Introduction: Pizza and Caramel Popcorn Dinner and Dessert
Whip out this delicious meal to impress a date, or make it for a nice family movie night. Whatever you use these recipes for, I know you—and all the people you share it with—will enjoy it.
Pizza Dough Ingredients:
- 1 1/2 cups hot water
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons white granulated sugar
- 5+ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Cooking spray
- Garlic salt (optional)
Pizza Sauce Ingredients:
- 14.5-ounce can of petite diced tomatoes (see tips)
- 15-ounce can (or two 8-ounce cans) tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sweet basil
- 2 pinches oregano
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- Salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste
Caramel Popcorn Ingredients:
- 4 bags of prepackaged, butter-flavored popcorn (see tips)
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 cup corn syrup
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
Tips before starting:
Pizza dough tips
- I like to use a large Pyrex glass mixing bowl for rising the dough. These bowls are completely oven safe, and they don’t get as hot as metal bowls.
- I like to use an 18-inch pizza pan with holes in the bottom. This cooks the bottom of the pizza faster, and makes it crispier. If you don’t have a pizza pan—no worries. A cookie sheet will work fine in a pinch. Just roll your dough into a rectangle instead of a circle.
Pizza sauce tips
- If you have picky kids who don’t want actual tomato bits in their pizza, feel free to replace the petite diced tomatoes with another 15-ounce can of tomato sauce. Alternately, if you love the little tomato bits as much as I do, you can replace the tomato sauce with another can of petite diced tomatoes.
Caramel popcorn tips
- I have tried using several different brands of popcorn with this recipe with similar results. My favorite brand to use is Pop Weaver, but it’s good with other brands as well. I have found that Act II butter lovers’ popcorn is the worst kind of popcorn to use with this recipe. You do need the popcorn to be butter flavored, but be sure that it is not extra butter, as the extra butter flavor will compete with the caramel flavor.
- The popcorn requires that you use a very large bowl. If all four bags of your popcorn do not fit in your largest bowl, don’t be afraid to use your sink to mix the popcorn. Just be sure to clean and dry it thoroughly beforehand, and stop the drain! If your popcorn barely does not fit into your largest bowl, you should be fine to use it anyway. As you mix the hot caramel sauce with the popcorn, the popcorn will shrink, leaving more room for your last bits of popcorn. At this point, just throw the rest of the popcorn in and keep mixing.
Need to skip to a certain part?
- Go to step 1 for pizza dough instructions
- Go to step 13 for pizza sauce instructions
- Go to step 15 for caramel popcorn instructions
Step 1: Pizza Dough
Pour the water (1 ½ cups) into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast (2 tsp.), salt (2 tsp.), and sugar (3 tsp.) on top of the water and stir to combine. Unlike other yeast doughs, it does not have to sit. Feel free to use an electric mixer if you have one.
Add the flour (5 cups) 1 cup at a time, stirring after each cup. If you think you may have trouble keeping track, tally your cups on a piece of paper. Make sure that you level off the flour in each of your cups, but don’t pack it. If you are using an electric mixer, be sure to use the dough hook attachment. If you do not have an electric mixer, stir the mixture with a long-handled spoon.
Soften the butter (2 tbs.) and add it to the mixture. Mix thoroughly. Mix the butter in for about five minutes, or until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Your dough should be soft, but not sticky. If it is sticky, keep adding more flour until you can squish it in your hands without it coming off on your fingers.
For a thin crust pizza, skip to step 6. For a thick crust, you will have to let the dough rise. Heat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit for one minute, and then turn the oven off. While you are doing this, spray an oven-safe bowl (see tips) with cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl, and then turn it over once to coat it with the cooking spray.
Place a clean towel over the bowl and put the bowl in the oven (double check that you turned the oven off). Let the dough rise in the oven for 30 minutes. While you are waiting for the dough to rise, feel free to start making the pizza sauce (starting on step 13). When the dough has risen, take it out of the oven (no need for oven mitts, as your oven should have been turned off) and punch it down. Once you remove the dough from the oven, heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. You are now ready to begin assembling your pizza.
If your dough is a little bit sticky still, sprinkle flour on your countertop and rolling pin. If not, spray your countertop and rolling pin with cooking spray. Split the dough in half and roll each half into a large circle the size of your pizza pan (see tips).
Spray your pizza pan! If you do not spray it, you will regret it. If you’re a fan of garlic like me, sprinkle the sprayed pan with some garlic salt for some extra flavor.
Transfer the pizza dough to the pan by folding it in half, placing it onto the pan, unfolding it, and reshaping into a circle. This method will save you some transferring troubles. If you find that you accidentally rolled your pizza out too big, just center the pizza dough on the pan and roll the edges in until they fit. This will give you a nice thick crust.
Use a ladle to spoon your preferred amount of sauce onto the crust; the amount of sauce you use will vary depending on the size of your pizza and how much of a sauce-lover you are. For an 18-inch pizza, I use approximately 1 ½ cups. Spread the sauce with the bottom of the ladle until it covers the pizza evenly.
Cover sauce with grated cheese and toppings of your choice. I used mozzarella cheese and pepperoni. Other options for cheeses and toppings include an Italian cheese mix, cheddar cheese, bacon, ham, sausage, pineapple, olives, peppers, onions, etc.
Transfer the pizzas to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the bottoms are crisp and golden brown. If it doesn’t bake this fast, it is not a problem. Know your oven and how fast or slow it bakes. This pizza can take up to 40 minutes to bake, depending on your oven. If the pizzas aren’t done after 20 minutes, switch which racks the pizzas are on and check on them every 5-10 minutes until the bottoms are golden brown.
Take them out of the oven (Use oven mitts this time!) and let them cool before using a pizza cutter or food scissors to cut out slices.
Step 13: Pizza Sauce
Combine ingredients in a medium to large skillet over medium low heat until all the spices are well-incorporated.
Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Feel free to add extra spices to taste. There is no need to let the sauce cool before putting it on the pizza dough.
Step 15: Caramel Popcorn
Pop all the popcorn before you begin making the caramel sauce, as the caramel sauce cooks very quickly.
Once you have popped the popcorn, remove the unpopped kernels. To do this, pour a bag of popcorn into a medium sized bowl and shake the bowl gently, letting the unpopped kernels fall to the bottom. Then scoop the popcorn by handfuls into a large bowl (see tips). Repeat with all four bags.
Melt butter (1 stick) into a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Add white sugar (1 cup), brown sugar (1 cup), corn syrup (1 cup), and sweetened condensed milk (14-oz can) to the melted butter. Stir until fully combined.
Set a timer for one minute, but don't press start yet. Bring the caramel mixture to a boil while stirring continuously. As soon as the bubbles begin to pop consistently, start your timer. Stir continuously until the timer goes off.
When the timer goes off, remove the caramel sauce from heat and pour immediately over the popcorn.
Mix the popcorn and caramel sauce with a long-handled wooden spoon until the popcorn is evenly coated. Be very careful, as the caramel is extremely hot.
If you want to shape the popcorn into popcorn balls, wait five minutes after you have mixed the popcorn to do so. If you wait any longer, the balls may not stick together as nicely.