Once a year, repeat, only once a year, we make these sugary popcorn balls. To temper the sugary sweet goodness in every bite, I make them smallish, a little larger than bite-sized. No fun, I know, but how much sugar do we really need in one treat?
The trick (it seems there always is a trick to cooking little treats like this) is to let the sugar mixture cool until warm to the touch and then let the kids get started making little popcorn balls. Once the mixture cools completely it doesn't really stick together. Have the team ready to roll.
Make a few batches, it won't go to waste if it cools too quickly. Don't use corn syrup. Splurge on the maple syrup. It makes them taste so much better. To make this a gift-making project, I wrap the balls neatly in wax paper then tie the top with pretty bakery string. Attached small jingle bells or cut paper snowflake to the string to make it festive.
Aunt Maggie's Christmas Popcorn Balls
6 cups of popped corn
pinch of salt for sprinkling
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup granulated sugar
wax paper and string for wrapping
ADULT HELP REQUIRED
1. Set out plate or wooden board on the table.
2. Pop corn and place in a large ceramic or glass mixing bowl. Lightly salt the corn and mix with clean hands or wooden spoon to combine.
3. In a medium saucepan add butter, salt, maple syrup, and sugar. Heat on low until the butter melts, then bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Allow the mixture to boil for about 3 minutes or until your candy thermometer reads 270 degrees.
4. Remove pan from stove and immediately begin to pour the mixture over the popcorn, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to mix well.
5. When the mixture is warm (not cool) you are ready to begin forming popcorn balls.
6. With clean hands, pack the sticky popcorn together (like making a snowball). Place the rolled balls on plate.
7. Cut 7 x 12 inch waxed paper sections. Wrap each ball in wax paper and tie up with string.
Makes about 10-12 3- inch popcorn balls.