What is it about fall that brings out our “baking” side? Maybe it’s the smell of pumpkins, apples, and spices? The cooler temperatures driving our desire to feel warm and cozy with a hot meal or treat in hand?
Whatever it is, usually by the time Halloween rolls around, I’m sort of all baked out. The idea of making treats for my son’s class, while on October 1st seemed crafty and fun, now seems daunting and time-consuming.
But those fall parties just aren’t going to go away, which is why I was excited to discover this delicious recipe from Food Network‘s Spooky Halloween Recipes for Kids! It’s an extremely simple recipe that would be great to serve as-is for a work Halloween party or easy to adjust for a school treat! (Gotta think about those allergies!)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup salted cocktail peanuts
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups lightly crushed red and/or green apple chips
1) Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottom pot over medium heat until very hot and shimmering. Add the popcorn and immediately cover with a lid. Shake the pot constantly, holding the lid on with a heatproof holder, until the popping starts, about 1-3 minutes.
2) Reduce the heat to medium and continue to shake the pot until the popping slows to just a few per 5 seconds, 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let stand for another minute to allow any last kernels to pop.
3) Spray a very large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Put the popcorn in the bowl and remove any unpopped kernels.
4) Add the peanuts. Spray a rubber heatproof spatula with the cooking spray and place next to the bowl.
5) Combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until melted and the edges of the mixture begin to bubble. Clip a candy thermometer to the pan so the bottom of the thermometer is resting in the sugar syrup but not touching the bottom of the pan. Boil, stirring, until the thermometer registers 300 degrees F (the hard-crack stage), about 8 minutes.
6) Turn off the burner and add the vanilla. Stir briefly–about 5 seconds–being careful not to burn yourself as the mixture bubbles up. (Unlike me! Trust me, it’ll hurt!)
7) Immediately pour the caramel evenly over the popcorn and quickly stir with the prepared rubber spatula until the pieces are mostly separated, about 3 minutes. Pull apart any larger clumps, being careful because the caramel will still be hot in spots.
8) Stir in the apple chips — gently.
Tips After Testing the Recipe:
- FoodNetwork.com encourages you to use homemade popcorn because it’s freshness will make it crisp and crunchy, and I have to agree. Homemade popcorn tastes less soggy and there’s no additional seasonings that bagged popcorn tends to have. You’re adding plenty of salt in this recipe to give it that “salted caramel” flavor, and you definitely wouldn’t want to have already-salted popcorn!
- Use a larger bowl than you’d think to stir in the caramel with the popcorn and peanuts. You’re going to have to stir very quickly and you don’t want to waste time trying to be careful as to not lose popcorn off the sides—or burn yourself with caramel dripping off the sides.
- Want to make this school-friendly? Simply omit the peanuts! It’ll still be a delicious caramel popcorn recipe with a pop of apple flavor.
Need more Halloween or fall recipes that are kid friendly?
Try a few of these other favorites from Food Network!
** Dallas Moms was not compensated by FoodNetwork.com for this post. We were given permission by FoodNetwork.com to share this recipe with you for you to enjoy with your families! All kitchen accidents were 100% my own.