Friday, March 30, 2012
Old-Time Popcorn Balls
Once I read in Monday's New York Daily News that popcorn is the new health food, I immediately made some -- and then doused the whole batch in sugar syrup. Was that wrong?
Health benefits aside, I wanted to recreate the old-fashioned popcorn balls of my youth. Making popcorn balls is easy; the only challenge is working forming the popcorn into balls without burning one's hands, as the sugar syrup can be quite hot. Run your hands under cold water for a minute before beginning.
This is a wonderful project to do with children; when my daughter turned nine, we made popcorn balls at her birthday party -- a fun and delicious activity.
First, make a big pot of popcorn. And try not to eat it all while....
...the sugar syrup heats to 250 degrees, a painfully slow process until the very end when the temperature rises so quickly, you're hardly ready for it. You don't need a candy thermometer (you can test the syrup by dropping a bit in a glass of cold water; it's ready when it forms a hard ball) but it does make things easier.
When the syrup reaches 250 degrees, take it from the fire and drizzle it on the popped corn. I spread mine in a hotel pan -- next time I'll use a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to better distribute the liquid sugar.
The recipe is from the c. 1960s Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.