Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cocoa Almond Caramel Corn

This sweet holiday Planter's shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions and experiences are mine alone. #GoNutsForNuts #CollectiveBias

This is a great month to break out some new snack recipes, don't you think?

December is a busy month and with Christmas tree hunting and our Polar Express trip coming up, I have been trying to make some crunchy, sweet, and salty treats to keep the cries of,  "I'm hungry!" from the back seat, to a minimum.

I love to snack on my favorite nuts when I am hungry because they help me feel full longer. So when I saw all the Planter's holiday products out on display at my local Walmart, I knew I wanted to pick some up to incorporate into our snacks.

Keep an eye out for your store's sleigh display, or you might find the Planter's holiday assortments on an end-cap like this. I grabbed both the Winter Spiced Mix (sweet and salty) as well as the Cocoa Almonds (not overly sweet).

Now, I am tempted to throw the Winter Spiced Mix into a simple trail mix with dried fruit and cereal, but it is also great to snack just as is. 

The Planter's Cocoa Almonds though, I had big plans for that box.

I kept thinking how perfect these Cocoa Almonds would be in a caramel corn mix. I still have fond memories of my Mom with baking trays covering our washer and dryer filled with cooling caramel corn. The house would smell amazing! And she made enough that we had homemade caramel corn till Christams. I was really inspired to fill my home with the smells of my childhood.

 I started out by grabbing the air popper and making a big bowl of popcorn.

This recipe only calls for a 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels but I popped twice as much to stave off the hungry kiddos. It is hard to keep popcorn popping a secret, and the sound brings the whole family to the kitchen with bowls in hand.

Luckily I was able to save one big bowl of popcorn. That is plenty to use for this recipe.

Then I tossed a whole package of Planter's Cocoa Almonds on top. They really are the star here and it was hard not to eat too many as I was working on this.  And if you are thinking that my bowl is overflowing, well, yes it was. I ended up needing a second big mixing bowl. Give yourself enough space to mix properly.

This was my first time trying the Cocoa Almonds and I love them. A hint of cocoa, but not overly sweet. They were perfect for this mix.

Then it is time to get started on the caramel. Put the butter, brown sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Stir till the sugar is dissolved and then let it come to temperature undisturbed.

It will be a hot, bubbly mess. No worries.

Turn off the heat and stir in the baking soda and salt. Then pour over your bowl of popcorn and almonds. Transfer the hot contents to parchment lined baking sheets and spread (as best you can) out to a single layer.

Bake for about 50 minutes then let the mixture cool. Break large chunks apart and drizzle with dark chocolate. I find a simple zip-topped bag with one corner snipped works well for this. Just clip a very tiny hole for a thin stream of chocolate to drizzle. 

I heated my dark chocolate discs in the microwave on half power and stirred well. This recipe doesn't need much chocolate.  Just a little bit goes a long way.

The chocolate will set up quickly, but if your kitchen is warm you can pop the baking sheet in the freezer for a few minutes before packaging up your caramel corn. Cellophane treat bags would be nice if you choose to gift your caramel corn.

I put mine in a pretty glass cup and served it up right away. The truth is, I will probably need to make another batch before we leave on our trips. This batch, both cookies sheets, is almost gone already. It was a huge hit with my husband.

Cocoa Almond Caramel Corn

You Will Need:

  • 1/2 c. popcorn kernels
  • 1- 14oz. box of Planter's Cocoa Almonds
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/3 c. light corn syrup
  • 1 1/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • dark chocolate for drizzling
Pop the popcorn and add the Cocoa Almonds on top. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a medium saucepan combine the butter, corn syrup and brown sugar over medium heat. Stir till the sugar is dissolved then raise the heat to medium high and let come to a boil. Do not stir and remove from the heat when a candy thermometer reads 248 degrees.

Working quickly, stir in the salt and baking soda into the caramel sauce. Then immediately pour over the popcorn and almond mixture. With a rubber spatula, toss gently to coat and then spread out on the baking sheets in a single layer.

Bake for 50 minutes, stirring halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven and cool. 

Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at half power for 30 seconds at a time. Stir well then reheat as necessary. Pour into a zip-topped bag and snip a very small hole in the end. Drizzle over the popcorn mixture.

Refrigerate the trays or wait till the chocolate sets up before breaking the caramel corn into smaller pieces. Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Now, the fun doesn't stop with this recipe. Oh, no. If you want to #GoNutsForNuts with us, check out the Blippar app, it's FREE for smartphones and can "unlock" some added fun this season... It is a great way to interact with brands through augmented reality features. Yeah, you might have heard me talk about how much I enjoy it when brands use AR in-store or on the package. 

You can use the Blippar app with your Planter's seasonal nut products to take a selfie with Mr. Peanut, browse recipes and check out holiday gift tips from Planter's.

If you like to post holiday pics of your family around the holidays to Facebook or Instagram, like I do, you will enjoy grabbing this Mr. Peanut frame through the app.

Looking for more holiday recipe inspiration? Check out the Cooking Up Good website. There you will find recipes, sweepstakes, loyalty programs, coupons and more! This site will have you Cooking Up Good any day of the week with your favorite Kraft products. Be sure to check it out.

So which Planter's assortments will you be stocking up on this season? Keep an eye out for the Holiday Nut Crunch, Cocoa Almonds, Brittle Nut Medley, Winter Spiced Mix and Holiday Collection Tins at your local Walmart.

What is your family's favorite holiday snack?

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