Trick or treat! Halloween is right around the corner, and while there are plenty of gory and ghoulish recipes out there for all your festive needs; I’m going the subtle route and tricking taste buds with these inconspicuous looking popcorn balls. You’d never guess from looking at them, but the marshmallow is made with pomegranate molasses, and offers just as much tartness as it does sweetness. Add to that some salted sunflower seeds and popcorn, and you have all the elements of the perfect treat: sweet, salty, tangy, chewy and crunchy.
If you are unfamiliar with pomegranate molasses, it is basically pomegranate juice that has been reduced down to a syrupy consistency. Often a little sugar is added to counteract the tartness, and some lemon juice or citric acid to help preserve it. It has an intense depth of flavor and is a fairly common ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking. Most grocery stores carry it in their “International” aisle.
Homemade marshmallows aren’t that hard to make with the Ankarsrum. A little water, gelatin and hot sugar syrup and whip till tripled in size. The main trick is SLOWLY adding the hot liquid to the gelatin mixture and then SLOWLY increasing the speed as the mixture thickens so it doesn’t fling all over the kitchen before it is thick enough to whip at full speed.
Most marshmallow treats are made by melting down marshmallows with butter and then mixing with dry cereal, pretzels, nuts, popcorn, etc. Since I didn’t want to take the time to make marshmallows, have them set and then just melt them down again to make these treats, I added room temperature butter right at the end of whipping up the marshmallow. This prevented the marshmallow mixture from firming up too much while shaping the popcorn balls. They are still the slightest bit sticky once fully set, so serving in cupcake liners is ideal.
If you are popping your own popcorn, make sure you don’t add butter or salt to it. Plain popcorn is what you want for this recipe.
Since you need such a large quantity of popcorn to begin with (it shrinks down once marshmallow mixture is added), you will need to divide it between 2 large bowls. Or one large bowl and the Ankarsrum stainless steel bowl:
If you have little (or big) helping hands around your house, shaping the popcorn balls is equally fun and messy. I found that scooping up the mixture with a large disher and using one hand to help shape the ball was the easiest way to portion these out. If you don’t have a disher, just rub a little butter or neutral flavored oil over clean hands to prevent sticking and shape mixture into balls.
Make sure you have wax paper or silicone baking mats already laid out and ready to go before beginning to form the balls.
These will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container. Let us know if you have any questions or comments, and Happy Halloween!
Pomegranate Popcorn Balls
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Inactive Time: 6 hours
195 g. (3/4 cup) popcorn kernels
220 g. (1 1/2 cups) roasted, salted, shelled sunflower seeds
32 g. (4 envelopes) unflavored gelatin
240 g. (1 cup) cold water, divided
256 g. (2 cups) sugar
160 g. (1/2 cup) pomegranate molasses
2 g. (1/4 tsp.) kosher salt
57 g. (4 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, room temperature
Pop popcorn on stovetop or popcorn maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Divide among 2 large bowls and sprinkle the sunflower seeds over the top. Do not mix in.
Lay out two long sheets of wax paper or 4 silicone baking mats.
In the plastic whipping bowl with the balloon whisks, add 120 g. (1/2 cup) of the cold water and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let sit for at least 5 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, combine remaining water, sugar, pomegranate molasses and salt. Heat over medium-high heat until mixture reaches 240º F, approximately 7-8 minutes. Do not stir.
Turn the mixer on the lowest speed (12 o’clock) and SLOWLY begin to add hot pomegranate mixture. Once hot liquid is all added, begin to increase speed as mixture thickens, being careful not to increase too fast or mixture will fling out of bowl. Gradually increase speed to highest setting (8 o’clock) and set timer for 10 minutes.
Once marshmallow is done whipping, add butter and mix in on low speed (1 o’clock) just until butter has melted in thoroughly.
Working quickly, divide the marshmallow mixture between the popcorn/sunflower seeds and gently mix to evenly coat. Use a large disher or your hands to form mixture into balls that are about the size of a tennis ball. Place on wax paper and let sit for 4-6 hours until set. Alternately, loosely cover with wax paper and let set up at room temperature overnight.
If desired, place in cupcake liners and serve. Popcorn balls will still be slightly sticky once fully set. Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Yield: 50 popcorn balls