How do you make popcorn balls when you've got a craving for something sweet, sticky and crunchy, but no one on hand who can help you out? Popcorn balls may seem to be complicated, but you don't need a culinary degree to work your way around the kitchen when making this delicious treat. If you remember the days when mom used to make popcorn balls, it was probably a special snack that she whipped up in no time to the delight of you and your siblings or friends. Recreate those childhood memories and please your taste buds with just a few simple ingredients; but be warned, when anyone around you gets a whiff of how well you make popcorn balls, you had better be ready to share.
What you'll need to make popcorn balls:
- 2 quarts of popcorn
- ½ c. light or dark corn syrup
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 to 4 T. butter
- ½ tsp. salt
- a glass of cold water
- butter flavored cooking spray
- Empty the popped popcorn into a large bowl. Be sure to pick out any unpopped kernels and discard them before you begin to make popcorn balls.
- Combine the remaining ingredients. In a heavy saucepan, measure and combine the corn syrup, sugar, butter and salt and stir over medium heat.
- Bring to a boil. When the syrup comes to a boil, continue to stir. The goal is to heat the mixture to a temperature between 250 and 270 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer, or what is referred to as the hard ball stage.
- Drop into a glass of cold water. If this is your first foray into making popcorn balls, chances are you haven't invested in a candy thermometer. A simple way to test if your syrup has reached the hard ball stage is to drop a bit of it into a glass of cold water. If the syrup beads into a ball that remains hard when take it from the glass, it is the correct temperature for you to make popcorn balls.
- Add the vanilla. Measure and stir in the teaspoon of vanilla extract.
- Add to the popcorn. Pour the hot syrup over the popcorn that is sitting in the large bowl. You'll need to stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to thoroughly coat the popcorn.
- Make popcorn balls! Spray your hands with the cooking spray to prevent the popcorn from sticking, then form the popcorn balls while the popcorn is still warm. Pat into the shape of 3 inch balls and set aside on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with the cooking spray or a sheet of waxed paper.
- Be careful not to burn yourself when handling the syrup.
- Don't overly pack the popcorn balls when forming them. Don't think of packing the perfect snowball; a popcorn ball that is too tightly formed can be a pain to eat.
- Try using brown sugar and dark corn syrup for a caramel popcorn ball treat.