Cupid Crunch (Cracker Jacks for Lovers)

Cupid Crunch (Cracker Jacks for Lovers)

I’m in a Cracker Jack craze, and there is no end in sight. After developing Chinese Cracker Jacks in December and eating it daily for weeks, I can’t stop thinking about all the possible flavor permutations. This is such a versatile concept: popcorn, nuts, seasonings, caramel brittle. Hey, wait a minute, what about chocolate?

Freshly Popped Popcorn

Well, that’s the thought that kicked off this post and what better time than February, which is Love Rules! All Chocolate All Month on LunaCafe.

Adding Baking Soda to Caramel Syrup

In fact, this could be the perfect Valentine’s Day present. Make it a day or two ahead. (How great is that?) Tie a few cups up in a cellophane bag with red ribbon. (How pretty is that?) Be prepared for begging. (How fun is that?)

 Cupid Crunch (Chocolate Chipotle Spice Cracker Jacks)

So to fit the love theme, I threw in something hot and spicy (chipotle chile and cinnamon), something smooth and creamy (white chocolate), something sweet and floral (wildflower honey), and something everybody loves (peanuts and coconut).

Adding Grated White Chocolate to Chocolate Chipotle Spice Cracker Jacks

This is just what Cupid and your special Honey ordered for Valentine’s Day.

Cupid Crunch (Cracker Jacks for Lovers)

Chocolate Chipotle Spice Cracker Jacks

These Cracker Jacks are from another planet than the grocery store icon of my youth. For one thing, they are super fresh and appealing–as only homemade can be. And as I never feel there are enough peanuts in the boxed version, there are three full cups of roasted peanuts here. The Aztec Spice (chipotle and cinnamon), honey brittle, and  lush white chocolate give this old-fashioned treat a heavenly new life.

Popcorn & Peanuts
½ cup popcorn kernels (8-10 cups popped corn) (2.9 ounce bag [regular size] microwave popcorn measures 10 loose cups popped corn, although bag states 7½ cups)
vegetable oil to pop the corn, if needed
3 cups (1 pound) whole roasted peanuts, unsalted or lightly salted (Trader Joe’s peanuts are awesome)

1 tablespoon LunaCafe’s Aztec Spice (recipe below)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Honey Caramel Syrup
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup golden brown sugar
½ cup + 2 tablespoons wildflower honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking soda

2 cups unsweetened large flake coconut or sweetened coconut chips (Trader Joe’s)

White Chocolate
3 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped or grated

  1. Coat two edged baking sheets with vegetable oil spray. Reserve.
  2. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Heat oven to 300°F.
  3. To prepare the popcorn mixture, pop the popcorn according to your usual method (stovetop, microwave, or popcorn machine).
  4. Remove to a very large mixing bowl. Add peanuts, LunaCafe Aztec Spice, and salt. Toss to combine and distribute the spices. Reserve.
  5. To make the caramel syrup, in a large saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and honey. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer and simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat when the syrup tests 230°F on a candy thermometer. If the mixture goes above this temperature, you must decrease the baking time accordingly.
  6. Quickly stir in vanilla and then baking soda. The mixture will foam up dramatically.
  7. As the foam subsides, quickly pour the caramel syrup over the prepared popcorn mixture. Use long cooking chopsticks to distribute the syrup. (The minimal surface area of the chopsticks prevents the caramel from getting a good hold.)
  8. Divide Cupid Crunch evenly between the prepared cookie sheets.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring at the 15-minute mark with long cooking chopsticks. Stir in the coconut and reverse the pans.
  10. Remove from the oven when Cupid Crunch is a rich caramel color (but not too dark). If in doubt, taste the Cupid Crunch every five minutes after the first 15 minutes. If the caramel begins to acquire even a slightly burnt edge, quickly remove the Cupid Crunch from the oven.
  11. Sprinkle the white chocolate over the Cupid Crunch in the pans and let it melt and then set in place. Cool Cupid Crunch in the pans. When cool, break up the pieces as desired.
  12. When cool, break up the pieces as desired.
  13. Store in an airtight container in cool, dry location.

Makes about 12 cups.

LunaCafe Aztec Spice

Chipotle and cinnamon are a match made in heaven. I like to use a cinnamon that holds its own with the chipotle, such as Penzey’s China Tung Hing cinnamon or Vietnamese cinnamon, but of course whatever you have on hand is fine.

2 teaspoons powdered cinnamon
½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder

  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cinnamon and chipotle powder.
  2. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry location.

Makes 1 tablespoon.

There’s More

Check out these additional CHOCOLATE recipes, from the first, second, third, and fourth Love Rules! All Chocolate! All Month! celebrations at LunaCafe. 

2012 Celebration

2011 Celebration 

2010 Celebration

2009 Celebration

Additional Inspiration

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