Popcorn balls, at once gooey, sweet and crunchy, are a classic fall treat. They’re perfect Halloween party fare and they’re great for Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, too. This version, developed by nutritionists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center here in Baton Rouge, is also nice for after school snacking because it’s made with honey instead of the typical binder, corn syrup. You can really get creative with the trail mix additions, too.
Here’s the recipe.
¼ cup honey
6 cups air popped popcorn*
2 Tbsp chopped peanuts or cashews or slivered almonds
2 Tbsp raisins or dried cranberries
2 Tbsp crushed candy coated chocolate pieces
6 skewers, wooden chopsticks, or popsicle sticks
*Note: I popped my popcorn on the stovetop in a Dutch oven. One-half cup uncooked kernels popped in 3 tablespoons oil will yield 12 cups popcorn.
1. Measure honey into a microwave safe bowl.** Microwave on high for 30 seconds, and then stir the honey. Continue microwaving for 1 minute, stopping and stirring as needed to prevent the honey from boiling over.
Set the honey aside to cool slightly for 1-2 minutes.
**Since my sons accidentally blew out our microwave when playing the TV show, “Chopped,” I warmed my honey in a small saucepan on the stove. Before adding the honey, I sprayed the bottom of the saucepan with cooking spray. It worked great.
2. Measure the popcorn into a large bowl. Drizzle the slightly cooled honey over the popcorn, then sprinkle the peanuts, raisins and crushed chocolate pieces over the top. Gently stir the mixture together, trying to equally distribute all ingredients.
Scoop one sixth of the mixture into a square of cling wrap, fold the cling wrap around the mixture and press it into a ball shape. (It helps to gather the four corners and twist like a candy wrapper.) Cut a skewer to the desired length, and press it into the popcorn ball.*** Repeat this process until all of the pops have been formed. The pops can be eaten immediately, but will stay together better if left to cool for 30 minutes.
***It definitely helps to let the balls sit for a half hour, and even popping the in the fridge for 5 minutes or so, helps them stick. I like them just as much without the sticks, although you do come away with sticky fingers! Yum.
Pennington’s Note: For kids with nut allergies, the peanuts in this recipe can be replaced with rolled oats, high protein breakfast cereal like Special K Original or Kashi GoLean, or seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, or flax.