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New Year's Nuggets
(Chocolate-Caramel Popcorn)

You thought caramel corn was just right the way it was . . . well, maybe this drizzled chocolate variety will quickly change your mind. It makes a wonderful gift, wrapped in a festive bag or placed in a colorful tin.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dried yellow popcorn
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil (optional)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • Scant 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange extract (optional)
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate

Directions:

Pop the popcorn in an air popper or in a large stockpot. If you use a stockpot, place the canola oil in the pot and heat over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the popcorn, covering the bottom of the pan with an even layer of kernels. Cover the pan and let the kernels heat until they begin to pop vigorously, 1 to 2 minutes. Shake the pan every 15 seconds so that the kernels will not burn. The corn should finish popping in 3 to 4 minutes.

Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water. Heat over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir gently, add the orange extract, if using, and stir again. Add some of the popcorn and coat it with the caramel. Use a wooden utensil to help coat the corn. Place the coated kernels on the parchment paper to cool. Repeat.

When cool, break up the clumps of caramel corn, keeping the corn clumps on the parchment.

Heat the chocolate over low heat in the top of a double boiler, or in a metal bowl over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of hot water (creating your own double boiler). Heat the chocolate until it is smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Make sure the chocolate does not burn.

Fill a ladle with the melted chocolate and lightly drizzle over the caramel corn. Let the chocolate-caramel corn cool for 30 to 45 minutes. To make gifts, put small batches in cellophane bags; otherwise, wrap in parchment paper and keep in a Tupperware container in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. Makes 4 cups.

Adapted from Kids in the Holiday Kitchen, by Jessica Strand & Tammy Massman-Johnson (Chronicle Books, 2007).