I love it when a plan comes together. Or is it when a plan fails miserably? I can’t remember. This is a plan almost three years in the making. The year that The Pioneer Woman released her A Year of Holidays Cookbook, I knew I was going to make these popcorn balls. I don’t celebrate Halloween, but I do celebrate a lot of life with food. And I don’t eat candy corn. In fact, I only knew one person who did. She ate a whole bag in one sitting and made herself sick, and probably hasn’t eaten them again. But as soon as I saw the picture of these yellowed marshmallowy popcorn balls with those striped triangled candies, I knew this was meant to be. Here’s the unfortunate thing- if you don’t buy your candy corn before Halloween, you will not find it in stores until the next year. I know this to be true, two years in a row. So when I saw an “Autumn Mix” bag of Brach’s candy while waiting in the checkout lane of a local grocery store, I knew I would have no problem removing those little sugar pumpkins so I could get one full cup of candy corns. This was the year.
1/4 cup Peanut oil
6 Tbsp Popcorn kernels
1/2 cup Sugar
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) Butter
6 oz. mini Marshmallows (about 2/3 package)
Orange food coloring (optional)
1 cup Candy Corn
1/2 cup shelled unsalted Peanuts
I poured the oil in a large sauce pan (with a tight fitting lid) over a medium-high heat. I added the popcorn and shook the pan gently to make sure the kernels were coated with oil.
When I heard the oil start to sizzle (before any corn started popping) I added the sugar to the pan. Without instruction, I stirred the sugar and the kernels because it felt like the right thing to do. Then I shook the pan to even out the kernels on the bottom. I shook the pan again, just like I was told when I saw the first couple kernels. But I noticed that my sugar had started to caramelize and The Pioneer Woman’s picture didn’t look like that… So, I started to question my urge to stir that sugar. Or maybe mine started to brown because I used organic cane sugar? Perhaps my medium-high heat is higher than hers? We may never know.
I placed the lid on my pan, holding it in place while I gently shook the pan as the corn was popping. When I noticed the popping slowing down, I removed it from the heat. I took off the lid to unveil the sweet surprise.
Then I poured it onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet to let the popcorn cool. I did my best to sort out unpopped kernels (and said a prayer that my kids wouldn’t break a tooth if I missed one, because this is a sticky mixture and I didn’t feel confident in my separating skills). Also, I threw away the darkest colored (aka burnt) pieces of popped corn, because even though I like burned popcorn, as I have mentioned before, my family does not.
While the popcorn was cooling, I melted butter in a separate pot over a low heat. I noticed that The Pioneer Woman used an enamel lined cast iron pot, so I did too. (Because when I grow up I’m going to be just like her.) I added the marshmallows, stirring them while they melted. On the side, I started to sort out those candy corns and separate them from the candy pumpkins. I got this.
The marshmallows were starting to lose their shape, so everything was going according to plan. Another suggestion from The Pioneer Woman was the option of orange food coloring. My pantry’s current all natural food coloring in store was yellow, but I added a few drops anyway to mask all of the white. My marshmallows weren’t melting completely very quickly… So I left them on the heat for a minute while I went to the pantry to look for the peanuts, because that’s how I roll. (My mise en place could use a little help.) And as soon as I turned my back, my son dumped the measuring cup full of candy corn into the marshmallow mix. NOOOO!
Well, I tried to recover as best as I could and added the popcorn right away too. But those candy corns started to melt. Argh! So much for needing food coloring… we were going for a traditional pinky orange right? I tried to quickly yet gently mix it all up. (It was a pot of chaos.) I removed the it all from the heat, added the nuts and tried to sort through the bag for a few more candy corns- so you actually see a couple.
I sprayed my hands with the spray as directed and started forming those marshmallow balls of gooey madness. And please note that the marshmallow is HOT. Oh, I felt it.
But, all’s well that ends well, right?
Because we still had fun eating them… Show that marshmallow popcorn ball who’s boss!
The Pioneer Woman’s Popcorn Balls
- 1/4 cup Peanut oil
- 6 Tbsp Popcorn kernels
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) Butter
- 6 oz. mini marshmallows (about 2/3 package)
- Orange food coloring (optional)
- 1 cup Candy Corn
- 1/2 cup shelled unsalted Peanuts
- Cooking spray
- Add oil to a medium (large) sauce pan that has a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat.
- Add the popcorn and shake the pan gently, coating all of the kernels with oil.
- When the oil starts to sizzle, add the sugar.
- Shake the pan again, and when the first kernels start to pop, cover with the lid. Hold the lid in place, while you gently shake the pot with your other hand.
- When the popping slows down, and almost all kernels have popped, pour the popcorn onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- Separate and remove the un-popped kernels with a spoon or spatula.
- Let the popcorn cool.
- While the popcorn is cooling, melt the butter in another pot over low heat.
- Add the marshmallows, stirring as they melt.
- When the marshmallows are almost melted, add 2 or 3 drops of orange food coloring. (Optional)
- Remove the pot from the heat and add the popcorn. Stir immediately to coat as quickly as possible.
- Add the candy corn and peanuts.
- Gently stir until candy and nuts are worked in.
- Spray your hands lightly with cooking spray and form balls 2-3 inches in diameter.
- Set them aside and let them cool completely.
- Serve at room temperature.