Caramel & Chocolate-Coated Popcorn (2013)
It turns out there are two shapes that popcorn can become when it pops: "butterfly" or "mushroom". The butterfly shape is more tender, as the kernel has splayed open. It's also more fragile. The mushroom shape, on the other hand, is denser, almost spherical, and can hold up to being rolled around in a coating. Popcorn varieties typically found in the grocery store will primarily pop into the butterfly style. Thankfully, mushroom varieties can be easily purchased online. Back then, I bought this one called Tru-POP which worked really well. Unfortunately it no longer seems to be available.
In practice, it seems that the variety of corn doesn't guarantee it will pop into one shape or the other. Subjectively, popping the corn in an air popper yielded the best results. The kernels were huge (like, the size of a bouncy-ball), much bigger than oil-popping in a pot on the stove.
The caramel recipe was fairly simple. The ingredients (mainly butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup) were cooked to make a runny syrup. The popcorn was coated and baked in a 300°F oven for about 15 minutes. This dehydrated the mixture and made sure it stayed crispy.
For the chocolate variety, a simple drizzle of tempered chocolate onto the popped corn was sufficient. More on chocolate tempering will come in a future post!