Southern Popcorn Balls

Popcorn balls in the Fall is a huge Southern tradition right along with caramel apples on a stick and hot apple cider. Growing up my brothers and I could hardly contain ourselves while the popcorn balls were made. I know a lot of people add things to the recipe these days like marshmallows, chocolate and so on but traditionally nothing should be added. I made a batch of these up for my son's class and I just happened to have some small m&m's so I went ahead and threw them in. I mean what 5 year old does not like popcorn and m&m's?

Making popcorn balls can be really tricky if you do not do everything perfect. You have to have a candy thermometer. I have tried making these before without one and failed every time. The syrup has to be at the perfect heat to work. Also one trick that I have learned works well is that you should keep a bowl of water and a dish towel next to you while forming the balls. Every time you form a ball rinse your hands and dry a bit leaving your hands a bit damp. If you do this you will be able to form perfect balls every time.

It also works best to do batches. Who has a bowl to fit 18 cups of popcorn anyway? I think it takes me about 4 batches to complete everything. I pour my completed syrup in a heat proof measuring cup since it's easier to pour that way. Be very careful when you're making this the syrup is extremely hot.  You will not need as much syrup as you would think. Pour a bit over the popcorn and toss with a large spoon (add anything else you may want at this time). You do not want the popcorn drenched in syrup just lightly coated. I also allow mine to get hard in the fridge for about an hour before taking them out.

1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
18 cups cooked popcorn (1 cup kernels)

1. In a 4-quart saucepan on high heat add sugar, water, syrup, vinegar and salt. Cook until candy thermometer reaches 225F. Add vanilla, stir.

2. Carefully pour mixture over popcorn, toss and when cool form into balls. Place on wax paper or a non-stick baking mat and allow to cool.

Yields: 30 small popcorn balls or 15 large 

The Perfect Rolls

These little soft and fluffy clouds are the perfect side dish. Yesterday I made a pot of potato soup and these to accompany it. I like to melt some butter, add a bit of honey and mix it then brush the tops after they come out of the oven. We have a restaurant in Tennessee called O'Charleys and they are famous for their rolls with honey butter and these taste identical.

1-1/4 cups warm milk
2 teaspoons yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon honey

1. In a bowl add 1/4 cup warm milk, 1 tablespoon of sugar and yeast. Allow to sit until frothy, about 5 minutes.

2. In a large mixing bowl add flour and salt. Mix in egg, butter, remaining sugar and a yeast mixture, mix well. Carefully add a little of the milk until a dough like consistency has formed, mix into a ball. Add a bit of oil to hands them rub all over dough ball not working into the dough. Place in a large bowl, cover and allow to sit in a warm place for an hour.

3. Punch dough down then break off and roll dough into balls the size of an egg. Place on a non-stick baking mat or greased baking sheet then cover and allow to sit in a warm place for 45 minutes.

4. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. In a small bowl add butter and honey, mix well. Brush the tops of rolls with the mixture and serve.

Yields: 18 servings

*by the way I have noticed that some of my older post have jumbled up in 1 long paragraph instead of the original format. I have no idea why and I have not had the time to check it out or fix it so bare with me please.

I have been enjoying some of my homemade pumpkin spice lattes already, yummy.