Wednesday, April 30, 2014


My work counterpart went through a phase where she was obsessed with popcorn. At least once a week she’d stop by Trader Joe’s on her lunch break and come back to her desk with a bag of cheddar or kettle corn. Then remorse would strike and she’d press me to share in her snack, which was just fine by me. So when her birthday rolled around and I wanted to bake a gift, something involving popcorn seemed a natural choice.

I remembered seeing a recipe for buttered popcorn cookies in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, but when I Googled for it, I stumbled upon this Joy the Baker adaptation that improves upon that brilliance by adding chocolate to the mix. My coworker loves the sweet-salty combo, I have a long history with chocolate popcorn, and it doesn’t really seem like a birthday without chocolate, so it’s no surprise which version I settled on.

As an homage to the recipient’s particular fixation, I used TJ’s bagged kettle corn instead of making buttered popcorn from scratch. It turned out so well (not to mention being easier) that I’d be tempted to cut this corner again in the future, but I’m leaving in the directions for popping the corn yourself in case you’re more energetic (or farther from a Trader Joe’s) than I.

No matter what, these are some excellent treats. When I plopped the dough onto the baking sheets, it looked like clumps of popcorn just barely held together by batter, but they did indeed settle into proper cookies as they baked. If popcorn cookies sound weird to you, think addictively chewy chocolate chip cookies with an extra dose of salt and an occasional bit of crunch…the perfect movie-theater contraband snack. My coworker loved them, but they’ve definitely earned a spot in my personal cookie hall of fame too.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup yellow corn kernels
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped dark chocolate
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

1. To make the popcorn, place the oil in the bottom of a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, add corn kernels in a single layer across the bottom of the pan. Cover the pot but keep the lid ajar to let a bit of steam out. Listen to the popcorn as it pops. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner once the popping has subsided. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and drizzle with the 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Toss well, then pick through the popcorn to remove any unpopped kernels. Set aside to cool. You’ll have about 4 to 4½ cups of popcorn.

2. Preheat then oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until butter is pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla extract for one more minute. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and beat on low until just combined. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a spatula to fold in the popcorn. It might seem like a disproportionate amount of popcorn considering the cookie batter, but keep folding; the popcorn will break down a bit as it’s folded in. Fold in chocolate.

4. Scoop dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with coarse sea salt. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until the edges and tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven, allow to rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Yields: 2 dozen
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good; store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer.

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