BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Popping Up Everywhere

25 Comments

The connection between Christmas and popcorn is tenuous at best, and yet is deeply rooted in the traditions of so many families. Whether it appears in ball format or strings adorning the annual evergreen tree, there is no escaping, nor explaining, those exploded edible kernels around the holiday season. Even as an outsider, I can’t help but associate this otherwise innocuous snack food with the frenzy of festive treats, weaving them into various gifts more often than not. Not even the all-knowing Google can provide a satisfying explanation to the centuries-old affiliation, and yet it remains, as relevant and convincing as ever.

And so come December, the popcorn comes out in force once again. This year, I opted to skip all the fussy individual balls, pressing the whole sticky mixture into one square baking dish instead. Easily yielding neat rectangular bars, they now fit seamlessly onto a cookie platter, amongst other sweet options or featured by themselves. Taking one more short cut by employing popcorn cereal rather than freshly popped maize may seem like a poor choice, but the corny essence still shines through loud and clear. Without the sharp hulls, they pose fewer potential hazards for sticking in between teeth, and there’s no risk of including unpopped kernels. An emergency trip to the dentist is not my idea of a Merry Christmas.

Perfectly festive red and green mix-ins add the excitement here, but if cranberries and pistachios are not your favorites, don’t be afraid to stray into more diverse ingredient pools. Dried cherries, strawberries, or raspberries would be alternatives that still keep the color theme, and of course the options are endless for other hues.

Christmas Popcorn Bars

6 Cups Puffed Corn Cereal
1 Cup Dried Cranberries
3/4 Cup Shelled, Unsalted Pistachios, Toasted
1/2 Cup Vegan White Chocolate Chips, Divided
1 Tablespoon Non-Dairy Margarine or Coconut Oil, Melted
1 Cup Light Corn Syrup or Light Agave Nectar
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Pour the cereal, cranberries, pistachios, and half of the white chocolate chips into a very large bowl and set it aside, but keep it near the stove for easy access.

Lightly grease an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan. Set a saucepan over medium heat and add in the margarine or coconut oil, along with the corn syrup or agave, sugar, and salt stirring just to moisten all of the dry sweetener. From this point on, resist the temptation to stir the mixture, but swirl the pan gently instead to mix. This will prevent large sugar crystals from forming.

Allow the syrup to cook until it bubbles up vigorously and becomes frothy. Reduce the heat slightly so that it’s at a steady but low boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn off the stove
and stir in the vanilla. Pour the hot sugar mixture over your waiting cereal and mix-ins, carefully but quickly fold it in using a wide spatula. Transfer the sticky cereal into your prepared pan, and press gently using the spatula so that it evenly fills the space. Sprinkle the remaining white chocolate chips over the top, pressing them in gently so they adhere.

Let cool completely before turning the whole sweet block out and slicing into bars.

Makes 12 – 16 Bars

Printable Recipe

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Author: Hannah Kaminsky

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

25 thoughts on “Popping Up Everywhere

  1. I haven’t had popcorn in a week (record for this year). Now I HAVE to have some today. You always kick my cravings into high gear!

  2. I love those big chunky puffs of cereal. And the dried fruit & nobake bars – all faves of mine!

  3. I think the cranberries and pistachios are perfect for this treat, two of my favorites! No bake bars are great for this time of year too when there is so much other baking and cooking to do. Another thing I love about your recipes is the cereal, I avoid popcorn for the simple fact that no matter what I always manage to get hulls stuck in my teeth.

  4. Sounds wonderful! By the way: maybe you’ve already mentioned this, but who makes good vegan white chocolate chips?

    • There are sadly few options out there, but the key is you want to see actual cocoa butter in there. It’s rare to find pure-cocoa butter vegan white chocolate, but the more there is, even if cut with palm oil or vegetable fats, the better. I like the Oppenheimer brand in a pinch, but my first choice is to order in bulk from Chocolate Emporium. (Scroll down and look under “Baking Supplies.” It’s listed as Chocolate Chips – White) There is a minimum order of $20, which is why I tend to buy 4 bags at a time.

      • Thank you so much for the information! It would be a fun experiment to try the different kinds and see how they work for different recipes. I have almost no experience baking with white chocolate, but I have enjoyed some amazing vegan desserts with white chocolate in them, so I am excited to start using it! When I write about the results, I will be sure and ping you back! Thanks again!

      • No problem, I’ll be looking forward to hearing how it goes! You’re right though, it would be great if there was a comprehensive round-up/taste-off of the options… Hmm, maybe this is a future post in the making? ;)

      • I will let you know when I get a chance to try out some vegan white chocolate chips! I am thinking right now about making red velvet cookies with white ganache for a Superbowl party – I would go with a vegan cream cheese frosting, but that is going to be too messy, and I’m hoping that if I get the ganache right, it will harden pretty well, so that I can pack the cookies between layers of parchment and not have the icing come off on the parchment. Obviously, this is a plan in progress – you will hear more about it once I solidify my plan and execute (or attempt to execute) it! Thanks for the tip about Oppenheimer and Chocolate Emporium!

  5. Good call about the popcorn – it’s definitely a common Christmas-y thing, but I never actually thought about why. Which apparently there is no good answer for, ha ha. You can’t get vegan white chocolate around here, but I’m hoping to score some while I’m in Texas!

  6. How interesting; popcorn is in no way associated, even in the slightest, with Christmas for me. But I am always, always up for pistachios.

  7. I feel like this year especially popcorn has become a Christmas thing…so weird but awesome. I love that you made bars out of it! Way to make it even more festive. :)

  8. It’s not really a Christmassy thing for we folk in the Southern hemisphere…I wonder where that tradition started? Maybe the corn industry had a very clever advertising campaign a while ago…lord knows they have enough of it in the food chain already! ;) This slice looks delish! I might try adding a few more “popped” things like some brown rice and some amaranth cereal. Cheers for this Hannah :)

  9. Festive and creative AND healthy! These bars would make a great snack to stash in my purse while i’m busy doing my holiday shopping!

  10. What a perfect way to use puffed corn cereal! Love it. One does get tired of puffed rice, Christmastime or any time! Hope your holidays are splendid, dear Hannah! xo

  11. I love how you used the cereal here! Such a great idea. Happy Holidays!

  12. Oh my goodness- so impressive! I love the aaddition of cereal:)

  13. The adult version! These look so festive and yummy!

  14. Pingback: Holiday Sides ‘n Sweets Recipe Roundup - Eat, Spin, Run, Repeat

  15. Bars are much better than balls–easier to eat and less messy. Loving this recipe, Hannah.

  16. I love these.. my fave nut and fruit combination, corn cereal and bars! perfect!

  17. These bars sounds so good! We definitely had popcorn over the holidays–although ours was classic stovetop corn with minimal olive oil and salt. I guess our sweet teeth were already satisfied. :)

  18. Hi Hannah :)
    These bars look downright amazing.. mhm. And I definitely have to say (in an undertone of great respect) your photos are by far the best food photos I ever get to see. :)

    Greetings, Lara

  19. Love this popcorn bar idea, they look so good. Your pictures are gorgeous, I would love for you to come and share you beautiful images with us at foodepix.com.

  20. Wow, that’s what I was exploring for, what a material! existing here at this blog, thanks admin of this web site.

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