, vinegar, and salt in a medium saucepan and stir to combine. Place over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture registers 260°F on a candy/fat thermometer, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, nutmeg, and vanilla until melted and smooth.
  4. Immediately drizzle the sugar mixture over the popcorn. Add the almonds and stir continuously with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom of the bowl, until the popcorn is thoroughly coated and cool enough to handle, about 3 minutes.
  5. Using buttered or oiled hands, tightly press the mixture (it may still be a bit warm) into 3-inch rounds. Place on waxed or parchment paper to cool completely, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Wrap individually and store at room temperature until ready to eat or gift.
Adapted from Chowhound
Adapted from Chowhound
Joy the Baker http://joythebaker.com/