Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chewy Caramel Popcorn & Pretzel Bars


This weekend, I once again volunteered to organize the Bake Sale at my children's school carnival. The carnival is one of the main fundraisers at our school, so making the Bake Sale a big hit was important to me. It was a big success & grossed more than it ever has! I got some great photos of the event, which I hope to post soon.
But, in the meantime, I thought I would share one of the treats I made for this year's event. I also have another treat on the horizon for you...so stay tuned!
Last year, I made bags of caramel popcorn, which was a big hit! I planned on making it again this year. But, due to time constraints, I needed to find something easier. While these bars taste a lot like caramel corn, one batch made 24 {big} bars...which could be cooled & wrapped individually in plastic wrap. This ended up being a lot easier than stuffing little cello bags with sticky popcorn.
I also loved the idea of mixing sweet, chewy caramel popcorn with salty, crunchy pretzels...I'm a huge fan of the sweet/salty thing. These bars are delicious & we're a hit, not only at the Carnival, but with my family. The Bozos went nuts for them & DH offered me $20 to buy a batch before I even left for the Bake Sale. I told him he had to wait in line like everyone else...but, did cave & let him buy a few.

Begin by getting some things ready. For this recipe, you'll need a 9" x 13" baking dish, a very large mixing bowl & a rubber spatula...all of which need to be given a healthy application of non-stick cooking spray.
Next, you'll need to pop the popcorn. Add 3 tablespoon of canola oil & 2 kernels of popcorn to a large pot. Cover the pot & heat over medium high heat. When you hear the first kernel pop, pour in a 1/2 cup of popcorn. Cover the pot & shake over the burner until you no longer hear the popcorn popping. Transfer the popcorn to the large mixing bowl.
{Note:
I like to do this part the old-fashioned way. But, if you'd like to save some time, two bags of microwave popcorn can be substituted.}

Place 7 1/2 ounces of small, salted pretzels in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag. Seal the bag & run a rolling pin over the pretzels a few times, until they are coarsely chopped.

Add the pretzels to the bowl with the popcorn.

Combine 2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup of water & 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt in a saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat until it begins to boil. Simmer, undisturbed, for 8-12 minutes, or until the mixture turns golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat & slowly stir in 2/3 cups heavy cream.

The mixture will bubble up quite a bit, so add it slowly!

Add in 2 cups of mini marshmallows & stir until they're completely melted.

Pour the caramel over the popcorn & pretzels. Using the spatula, toss immediately to combine & scrape out into the baking dish. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with some non-stick spray & use it to press the popcorn down into the pan, creating an even surface. Let the bars cool for 10 minutes.

Using a knife, work the bars away from the edges of the baking dish. Invert the pan over a cutting board & tap the bars out onto the board. Use a serrated knife to cut 24- 2" squares.
To make ahead: The bars can be made ahead of time & stored in an airtight container, between layers of wax paper, for up to 3 days

Chewy Caramel Popcorn & Pretzel Bars

Adapted from Everyday Food, October 2010
Makes 24-2" square bars

non-stick cooking spray
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3 tablespoons canola oil
7 1/2 ounces small salted pretzels
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cups heavy cream
2 cups mini marshmallows

Spray a 9" x 13" baking dish, a very large mixing bowl and a spatula with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
Heat the oil & 2 kernels of popcorn in a large, covered pot over medium-high heat. When you hear the first kernel pop, add in the rest of the popcorn. Cover the pot & shake over the burner until you no longer hear the popcorn popping. Transfer the popcorn to the large mixing bowl.
Place the pretzels in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag. Seal the bag & run a rolling pin over the pretzels a few times, until they are coarsely chopped. Add the pretzels to the bowl with the popcorn.
Combine the sugar, water & salt in a saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat until it begins to boil. Simmer, undisturbed, for 8-12 minutes, or until the mixture turns golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat & slowly stir in the cream. The mixture will bubble up quite a bit, so add it slowly! Add the marshmallows & stir until they have completely melted.
Pour the caramel over the popcorn & pretzels. Using the spatula, toss immediately to combine & scrape out into the baking dish. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with some non-stick spray & use it to press the popcorn down into the pan, creating an even surface. Let the bars cool for 10 minutes. Using a knife, work the bars away from the edges of the baking dish. Invert the pan over a cutting board & tap the bars out onto the board. Use a serrated knife to cut 24- 2" squares.
{Some notes on this recipe: Once the caramel begins to brown, it will rapidly go from golden to burnt, so watch it carefully! As a time saver: Two bags of microwave popcorn can be used as an alternative to popping the popcorn over the stove. To make ahead: The bars can be made ahead of time & stored in an airtight container, between layers of wax paper, for up to 3 days}
Click here for the printable recipe.

10 comments:

Joanne said...

I can absolutely see why these were such a hit! That salty popcorn and pretzels with the buttery caramel! I would have fought your husband for that batch.

Dulcie said...

Yum! I wish I had a couple in front of me right now. I'm definitely going to make a batch.

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Wow! My 11 will be thrilled with these! He's been bugging me to make caramel corn but I love your addition of the salty pretzels (I'm a salty/sweet lover too).

Anonymous said...

Great job at the Carnival! We enjoyed many treats...too many maybe. Thank you.

kate said...

Oh yes! I think I most definitely gained 10 lbs this weekend :)

Leslie said...

OK ... I'm off to the store for ingredients!! Kate, just pinned this ... it looks awesome.

Ashley said...

These look so cool!

Anonymous said...

I just made these, and threw in a handful of chocolate chips, and oh my goodness, you are such a terrible person!!! :D (kidding!) These are so delicious I could easily eat the whole batch all by myself, and fight my boyfriend off for them :D Thank you for such a great snack!

kate said...

Anonymous-
Chocolate chips are a great idea! I've also seen them made with Reese's pieces which I think sounds amazing too!

Anonymous said...

This recipe sounds AH-MAZING!!!! Making it tonight! Thanks for sharing :o)

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