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?
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.
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?)
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).
This is just what Cupid and your special Honey ordered for Valentine’s Day.
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)
3 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped or grated
- Coat two edged baking sheets with vegetable oil spray. Reserve.
- Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Heat oven to 300°F.
- To prepare the popcorn mixture, pop the popcorn according to your usual method (stovetop, microwave, or popcorn machine).
- Remove to a very large mixing bowl. Add peanuts, LunaCafe Aztec Spice, and salt. Toss to combine and distribute the spices. Reserve.
- 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.
- Quickly stir in vanilla and then baking soda. The mixture will foam up dramatically.
- 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.)
- Divide Cupid Crunch evenly between the prepared cookie sheets.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring at the 15-minute mark with long cooking chopsticks. Stir in the coconut and reverse the pans.
- 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.
- 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.
- When cool, break up the pieces as desired.
- 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
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the cinnamon and chipotle powder.
- Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry location.
Makes 1 tablespoon.
More LunaCafe Chocolate Recipes
Check out these additional CHOCOLATE recipes, from the first, second, third, and fourth Love Rules! All Chocolate! All Month! celebrations at LunaCafe.
- Warm-Spiced Molten Chocolate Cake
- Chocolate Ginger Chipotle Stout Cake
- Spicy Chocolate, Banana & Fresh Ginger Tea Loaf
- Mexicano Chocolate Ebelskivers (Aebleskivers)
- Spirited Mocha Crepes with Peanut Butter Caramel, Peanut-Cocoa Nib Brittle & White Chocolate Crema
- Heavenly Chocolate Crepes
- Chocolate Shortcake with White Chocolate Crema, Strawberry Lime Sauce & Strawberry Lime Salsa
- Rosalyn’s Toasted Coconut White Chocolate Dream Pie
- Chocolate Almond Pound Cake
- Bittersweet Chocolate Orange French Toast for Lovers
- Fried Banana Split with Mexican Chocolate Sauce & Strawberry Lime Salsa
- LunaCafe Otherworldly Silky Fudgy Brownies
- Quintessential Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce
- The Wonderful World of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- White Chocolate, Cardamom & Coconut Beignet
- Bittersweet Chocolate & Cabernet Butter Cake
- Bittersweet Chocolate & Montmorency Cherry Morning Love Muffins
- Bittersweet Chocolate & Toasted Walnut Cookies Perfecta Mundo!
- Burnt Sugar & Rosemary Chocolate Tarts
- LunaCafe’s Ultimate Chocolate Pudding
- Luscious White Chocolate & Raspberry Rose Petal Cheesecake
- Mexican Hearts of Fire Cookies
Additional Inspiration from Around the Web
- Bittersweet Baker: Caramel Cayenne Popcorn
- Bookcooker: Scotch-Caramel Cracker Jacks
- Loaves n Dishes: Chocolate Covered Caramel Popcorn
- Savory Sweet Life: (My Favorite Fair Food) Kettle Corn
- Savory Sweet Life: Oh Cracker Jacks! Recipe for Caramel Popcorn
- Tales + Tips: Pink Chocolate Covered Popcorn
- The Kitchn: Homemade Cracker Jack
- Yum Sugar: Homemade Cracker Jacks