Monday, December 12, 2011

Salted Caramel Popcorn Pretzel Clusters

Can you seriously say the title of this blog post 3 times fast?  Because I have trouble saying it right the first time and I was the one who (sort of) made this name up.

These clusters actually started out as bars.  You know those really convenient square/rectangle things that give you a bite or two of pure goodness?  Well, that's what I was aiming for.  Clearly things fell a little short.  The good news is that the taste did not suffer at all. Since this dessert was still quite delicious and only lacked the ability to stick together, I whipped out some cupcake liners and separated the sweet into individual portions.

I took these to my friend's brunch party over the weekend and they were a hit.  I'm usually known for my cupcakes, but these treats did not disappoint the crowd.

Salted Caramel Popcorn Pretzel Clusters
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 12 cups plain popped popcorn (I used 2 microwave packages of Orville Redenbacher's with Light Butter because I couldn't find plain in my store.)
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped small salted pretzels
  • 1 cup toasted almonds, chopped
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows

1) Coat a 9 x 13" baking dish with cooking spray. 

2) In a large bowl, toss together the popcorn, almonds and pretzels.

3) In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil over medium high.

4) Boil, undisturbed, until mixture is amber in color, 8-12 minutes.

5) Remove the pan from heat and slowly pour in the cream.  (The mixture will sputter).

6) Immediately add marshmallows and stir until melted.

7) Pour the caramel mixture over popcorn and pretzels and quickly stir with a rubber spatula to coat.

8) Transfer the mixture to dish and use dampened hands to press the mixture into the pan.

9) Sprinkle with a heavy dose of kosher salt.  Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

10) Optional: If your pretzel clusters don't set, like mine didn't, then go ahead and break them up and place them into cupcake liners.  No one will be the wiser!

I think my caramel didn't set because I didn't let it cook long enough.  I'm no expert on these things.  I'm just taking a gander at this.  Also, my caramel didn't sputter like the recipe said it would when I added the heavy cream, so let's call it an "educated guess".

One of Shutterbean's notes says that you shouldn't be afraid of adding a heavy does of salt at the end to really counterbalance the sweetness of the caramel and marshmallow.  I concur.  A heavy hand is actually your friend in a situation like this.  These clusters were sweet and salty little bites of goodness that I never wanted to end.  Treat yourself and your friends to this because goshdarnit, it's the holidays and you deserve it.

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