Popcorn has thousands of variations: Sometimes popcorn is balled up, sometimes it's on a stick. Popcorn can be flavoured with caramel, or ginger, or even eggnog and taco. Heck, it's even been mixed with Jell-O!
We've certainly explored the outer limits of how popcorn variations, but I think it's possible to go one step further. What if popcorn is not just mixed, but integrated with another snack of limitless potential: cookies!!
Yes, we're going to create perfect stovetop kettlecorn, and then cover it with some dangerously delicious cookie dough, and finally bake it to create Popcorn Cookie Poppers!
Step 1: Make the Dough
Begin by browning the butter. Cooking the butter until it turns brown will give the dough a richer, toffee-like flavor - it's a key difference when it comes to making perfect cookie dough.
Combine the flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.
Measure out 10 tbsp of the allotted 16 tbsp of butter. Put the 10 tbsp into a saucepan and set on medium-high. Stir occasionally. Keep a close eye on it - the butter can quickly turn from brown to burnt.When the butter finishes browning, turn off the heat and mix in the last 6 tbsp.
Mix the sugars together in a smaller bowl. When the butter has finished browning, pour it over the sugars and mix it together. Give it a minute to cool off, and then mix in the egg, egg yolk, and the vanilla and combine thoroughly. Excluding an egg white will give the dough a chewier texture (another key tip). For crunchier cookies, include the egg white.
Place the sugar-butter-egg mixture into the fridge for 5-10 minutes - the browned butter is very hot and needs time to cool. Allowing the mixture to rest also allows the sugars to have more time to dissolve, which results in a better flavor and nice crispy edges.
Take the mixture out of the fridge and vigorously stir it for 30 seconds, then let it sit at room temperature for three minutes. Repeat one more time
Add the whole mixture to the medium bowl with the flour and mix thoroughly. Fold in your chocolate chips, shredded coconut, or whatever else you want to add some pizzazz.
- The ratio of white sugar to brown sugar changes the cookie's texture. More white sugar = crunchier cookie, and more brown sugar = chewier cookie. Substitute the sugars at a 1:1 ratio to suit your taste.
- Spend your downtime preparing and cooking the popcorn.
- The Cook's Illustrated recipe calls for only 14 tbsp of butter. I added the 2 extra tbsp because some of my ingredients were very dry.
- Bulky additives (walnuts, whole almonds, chocolate chunks) are difficult to integrate into the poppers, so stick with small ingredients.
Step 2: Pop-Pop-Pop!
Add the oil and three (3) popcorn kernels to a medium cooking pot with a handle and lid, preferably a lid with a clasp. Turn the heat on high and wait. While you're waiting, pre-measure the popcorn, sugar, and salt. Once the three kernels pop, quickly add the popcorn-sugar-salt mixture all at once.
Use one hand to continuously shake the pot back and forth and use the other hand to keep the lid on. The popcorn will begin to rapidly pop. When there is a gap of 1-2 seconds in between pops, it's time to remove the popcorn from the heat. The popping time can take as little as 1-2 minutes.
When I first researched how to make kettle corn, every website made a big deal about keeping the pot moving, so naturally I thought I had to violently shake the pot in every direction, which takes a lot of energy while standing in front of an oven! But really all you need to do is this:
Here are a few more popping tips from my experience with stovetop kettlecorn:
- Keep the bottom of the pot as close to the heat as possible.
- If you see smoke beginning to seep out, remove the pot from heat and open the lid under your stovetop fan. Wait a moment, then cover the pot and resume. This not only prevents burning, but also stops the smoke from infusing your popcorn with a nasty, acrid flavor.
- It's better to remove the popcorn from the heat and end up with a bunch of un-popped kernels than it is to try and pop as many as possible and end up burning the bottom layer.
- Butter is probably not necessary since the popcorn will be covered with cookie dough.
- You'll end up with plenty of extra kettle corn if you follow my proportions.
Step 3: Make the Poppers
Now it's time to actually make the poppers. I tried a few different ways of doing this before I found the right proportion of popcorn to cookie.
Take a small amount of dough and carefully press it around a single piece of popcorn (try not to totally smoosh the popcorn). You should use just enough dough to cover most of the popcorn - if the popcorn pokes out from under the dough a little bit, then you're doing it right.
This step can take awhile, so I recommend recruiting a friend to help you out (this shouldn't be a problem since they'll be rewarded with some poppers!). Otherwise, put on some music, or listen to your favorite radio show. Enjoy the process.
To bake: preheat the oven to 375º. Space the poppers about ½-inch apart (they don't expand much). Since these are so small, your baking time may vary. Bake for 5 minutes and then check on them. I baked mine for 8 minutes and then allowed the residual heat from the baking sheet to continue cooking the poppers. I found this to be just right. I also tried baking for 10 minutes, and the poppers were very crunchy, which was good but just not my taste.
The second batch I made was a little undercooked, so the poppers were too chewy. I think it's best to bake them until the edges turn light brown and the center no longer looks wet.
Important!! Try baking a small test batch of ½ dozen at first - it would be heartbreaking to overcook 6 dozen at once!
Step 4: The Verdict and Final Thoughts
The final result? Just delightful! The kettle corn lends its light sweet-and-saltiness and a nice crisp texture, while the cookie dough offers an intensely rich toffee flavor. The cookie dough is also crispy on the outside, but chewier toward the middle, blending nicely with the crunch of the kettle corn.
When I bake regular cookies, I often prefer to eat just ½ of a cookie or one bite at a time. These popcorn cookie poppers are great for people who are more measured when it comes to satisfying their sweet tooth.
The process of forming the poppers is a little tedious, so this is not going to be my go-to recipe for a sweet treat. However the novelty and snack-ability of this recipe makes the effort well worth it once and a while.
If you try out this recipe, let me know how it goes and maybe even post a picture. I've never created a foodie Instructable before, so I'm curious how well this recipe turns out for others. Hope you enjoy!