Double Caramel Popcorn Brownies
- 9-10 cups popped Popcorn
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp water
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed
- 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate
- 12 oz real white chocolate (made with cocoa butter)
- 1-2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
- pinch salt
- Gold Sixlets, gold sprinkles or any you would like
To Make the Caramel Popcorn: Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
If using microwave popcorn, pop the popcorn according to the package instructions. Coat a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray, and dump the popcorn into the bowl, taking care to pick out and discard any unpopped kernels. In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and water. Stir while the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Once it comes to a boil, insert a candy thermometer. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until it reads 250°F on the candy thermometer, about 5-10 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will foam and bubble up. Quickly pour the hot caramel over the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the caramel into the popcorn, taking care to distribute it as evenly as you can.
Scrape the popcorn onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring and turning the popcorn with a spatula every 20 minutes so it's evenly coated. After an hour, remove the tray from the oven, spread the popcorn out into a single layer, trying to separate any big clumps, and let it cool completely. Once cool, break it into small pieces. The caramel popcorn can be made several days in advance and kept in an airtight container at room temperature until you're ready to assemble the brownies.
To Make the Brownies: Preheat the oven to 350° F, and place 9 3.5-inch paper baking cups on a baking sheet. If you don't have these cups, you can use large or even regular-sized muffin tins, and adjust the yield accordingly.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt and set aside for now. Combine the butter and both chocolates in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Add 1 cup of sugar, and the vanilla extract, and stir well.
Place the remaining cup of sugar, and the eggs, in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat everything together just until well-blended, about 30 seconds. Pour half of the egg/sugar mixture into the bowl of chocolate, and stir well.
Take the remaining egg/sugar mixture that's in the mixing bowl and place it back on the stand mixer and whip on medium speed with the whisk attachment until light, fluffy, and doubled in size, about 3-4 minutes. Gently fold the whipped eggs into the bowl of chocolate. Finally, add the flour to the bowl of chocolate and gently fold that in as well.
Divide the brownie mixture between the paper baking cups. If using 3.5-inch cups, the portion will be about 4.5 oz. Bake until puffed and dry on top, but still a little gooey in the middle—a toothpick inserted into the center will emerge with very moist crumbs attached. For 3.5-inch cups, bake time will be about 22-25 minutes. Cool the brownies completely.
Once cool, cut long foil strips about 4 inches tall, and wind a strip around the outside of each brownie, taping them closed. These foil collars will help you during assembly—they will prevent the popcorn mounds on top of each brownie from sliding off.
To Assemble: Melt the semi-sweet chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave. Separate out 2 cups of caramel popcorn, and stir the popcorn and chocolate together until the popcorn is entirely coated. Spread the chocolate popcorn on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate it until the chocolate is set.
Preheat the oven to 250° F. Place the chopped white chocolate in a glass baking dish, and pour 1 tbsp vegetable oil on top. Place the chocolate in the oven for 10 minutes, then stir it with a rubber spatula. Continue to bake the chocolate, stirring after every 10 minutes, until the chocolate is a beautiful dark gold color and smells caramelized. The total baking time should be about 50-60 minutes—the exact time will depend on the chocolate, your oven, and the dish you're using, so use your eyes and nose as a guide.
During the baking process, the chocolate will at times look grainy and unappetizing, but as you continue to bake and stir it, it should loosen up. Different brands of chocolate behave differently, and it is possible you may need to add a touch more oil to get a smooth consistency toward the end of the process.
Remove the chocolate from the heat and stir in a good pinch of salt. Place the remaining caramel corn in a large bowl, and pour the caramelized white chocolate over the corn, stirring well to coat every kernel.
Remove the chocolate popcorn from the refrigerator, and have your gold Sixlets or other decorations ready. Scoop a generous spoonful of white chocolate popcorn on top of a brownie, and dot the top and sides with a few gold Sixlets and pieces of chocolate popcorn. Add another generous scoop, so the popcorn mound is a few inches high, and top with more chocolate popcorn, Sixlets, and any other decorations. Repeat until all of the brownies have a popcorn topping. Refrigerate the brownies until the white chocolate is set, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil collars from the brownies, allow them to come to room temperature, and serve!