March 31, 2012

Battle Spherical Food: Popcorn Balls

Or should I call them Popcorn Spheres?? 

My inspiration for this recipe choice came to me after I read Leah's post about this month's smackdown theme.  Sports, especially basketball, make me think of my childhood.  Basketball was the first team sport I played and we were huge Bearcat basketball fans in my house growing up.  The first spherical food from my childhood that came to mind was popcorn balls! 

My pictures kinda tell the popcorn ball story but I also broke it down into simple steps.

Step #1- Kindly ask your mom for her popcorn ball recipe, if she's really nice like my mom she will rip out the recipe page from her Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  If she's really really nice (like my mom) she will also let you borrow her candy thermometer.  Also, ask your mom to clarify what "soft ball stage" means; giggle quietly as she explains it.

Step #2- Borrow some kids (or use your own if you have them) for the day to help you make the popcorn balls, it's a very interactive and hands-on process, they will LOVE it.  Take them to the candy aisle at the grocery store and let them pick out a candy or two to add to the balls.  We chose sour patch kids, skittles, peanut m&m's and twizzlers. 
Step #3- Prepare the caramel sauce as the recipe states and while the sauce simmers, pop 3 bags of plain popcorn.  I used Cousin Willie's 94% fat free natural flavored microwave popcorn because I couldn't find microwave popcorn with no added butter or salt.  The natural flavor was lightly salted but it made the finished product turn out great; sort of a salty caramel popcorn ball.

Step #4- After you reach "soft ball stage" with the caramel sauce (I think it took about 12 minutes to get to this point) you are ready to pour the caramel over the popcorn.  The easiest way to do this is to dump the popcorn onto the dining room table (or another large flat surface)and then pour the caramel over top; there's simply not a bowl big enough in my kitchen to do this.  One online recipe recommended using dish gloves and coating them in cooking spray to mix everything together; this is a great idea and I will definitely do this next time.  The caramel is so HOT and you have to mix it with the popcorn quickly or it will start to harden.  This is very difficult with bare hands. **Remember to pull out all the un-popped kernels before you pour on the caramel sauce!** Remember to do a taste test!
Step #5- Once all the popcorn is somewhat coated with caramel you can start forming it into balls. Remember, the caramel is hardening by the second so you need to do this all rather quickly and you have to firmly pack the popcorn together to get it to stick and stay that way.
Step #6- Improvise!  Once all the balls were formed it was clear that the candy was not going to stick to the top, sides and bottom- duh! We decided the only way to get the candy to stick to the balls would be to melt white chocolate chips and dip the popcorn balls into the melted chocolate, then the candy would stick:)  Once I was up in my baking cabinet I saw my stash of sprinkles and colored sugar and whipped those out as well.

Step #7- When all the balls have been formed, coat one popcorn ball with white chocolate by either dipping 1/2 of it directly into the bowl or drizzle it generously with white chocolate.
Step #8- After the white chocolate is applied, top the popcorn ball with the candy and sprinkles of your choice- get crazy!  The beauty of decorating popcorn balls is that more is always more.
Step #9- Wait for the white chocolate to set and be careful not to move the popcorn balls around too much or the toppings will fall off.  It took a couple hours for the white chocolate to harden completely.  It's the perfect time to take a break for lunch, pop in another movie or eat all the leftover candy:)
Step #10- Admire the beautiful works of art!  (The first two are Alex's, the third is Taylor's and the fourth is mine.)

Step #11- Eat the popcorn balls.  Wrap any leftovers in plastic wrap to keep them fresh.


  1. Oh my goodness - sugar coma - These would be great in an easter basket. Nice entry.

  2. Those are beautiful!! I would have stopped at the caramel and called it good. Great way to debut in the Smackdown...hope to see you again!!


  3. Katie, hahahah! Your entry is hysterical and fun! Love that you improvised with the white chocolate . . . and weren't afraid to let more be more :) So glad you joined in the Smackdown this month (even though I, sadly, did not manage to) and hope you'll be back for more!

  4. Katie -- Congrats on your win!--

    I had fun just reading this entry and you did a really fantastic job! I can't wait to see what you come up with for April! (My husband just saw your entry and said to me 'It was the sprinkles, wasn't it?' was! AND MORE!)

    1. Rainbow sprinkles make the world a better place! Thanks so much for choosing me as the winner this month!

  5. Congrats! A well deserved win! Can't wait to see what you come up with for our April challenge!

  6. P.S. Katie, if you would email me at, I'll let you know where you can select a Culinary Smackdown badge for your blog, and, as Smackdown cheerleader, will be happy to answer any questions you may have about hosting, posting, and judging the next CS!

  7. Thanks for all the kind words, I'll have April's challenge posted very soon! Likely be one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make in a long time!

  8. I love "giggle quietly while she explains it." :-) Great post...I'm definitely going to try this with my kids!