I’m just going to dive right in here and let you all know two things. One, this popcorn is insanely delicious. Two, I had to remake it because I was snacking on the finished product before I took a photo and I didn’t have enough left to photograph and show you. Oops.
The third thing I will tell you is, I’m not sad that I had to remake it. It just means more for everyone in my house to chow down on while enjoying this Popcorn Thursday. It also means it was tasty enough to distract me from my regular cooking/photographing flow, which says quite a bit since I’m usually really good at getting things styled and photographed first. But maple bacon and toffee smell reeeallly good when they are cooking, and I think the intoxicating combination could take down even the strongest of us.
I’ve also got a bit of a weakness for Butter Toffee popcorn; Crunch N’ Munch to be exact.
My first year of college, I worked at a healthcare billing office. I was a ‘Team Support Specialist’, which was code for, “Hey find me that file and make eleventybillion copies of everything I hand you, mmmkay?”. I didn’t love it because they tended to talk to my coworker and I like kindergarteners and toss random piles of papers at us that no one else wanted to deal with, but I kinda loved it because I got to work with my fabulous and funny coworker, Becky. We shared fashion tips, swapped boyfriend stories, laughed at random nothingness, and most importantly, a sweet tooth. She and I had a drawer at the bottom of a file cabinet in our little back room where we’d stash all of our goodies. Usually SweetTarts, Runts, Girl Scout Cookies, and a big box of Crunch N’ Munch. I’ll admit, my lunch consisted of two handfuls of Crunch N’ Munch, a little bottle of CranGrape juice, and a SweetTart chaser more often than not. Somehow, we both hovered around 120 lbs. soaking wet with that stellar diet, but most importantly we never ran out of Crunch N’ Munch. Either I bought a box or she did, by unspoken agreement, and we never seemed to tire of it.
I lost touch with Becky after I left that job. I wish I hadn’t, but this was before social media or cell phones for everybody (side note: I did rock my cranberry hued pager like a boss!) so losing touch was not as unfathomable as it is now. What remains, however, is the memory of our laughter and our stash of junk food in the bottom file cabinet drawer, and I smile every time I see that familiar yellow box.
This version is an enhanced variety of that beloved treat, switched up a little because it’s Popcorn Thursday, and even though I love Crunch N’ Munch, we have to step things up sometimes. If you were craving a version with maple bacon, toffee, or cashews, I’ve got it covered, and I hope the combination of all three makes you forget what you’re doing, and eat this by the handful, complete with nostalgic smile on your face.
8 cups Popcorn, picked through for unpopped kernels
4 slices Bacon
1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup (use the real stuff)
Cracked Black Pepper
1 stick Butter
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Light Corn Syrup
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 teaspoon Butter Flavoring
1/2 cup Cashews
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the bacon on the sheet and top with maple syrup and season generously with cracked black pepper. Bake in oven until crisp and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove to plate and let cool. Cut or crumble into smaller pieces and set aside.
Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees. Place popcorn in a glass 9 x 13 baking dish and place in the oven to keep warm.
Making the toffee: In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, sugar, light corn syrup, and salt until bubbling. Stir with a silicone spatula and cook until the mixture reaches 300 degrees. It should be a golden brown. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter flavorings.
Remove popcorn from oven and pour the toffee mixture over the top, stirring gently. The toffee will not cover all of the popcorn yet, and that’s okay. Place baking dish back in the oven for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and stir again. Repeat this process several times until the popcorn is mostly coated, about 2-3 times.
Spread the popcorn onto a parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkling on the crumbled bacon and cashews while it’s still warm.
Let cool, then pull apart into smaller clusters. Enjoy right away, or place into an airtight container for storage and later snacking. Around midnight sounds perfect.