Recipe: Caramel Sea Salt Popcorn Balls

MF Mother Lode Popcorn Balls These are not the popcorn balls of your past. These, my friends, are the popcorn balls of your future. I sometimes call them "Mother Lode Popcorn Balls" because they contain the ultimate richness of flavors—silky sweet caramel, toasted coconut, pecan chips, chocolate, and a little bit of sea salt to keep it all balanced. And it's all delivered in scrumptious bites on the wings of fluffy popcorn. (Am I sounding ridiculous? Sorry, it's the popcorn balls.) These are the sophisticated popcorn balls that little popcorn balls dream of becoming someday. Try them and enjoy the ridiculous bliss they contain. Mmm!

Mother Lode Popcorn Balls

12 cups popped plain popcorn 3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed 3/4 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup light corn syrup 1/2 cup water 1 teaspoon white vinegar 1/4 teaspoon table salt 3/4 cup butter 1 cup toasted coconut 1/4 cup chopped pecans 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 1 tablespoon canola oil 1/4 cup heavy cream 1/8 cup coarse sea salt (for garnish)

Directions Place popcorn in an oversized bowl or large roasting pan. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, corn syrup, water, vinegar, and table salt. Bring to a hard ball boil (260 degrees on a candy thermometer), stirring constantly. Once it reaches 260 degrees, remove from heat and stir butter in until completely incorporated, allowing caramel to cool slightly. Drizzle caramel evenly over the popcorn, followed by the toasted coconut and pecans, then let it sit for 2-3 minutes to cool a bit. Use a large spoon or spatula to carefully fold caramel into all the popcorn. Prepare your cleaned hands with cooking spray, butter, or ice cold water and form 3-inch balls, then place them on a sheet of parchment paper to cool completely.

While the popcorn balls are cooling, melt chocolate chips, canola oil, and heavy cream in a double boiler. Stir until smooth and shiny. Drizzle melted chocolate over popcorn balls, then sprinkle each ball with a pinch of coarse sea salt. Allow to set completely before serving.

HINT: If you don't have one already, invest in a candy thermometer. It will take all the guesswork out of making perfect caramel and candies!

HINT: Serve popcorn balls in cupcake liners for a pretty display that keeps your hands clean.

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