We love popcorn balls, but I despise the candy thermometer. It’s intimidating. One second too long and you’ve moved irreparably from soft ball stage to hard crack.
I let the microwave handle my molten sugar.
I use a deliciously easy microwave toffee recipe from Kitchengifts.com. (The original recipe is great for gifts.) Instead of spreading the sugar mix over pecans, I spread it over 6 cups of popped popcorn, which is roughly the equivalent of one bag of microwave popcorn.
Microwave Toffee Popcorn Balls
Here’s the recipe:
6 cups of popped popcorn
1 stick butter or margarine (I use butter because it is delicious) or 1/2 cup
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
Rub the stick of butter around the top of a microwave–safe bowl and then drop in all the ingredients except the popcorn. DO NOT STIR. Let the microwave mix the toffee for you.
Microwave on high for 7–8 minutes. The butter mixture should be a light tan. Microwave on high for an additional minute at a time if needed. Watch the mixture like a hawk. Sugar burns quickly.
Pour the molten sugar over your popcorn and use a rubber spatula to spread the sugar mixture evenly. Don’t worry about rushing through this step. The sugar holds its heat. You need the sugary popcorn to cool about 5 minutes before you plunge your hands into the bowl.
CAUTION: The toffee is still molten and is hot! Wait about 5 minutes before forming the popcorn balls.
After about 5 minutes, use your hands to grab about 1 cup of toffee popcorn and form it into ball. The butter in the toffee prevents the sugar from sticking to your skin. You should get 6–7 popcorn balls from one batch of toffee. Place the popcorn balls on waxed paper or the shiny side of freezer paper to continue cooling.
If you waited too long and the popcorn is too cool to form, just enjoy your batch of toffee popcorn and try again.
I made two batches that disappeared within one day. They were pronounced to be evil, which is appropriate for Halloween week.
If you want to give them as gifts, cut a square of waxed paper, wrap, and twist the ends.