While my sister and her family were in town this weekend, we held a Grapehead Popcorn Ball vs. Lemonhead Popcorn Ball contest. Even though one lost, they were both sour. Lemon won by a slightly sweet head, though my sister maintains that grape is her favorite.
Make the sweet and tart popcorn balls yourself: Over medium heat, melt together 3 T butter, 1 C mini marshmallows, one small box lemonheads (be patient, the lemonheads will dissolve). Mix in 4 C popped corn until well coated. With oiled or buttery hands, form into balls. Makes six small orbs.
My niece held up her lemonhead popcorn ball in the air, took a bite, and said, “look, I am eating the moon!”
Awww, two sparkly bird bellies nuzzled atop a buttery mallow nest; Easter candy is the cutest.
I opted out of the traditional coconut nests this year and modified the form of my simple popcorn ball recipe to make fluffier nests for my Peeps. Shredded wheat and coconut cannot be easy on those soft chickymallow bums. For the caramel-colored ones, I used the same recipe, except I scorched the butter till golden before melting in the mini-mallows: especially tasty with Whoppers and roasted peanuts. The decorated nests slide easily into cellophane bags filled with edible Easter grass and make for bright and sugary Spring-colored favors or small gifts for giving.
Assembly can also be an easy interactive treat-craft activity for all ages. Prepare the popcorn nests in advance and store them in an airtight container (or simply mold them into muffin tins and cover). When it’s time for the fun, set out supply bowls of jelly beans, nuts, sprinkles, chocolates, Peeps, or whatever works with your company’s aesthetic and dietary needs/desires. Each person begins with an empty nest and fills it up with whatever it takes to make a sweet, treat-filled home. It turns out that I like sour jellybeans in my popcorn nest!
You know surprise cupcakes; the ones where you bite down and find there’s more than just cake in there? I actually never make them myself (my sister does them so nicely with the chocolate cake, cream cheese, and chocolate chips), but I have been tasting out different popcorn ball recipes, and I thought, “these balls could stand a surprise inside.” Chocolate was my initial instict, but chocolate alone seemed much too boring. Something with extra gooeyness and more flavor dynamics… a Snickers, YES. If you eat one of these surprise balls within an hour of assembly, the chocolate is still melty. It’s like you have this great ballgame or movie snack compacted into one efficient junk food treat: mallow, popcorn, peanuts, nougat and caramel, all in the palm of your hand.
I made the less-traditional version of popcorn balls with marshmallows and butter. They are much simpler to make, softer, and there is extra “molding” time in which you can properly stow and hide the Snickers surprise.
Chop or unwrap surprise middles.
Melt 3 T unsalted butter over medium heat.
Stir in 1 C mini marshmallows until melted.
Add 4 C popped corn.
Mix until evenly coated with stickiness.
Scoop out popcorn mix into greased muffin tins or small bowl forms. Press popcorn down into the form and place candy bar bit in center. Cover with remaining popcorn mix and mold into a ball (leave no Snickers trace!). It may be necessary to coat your hands in oil or butter to keep excessive sticking away. Wrap balls in wax paper and store in airtight container until munchie time. Makes 3 baseball-sized treats or 6 mini-balls.
Tonight is Oscar night, and this year I made Popcorn Balls to celebrate the Best Picture Nominees. 84th Annual Academy Awards Sweets: Toasted Coconut Popcorn Balls for “The Descendants,” Black and White Dark Chocolate Drizzled Popcorn Balls for “The Artist” and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” Marty and Woody Popcorn Balls for “Hugo” and “Midnight in Paris,” Salted Cocoa Popcorn Balls for “The Help,” Baseball Popcorn Balls for “Moneyball,” Apple Chip Popcorn Balls for “The Tree of Life,” and Pretzel Barbed Wire Popcorn Balls for “Warhorse.” I realize that a few are a stretch, but popcorn balls were a much easier feat than movie-themed cupcakes (which is what I did back when there were just five nominees in the category). Besides, what goes better with the movies than popcorn? Next year, sugar paper ballots!
Rolos will always be an autumn candy to me. Like the shiny wrapped chocolate caramel mound, the season is covered in new golden colors and filled with sweet treasures. I first enjoyed one of these little Rolo pretzel sandwich treats courtesy of my friend Sara when I lived in Middlebury. What a simple and perfect combination of salty/sweet/chewy/crunchy. We took it to another level yesterday and had a contest to find the best variation, and besides, kitchen experiments and fine motor skills practice go better with chocolate candies in my opinion! The variables included flat pretzels, mini pretzels, Rolos, Riesens and Caramel Creams. The Caramel Creams barely melted, so they ended up being an open-faced variety. After testing, deliberation, a glass of milk and voting, first place went to the Rolo with the flat pretzel (we also thought it looked like a Koala pumpkin face)!
To make your own, just place the candy on top of a pretzel. Pop it in a 250-degree oven for 5 minutes, then lightly press another pretzel on top to complete the sandwich. They are messy if eaten right away but firm up in an hour or so. If you use Glutino pretzels and Rolos, these treats can also be gluten free.