YEAAAAA RED SOX!
Well, now that that’s out of my system…I suppose it’s also Halloween.
When I was growing up in the glorious 90s, Halloween was a time to enjoy the variety of neighborhood tastes. One house would have pure chocolate truffles, another would boast trays upon trays of caramel apples…but the one that I looked forward to the most was the blue house on the corner that made popcorn balls the size of my face. (I was much smaller back then).
But still, these popcorn balls were a special once a year treat, where crunchy met salty met buttery met sweet. They were always individually wrapped, sometimes rolled in crushed peanuts or extra sugar, and were always the first thing I ate when I finished trick-or-treating.
Unfortunately the 90s came to an end, ushering in a new millenium full of paranoia about accepting homemade treats (and rightly so, as apparently there’s a lot more ill will out there now than there were during my childhood. Yikes!). No more homemade popcorn balls and caramel apples. Just regular store-bought plastic wrapped candy. Delicious, yes. But not the same. Not to mention, the measurements for “fun size” seem to be shrinking before my very eyes, in direct correlation to the price increase. How do you figure?
This year for Halloween, I am officially too old for the spooky spirit. Rather than going to some creepy pub crawl, or drinking my weight in pumpkin beer (okay, let’s maybe not rule it out entirely), I will be at home in my pajamas watching Alfred Hitchcock movies, recovering from last night’s World Series celebrations….and eating Rocky Road Popcorn Bars.
As I attempted to recreate this childhood treat, I wanted a way to make them special. Popcorn is just plain wonderful, especially when bound together with butter and salt and sticky sugar syrup. And it’s a flexible ingredient that will take on any flavor beautifully.
Rocky Road was the perfect solution. The marshmallows would bind the popcorn together, while the chocolate would add richness (and most importantly, chocolate), while the nuts would add salt and crunch. And is a great way to continue the baseball celebrations…it has been quite the rocky road for these Red Sox!
Sidenote: History of Rocky Road
Popularized by the ice cream flavor, Rocky Road was originated in Australia as a treat for miners, as a way to use up candy that spoiled on long ship voyages. Combining poor-quality chocolate, local nuts, and now marshmallow, the name Rocky Road was given as tribute to the long dangerous road that the Australian gold miners had to travel. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_road_(dessert))
TIP: The easiest way to make it is to pretend you’re making rice crispy treats. Melt the marshmallows, butter, and chocolate in a large sauce pan. Add the popped popcorn, and stir/mash until the kernels are well covers. You want to mash them a little so that the kernels get smallers. This makes it easier for the bars to hold a shape (fewer air pockets) and a lot easier to eat.
4 tablespoons butter
4 cups popped popcorn (about ¾ cup unpopped kernels)
6 cups mini marshmallows (one 10-oz bag)
½ cup + ¼ cup chocolate chips
½ +¼ cup chopped walnuts
1. Pop the popcorn: I did the old-fashioned way, sauteing the kernels in melted butter and stirring like crazy until the all popped. But you could also use the microwave kind. If using the microwave variety, go for a salted one, not a kettle corn. Otherwise it gets too sweet.
2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When it is fully melted, add the marshmallows, 1 cup at a time, stirring until fully melted. Adding the marshmallows gradually helps prevent burning.
3. Once all the marshmallows are melted, reduce heat to low. Stir in the popcorn. Don’t be gentle! As mentioned above, breaking the kernels up will actually help the bars form.
4. When the popcorn is well coated, remove the popcorn from heat and add ½ cup chocolate chips and ½ cup walnuts. The chips will melt, but do not despair! We will add more later.
5. Coat a brownie pan with nonstick spray.
6. Scoop the popcorn mix into the pan (remember: smaller pans mean thicker bars, so keep that in mind) and press with clean hands until the layer is even.
7. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts and chocolate chips over the top and press into the marshmallow. Do this quickly, while the marshmallow is still warm and gooey so that the chips and nuts stick to the bars.
8. Let the bars cool (I know, it’s hard) for about 10 minutes. Then cut into square and serve!
Happy Halloween everyone! And I hope this recipes brings back some delicious candy traditions to your family and taste buds!