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Modern Popcorn Balls
© Hector Sanchez

Spicy Popcorn Balls

  • TOTAL TIME: 45 MIN
  • SERVINGS: Makes 36 balls
  • FAST
  • MAKE-AHEAD
  • STAFF-FAVORITE
  • VEGETARIAN

A smart update for popcorn balls: chipotle-spiked caramel.

  1. 20 cups freshly popped corn (from 3/4 cup popping corn)
  2. 4 cups sweetened puffed-corn cereal, such as Corn Pops
  3. 1 1/2 cups salted roasted peanuts
  4. 3 cups sugar
  5. 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  6. 1 stick unsalted butter
  7. 1/2 cup water
  8. 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  9. 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  10. 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  1. In a very large, lightly oiled bowl, toss the popped corn with the corn cereal and peanuts.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar with the corn syrup, butter, water, vanilla bean and seeds. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the syrup registers 295° (hard-crack stage) on a candy thermometer, about 18 minutes. Stir in the salt and chipotle powder.
  3. Immediately pour the hot syrup over the popcorn mix. Using a lightly oiled wooden spoon, stir to coat. Working quickly, scrape the popcorn onto a large sheet of lightly oiled parchment paper. Discard the vanilla bean. Wearing lightly oiled sturdy rubber gloves and using a very large, lightly oiled ice cream scoop (1/4 cup), form thirty-six 2-inch-wide balls, pressing lightly without compacting. Transfer the balls to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Let cool completely before serving.
Make Ahead The popcorn balls can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
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