There’s a famous store in my local mall that sells “Zebra” popcorn, which, translated into English, is caramel coated popcorn with dark and white chocolate drizzled on top. It is quite delicious.
Well, our church youth group is having an activity tonight, and one of the young women I work with suggested having zebra popcorn as a treat. It’s a large group, so I decided to try my hand at making a knock off version. All the recipes I found called for baking the caramel corn in the oven before drizzling it with chocolate.
There’s only one problem with that. I don’t have an oven right now. It broke a week and a half ago, and I’m suffering without it. The repairman ordered the necessary part to repair it, but it’s not getting installed until tomorrow. And the activity is tonight!
Since I promised to make this yummy caramel corn for tonight, I had to find a substitute. I took my mom’s popcorn ball recipe and used that instead of a traditional caramel corn. It turned out really well! It also came together really fast and didn’t heat up my kitchen. That’s a definite plus!
If you want a crisp, crunchy caramel corn, this recipe isn’t for you. The resulting caramel corn from this recipe is softer and a tad chewy, but not overly or unpleasantly so.
Want to know how I made it? Watch and see.
First, I made the popcorn by popping it on the stove in a big pot with a little oil. I didn’t take pictures. Sorry. You can use whatever kind of popcorn you’d like to use, but I think it is best if it is plain, unbuttered popcorn.
Next, I made the “caramel” in another large pot (you can use a Dutch oven) by combining sugars butter, corn syrup (I made two recipes with light corn syrup and one with dark corn syrup), and salt (see actual recipe at the bottom of this post). When it was heated and combined, I added the popcorn and stirred it for a couple of minutes until the popcorn was coated with the caramel mixture. Next, I spread it on a parchment coated cookie sheet and let it cool. (This is the batch using dark corn syrup.)
Once it was cool, I broke it up into smaller pieces. It was pretty soft.
Finally, I melted some dark and white melting chocolate in the microwave and drizzled it on the popcorn.
And, voila! That was is! It took me less than an hour from start to finish to make three double sided batches of this corn. Now it’s bagged up and ready to serve tonight. I hope they like it as much as I do!
Before I close, here’s the promised recipe for the caramel corn.
Popcorn Balls (or No Oven Needed Caramel Corn)
Recipe from my mom
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup corn syrup (light or dark)
1/2 teaspoon salt
A few drops of food color (optional, I didn’t add any)
8-10 cups popped popcorn
Heat all ingredients except popcorn to simmering in a Dutch oven or a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in popcorn taking care to remove any unopposed or partially popped kernels. Cook, stirring constantly until popcorn is well coated, about 3 minutes. Cool slightly.
If making caramel corn, spread popcorn on a parchment covered cookie sheet and let cool. Is making zebra corn, break into pieces once the corn is cool. Then drizzle with chocolate of your choice. I used dark and white melting chocolate. Store in a sealed container or bag.
If making popcorn balls, while popcorn is still warm enough to shape, but is cool enough to handle without getting burned, dip hands in cool water and shape mixture into 8 popcorn balls about 2 1/2 inch in diameter. Place on waxed or parchment paper. Cool completely. Wrap individually or place in plastic bags and tie or seal.
This is particularly fun for Halloween and a throwback to the days of homemade treats given out alongside store bought candy.
Hope you enjoy this fun recipe!
Yesterday, I promised to share this recipe with you, but I’ll be honest here. I wasn’t sure I SHOULD share this recipe. It is a very special recipe. It is the secret to my cinnamon roll success. These amazing cinnamon rolls make me very popular. I plan to barter these in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse. Cinnamon rolls for protection. I may not have an insane food supply, but you’d better believe that I have enough food stored to make millions of these babies! Yes. They’re that good. Even my husband, a cinnamon roll connoisseur, said last night, “These are really good. As good as Cinnabon, just not as chewy. And I like a chewy cinnamon roll.” Not me. I like enough chew that they feel substantial, but not so much that they feel tough. I want them to melt in my mouth. YUM!
How did I find this unbelievably awesome recipe? It goes way back, 30 years back to be precise. As a young 12-year old gal, I had an amazing youth leader, Heidi Gifford. She was (and is) beautiful, smart, crazy-fun, and just all around fantastic. She made the best cinnamon rolls. They were so good that she sold them. This was before the days of Cinnabon, so buying cinnamon rolls wasn’t a typical thing, well at least not fresh homemade cinnamon rolls rather than the ones from a Pillsbury can. She graciously shared this recipe with us and taught us exactly how to make them.
Fast forward several years, I was a young married gal and wanted to make cinnamon rolls. I pulled out the Betty Crocker cookbook and some. They were okay, but nothing to write home about. Over a couple of decades (that was scary to write!), I’d make them occasionally, but I longed for an awesome recipe. About a year or so ago, I asked my Facebook friends to share their favorite “to die for” cinnamon roll recipes. They were kind enough to do so, but the most promising one called for potato. Being the lazy gal I am, I just didn’t want to make potatoes to have cinnamon rolls.
Then, I remembered the family cookbook my sister gave as a gift a couple Christmases before. I wondered if the amazing “Heidi Gifford” cinnamon rolls were in there. They were! I was sure they weren’t as amazing as I remembered, but I didn’t have to make potatoes to have them, so I made a batch.
BOY OH BOY! They were AH-MAZ-ING! I hesitated to mess with the recipe, because it was so good, but, over time, I made a couple of small tweaks, just tiny adjustments for personal taste. I will share this with you, but I need you to take the cinnamon roll oath first.REALLY!
Put your hand in the air and repeat after me, “I promise that I will not use these cinnamon rolls to unduly influence people or to force them to serve or follow me. I will only use these cinnamon rolls to benefit society and humankind. I further promise to give all credit to Laurie for any and all kudos received.” (Okay, maybe Heidi deserves the credit. I guess you can substitute her name instead.)
Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for: the recipe. But I’m warning you. You will want to write this down or print it out in case of a real zombie apocalypse or blackout or Internet outage. If there is no electricity or Internet, you will seriously cry that you don’t have these cinnamon rolls to comfort you (or to distract the zombies with).
To Die For Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from a recipe by Heidi Gifford, youth leader extraordinaire.
2 cups scalded milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Crisco shortening, butter flavored
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons yeast
6 cups of flour (best with 3 cups bread flour, 3 cups all-purpose)
1 stick of salted butter, melted
Cinnamon, good quality
2/3 cup sugar
5-6 handfuls of brown sugar
1 stick of salted butter, softened
1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
Proof yeast by adding a little of the sugar to the lukewarm water, then add the yeast and stir. Pour the remaining sugar into a mixing bowl along with the milk, shortening, and salt. Mix to combine, but don’t worry if it’s not mixed well. Add the eggs, 4 cups of flour, and the proofed yeast mixture to the bowl and mix well. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour. Mix until well combined. Then cover with a dish towel or plastic wrap, and let rise until double (about an hour).
Dump dough onto a well floured surface (dough will be gooey), and divide in half. Roll one half into a rectangle. Brush off excess flour. Spread 1/2 of melted butter (or softened if you prefer) to cover the entire surface, all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with lots of cinnamon. (I use Saigon cinnamon.) Spread 2-3 handfuls of brown sugar and 1/3 cup sugar evenly across the dough. Roll up loosely and cut into 1-inch rounds. Place on a greased pan so they will touch once they rise and cook. (I prefer a pan with higher sides, but you can use a cookie sheet.) Repeat with the other half of the dough. Let rise until puffy (about 10-20 minutes). Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-17 minutes or until golden brown.
While baking, make the frosting. Mix together softened butter and cream cheese until combined. Add powdered sugar and mix. The frosting will be thick. Add vanilla and about 1 tablespoon of milk and mix well. The frosting should be a little on the runny side. Add more milk, if necessary.
Remove the cinnamon rolls from the oven when golden brown, and frost while still hot. Serve and enjoy! Makes 24-36 rolls. (24 if you roll the dough in one big batch, 36 if you roll it out in two batches.)
Easy, right? Here’s a photo step-by-step to help you out.
I started with the dough. All ingredients are pictured except for the eggs. Oops!
I used to buy sticks of shortening, because I hated measuring it, but I bought a super-cool Pampered Chef measuring cup which has a nifty way to measure shortening, peanut butter, etc.
Then you just push up the center section and the shortening comes out perfectly measured with no mess!
I proofed the yeast by adding the yeast and a little bit of the sugar to the lukewarm water. After a few minutes, it was all bubbly and ready to go.
I added the shortening, salt, scalded milk, and remaining sugar to the mixing bowl and mixed them together very quickly. To “scald” the milk, I simply heated it in the microwave for about 2 minutes.
Next, I added 4 cups of flour, eggs, and the yeast mixture and mixed them for a minute or so.
After a couple of minutes, it looked like this. Next, I added the last 2 cups of flour and mixed well, probably for 2-3 minutes.
Here’s the finished dough. It’s still wet, but it’s just right.
I removed the dough hook and covered the bowl with plastic wrap. Then, my son and I went grocery shopping for about an hour.
When we arrived home, the dough looked like this. See the bubbles under the plastic? That’s a very good thing! The dough has more than doubled and is ready to be formed into cinnamon rolls.
Remember, the dough will be quite wet, so put it on a well floured surface. I dumped mine on to my counter top.
Next, I put a little more flour on top and cut the dough into two equal pieces. This is the first time I split the dough into two batches, and it was much easier to work with. I highly recommend you roll out the dough 1/2 at a time, but you can roll the dough in one large batch.
I rolled the dough into a rectangle shape. It’s not a perfect rectangle, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Once you roll this up and bake it, it won’t make a lick of difference.
I poured on my melted butter (1/2 of the stick).
Then, I spread the butter around with a silicone brush making sure to go all the way to the edge of the dough.
Next up… CINNAMON! Use a good quality cinnamon. It makes all the difference in the cinnamon roll as it’s the star. I use Costco’s Saigon Cinnamon. I’ve tried a few others, and they’re good, but this is the best one, IMHO. Use a generous amount, but don’t go overboard. Cinnamon is SPICY! I added too much once, and my mouth was burning. My family didn’t mind it, but I did!
Sprinkle on the sugars next. To get the best flavor, you must use both brown sugar and white sugar. If you don’t have brown sugar, you can make some with molasses and white sugar. Click here for a tutorial.
Now we’ve reached the fun part: rolling the dough! I turn over the edge and brush the excess flour off of the dough. Then I roll up the dough like you roll up a rug.
See? I rolled a little on one side, then the middle, then the other side, and it turned out like this. I stopped at this point, because I prefer to have the end of the dough on top when I cut, but that’s a personal preference thing. You can have the edge up or down. It doesn’t matter.
Next, we cut! Some people use a knife, but Heidi taught me an awesome, easy trick.
Use thread or dental floss. It cuts perfectly, much better than cutting with a knife, because it doesn’t crush the rolls. Simply slip the thread under the roll, cross the strings on top…
And pull the ends of the string. It will cut through the dough easily.
Voila! You have a perfectly cut cinnamon roll!
Simply place them into a greased pan. When I place the end pieces in the pan, I put them in with the cut side up. With regards to the pan, I prefer one with sides like a casserole dish, but you can use a cookie sheet, too. Let the rolls rise until puffy. I let mine go for about 20 minutes, but the time is flexible. Then, I put them in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes. I rotated the pan after 10 minutes and cooked them until they were golden brown. My total cooking time was about 17 minutes.
While the rolls were rising in the pan, I made the frosting. I put the butter and cream cheese into a bowl and let them soften. I waited a tad bit too long to set them out, so I finished them up in the microwave for about 20 seconds.
When they were soft, I mixed them with my hand mixer until well blended.
Next, I added the powdered sugar and mixed for a minute or so.
See how it’s a bit thick? That’s a bit too stiff for cinnamon rolls icing, so I added the vanilla and a little milk. I mixed the ingredients until they had a smooth and creamy consistency.
The cinnamon rolls came out of the oven all piping hot and beautiful!
And more cinnamon rolls!
I slathered on the gooey icing and took a picture of these beauties!
They were melt-in-your-mouth, make-you-never-want-to-eat-real-food delicious!
And they were just as delectable this morning. I like my cinnamon rolls warm, so I put mine in the microwave oven for 15 seconds. Loved every, single bite!
NOW do you believe me that these will change your life?
This is one of my most favorite sweet treats. What’s yours?