Gooey Dessert Popcorn with Sea Salt

Two weekends ago I took a little weekend vacation by myself to Galena, Illinois. I might write more about that trip sometime, but the important thing to know right now is that on that trip I was introduced (belatedly, I’m sure) to the amazingness of flavored popcorn. I’ve never been a huge popcorn eater. Actually, I take that back. A few years ago we got an air popper and ate popcorn smothered in butter and various seasonings WAY too often and I’ve never really felt a need for popcorn since that season.

Anyway, back to my story. In Galena there’s a popcorn store called The Great American Popcorn Company. I went in and was really surprised by just how many popcorn flavors they had. I still didn’t pay much attention because the majority of it was some variety of caramel corn, which I’ve never liked. At all. Some of the spicy flavors looked interesting, but they didn’t have any descriptions and I didn’t want to buy an $8 bag of popcorn, not knowing just how spicy it was going to be. Anyway, I walked out without buying anything and then kept thinking about it. Mostly because it seemed like a good treat to bring back to the boys. So I went back and bought a bag of jalapeno cheddar (safe bet) for myself and hot cinnamon for Greg and the boys because they love cinnamon things.

On my way home from Galena – a day early because of an incoming snowstorm – I took a detour and stopped at another popcorn place in Monfort, Wisconsin called Rural Route 1 Popcorn. I didn’t go there for the popcorn; I went for their retail store that has a lot of awesome gift and kitchen things. On my walk through the store I took a sample of something amazing – the S.S. Dunkle popcorn. It was caramel corn, covered in dark chocolate, sprinkled with sea salt. It was incredible. I can no longer say I don’t eat caramel corn because that was delicious. I bought a small bag and ate it in the car on the way home. It was my lunch.

For the past week and a half, whenever I’m hungry, I have been able to think of little else except flavored popcorn. I was really wishing I tried that jalapeno cheddar popcorn while I was still in Galena because it was awesome. I’m also wishing I had paid more attention to the other flavors because now I’d really REALLY like to try their peanut butter cup flavor. I’ve also been dreaming of the S.S. Dunkle. I’ve found myself on their website multiple times in the last week contemplating ordering some more for myself. Unlike all my other favorite gourmet dessert treats, shipping for Rural Route 1 Popcorn is very cheap!

On Saturday my mom said that she and my dad might be driving by the store on Monday and would pick me some up. So of course I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And then they didn’t end up going. What a tease! After I knew I wasn’t going to have any in my immediate future I decided this afternoon it was time to do something about it. I mean, come on – how hard could it be to make my own? And so I did.

The only thing I changed about this flavor is adding peanut butter. To make it better, of course. To make real caramel corn you should probably use an air popper or the stove top method to get un-buttered and unsalted popcorn. I, however, have a gigantic box of Boy Scout popcorn in my pantry, which we never eat, so I decided to put it to good use. I popped four bags, making sure to remove all the kernels. While those were popping I melted brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter on the stove. I let it boil for three minutes and then mixed in peanut butter and vanilla. Then I baked it at 250 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring every 15. At that point I added about one bag of chocolate chips, stirring it as it melted. I popped it back in the oven, stirring every few minutes, until all the popcorn was well covered. Then I took it out, sprinkled with sea salt, stirred, sprinkled with more sea salt, stirred again. I am obsessed with sea salt on chocolate. That is definitely not an exaggeration.

Overall I think it turned out quite well! The only thing I might have done differently is used milk chocolate instead of semi-sweet. I’m not really a semi-sweet kind of girl. But it’s still delicious! And I didn’t have to wait more than an hour for it to reach my tummy!

Gooey Dessert Popcorn with Sea Salt

4 bags of popped popcorn, kernels removed
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
3 tbs butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp sea salt
1 bag chocolate chips

Pop four bags of popcorn. Remove kernels and place popcorn in a large oven safe container.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook for three minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla. Pour over popcorn and gently stir together, coating all the popcorn.

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Bake popcorn mixture for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Add chocolate chips and stir while they melt. Put container back in the oven, stirring every few minutes, until chocolate is completely melted. Take out of the oven and sprinkle and stir in sea salt. Enjoy!

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