Homemade Soft Popcorn Ball Tutorial

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The "problematic food" ice planets line goes by in a flash in the Firefly series, but it was the inspiration for a heck of a lot of fun at the Firefly themed birthday party.

I made my ice planets out of homemade popcorn balls, and they were a huge hit--both because they were fun to attempt to eat, AND because they were incredibly tasty!

Homemade Soft Popcorn Ball Ingredients

  • 7 quarts popped popcorn
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 t vanilla

Start by popping your popcorn.  I haven't had an air-popper in years--decades, probably.  But man, I LOVE my Nordic Ware microwave popcorn popper.  No oil necessary (though you can use flavored oils to make fabulous, gourmet popcorn) and it just doesn't get any easier.  I can't recommend it enough.  One caution:  be very careful to sift out any unpopped kernels.   You only want to use the nice, fluffy, popped popcorn to make your popcorn balls.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a saucepan, and cook until a candy thermometer reads 235 degrees Fahrenheit.  That's the soft ball stage; take it higher and you'll end up with a delicious, but much crunchier and more difficult to eat popcorn ball.

As soon as the mixture reaches 235, remove from heat, and add the butter and vanilla.  Stir until the butter is melted.    Quickly pour over the popcorn (ideally in one large container--I use a roasting pan) and mix.  

As soon as the popcorn is cool enough for you to stand touching, use your hands to form the sticky popcorn into ball shapes.  Food service gloves are handy for this purpose, but if you don't have any, just dip your hands in cold water.  The water will help keep your hands comfortable and keep the popcorn from sticking.

If you're making ice planets (or popcorn ball Christmas ornaments, I suppose! Wouldn't that be charming on a kitchen Christmas tree?) you'll need something to anchor in the center of the popcorn ball.  Something safe, and something edible.  I tied baker's twine around sugar cubes and formed my popcorn balls around those.  It worked perfectly.

I tied the other end of my string to a bamboo skewer to complete my ice planets.

The popcorn balls are a little sticky, so I'd recommend wrapping them individually in cling wrap.  I thought that added a little icy flare to my ice planets.  ;-)

Happy eating!  I dare you to try noshing on these without bursting out in laughter.


Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido