Caramel Popcorn Cookies

Have you ever thought of using caramel popcorn and peanuts in a cookie?  My Caramel Popcorn Cookies give you the opportunity to combine this delicious duo with a tender cookie dough; a most delicious morsel I can assure you.  Heady with the fragrance and flavor of butterscotch, the soft cookies are further enhanced with a small amount of light, unsulphured molasses.  Cornmeal is added to the dough for a bit of texture as well as flavor, along with the usual ingredients of butter, eggs, flour and some vanilla extract.  I can see a batch of these tasty cookies at a bake sale, for a Halloween party or packaged for gift giving.  Although they are soft and quite tender, the cookies are good keepers and will ship perfectly to those who aren't nearby.  Think of your loved ones who enjoyed those iconic boxes of Cracker Jack when they were kids and stock up on some the next time you're at the supermarket.

The recipe came about as a result of my craving this favorite childhood treat of mine.  It had probably been over 25 years since I last enjoyed a box, so I bought some on a whim and began thinking.  After finishing one of these modest-sized boxes I knew I had to come up with a cookie recipe which included some.  The dough had to have the flavors of caramel and molasses, because that is what Cracker Jack tastes of.  Knowing this, I didn't want to make a cookie that would be cloying on the palate, so I paid attention to the amount of brown sugar I added in order to make it just right.

The final cookie is just what I was after.  Something a bit unusual and unexpected, but completely edible to no end is what this recipe is all about.  Are you interested?  Let me show you how to make these delicious Caramel Popcorn Cookies.

Caramel Popcorn Cookies on a British ironstone service tray.  Coffee is served in an oversized Burleigh Ware cup, also ironstone.

Caramel Popcorn Cookie Ingredients
  • 2 sticks or 16 tablespoons unsalted butter {226 gm}, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar {220 gm}
  • 1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses {15 ml}
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract {10 ml}
  • 1 large egg + l large egg yolk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour {250 gm}
  • 2/3 cups stoneground yellow cornmeal {100 gm}
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder {10 ml}
  • 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt {1.25 ml}
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped caramel coated popcorn & peanuts {56 gm} or 2 one-ounce boxes of Cracker Jack
Yield: just shy of 3 dozen cookies, about 32-34.
Equipment: parchment-lined or silpat-lined baking sheets (you'll need about 4).

Coarsely chop the caramel popcorn.  You want to have large pieces so don't over chop.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you can use a large bowl & a handheld mixer with great success), cream the butter for 30 seconds on medium speed, just until it's creamy.  Add the light brown sugar and molasses, and cream this mixture on medium speed until it gets light,  about 3 minutes.  Stop the machine and scrape down the bowl & paddle.  Add the vanilla extract on low; mix well.

Increase the speed to medium and add the egg and egg yolk until the mixture is no longer slick and the eggs are emulsified (this shouldn't be more than a minute).  Stop the machine and scrape down the bowl and paddle. 

In a medium bowl, whisk to combine the all-purpose flour, cornmeal, baking powder and sea salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture on low speed, mixing just until combined.  The dough is now ready for the caramel popcorn (above). 

You have two choices: either add the popcorn into the mixer and mix just until combined or remove the bowl and combine the popcorn by hand, with a large spatula.  It's up to you.  Using the mixer will break down some of the caramel popcorn & peanuts.
Cover the bowl well and refrigerate the cookie dough for 30 minutes.

Center racks and preheat the oven to 350° F (177°C).

Using a 1 1/2" (1.5 oz) ice cream scoop, portion out even-sized rounds of cookie dough on your prepared baking sheets.  Give them about 2" of space in between.  I baked 8 cookies per sheet, but you can squeeze in 10 of them if you arrange them just so.

Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes.

When lightly browned around the edges and the cookies are set, remove them from the oven and let them sit on the baking sheet for about 2 minutes to firm up.  You can then transfer the cookies onto racks to cool completely.  This is what they look like fresh out of the oven.  Perfectly round and studded with delicious caramel popcorn & peanuts.  On the flip side, the cookies have a wonderful texture; you can see some of that caramel!

Tender, sweet & delicious.  Caramel Popcorn Cookies.

As I said before, these cookies make wonderful gifts especially if you take a few moments to put some in a cellophane bag or treat box that's fun & festive.  Although this recipe uses Cracker Jack, you can use whatever caramel popcorn you happen to like, with or without nuts.  I know some of you out there will take the extra step to pop your own corn and make your own caramel to mix together.  Excellent if you do!  The one thing I do ask of each of you is that you share them when they come out of the oven.  Give a few to a friend, a neighbor or a dear family member, and if you find that you have to make another batch just for your very own cookie jar, by all means do.  Have fun making them.