I have a confession. It’s awfully silly. For the past couple of years, I’ve been scared – nay petrified - of peanut butter.
I’ll forgive you if you stop reading this moment, aghast at my admission. (But maybe I can lure you back with a recipe for peanut butter fudge popcorn?)
Here’s the scoop. Peanut butter has held the most horrible reputation among health-bloggers for some time, and I read lots of these blogs which adds up to regular exposure. Peanuts – we write and read – are the bottom feeders of the plant world, poised to absorb every horrible soil impurity and pesticide in their path. Allergenic! Dirty! Those smiling little Kraft bears with their red and green bows? Guised killers, placed to lure us into peanut butter’s sticky trap.
Examining the research, I eventually converted to almond butter – which is delicious in its own way, but definitely not peanut butter. And I began to throw dirty glances at the Kraft bears – those murderers! – whenever I found myself anywhere close to breakfast spreads. Joking aside, I knew deep-down that a good-quality peanut butter eaten now and again was not going to kill me.
A couple weeks back, a friend mentioned the delicious PB&J he was having for lunch. Gosh that sounds good, I thought… if only I ate peanut butter… it’s been so long. I daydreamed of raspberry preserves and crunchy peanut spread with a cup of tea. Finally, on Sunday while grocery shopping, I bought some. Stealthily into the cart (lest anyone see my transgression!) I placed a small jar of MaraNatha Organic Salted Crunchy Peanut Butter. Baby steps. PB&J would soon be mine.
And it’s been a delicious tryst, between me and peanut butter. Into my smoothies and spread on bananas and straight from the spoon – the stuff’s delicious. Its ability to make things tasty knows no bounds!
Then, the other night popping popcorn in my housemate’s mom’s 1970s air popper, I had an idea. Popcorn and peanuts – a natural fit. Into a pan went some brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and peanut butter, stirred to a soft caramel. I shook it with the freshly popped kernels and placed them on trays in a low oven to crisp.
Oh my. Sweet, salty, crunchy peanut butter popcorn. It was popcorn crack. What had I started?
Since then, I’ve been perfecting the recipe nightly. Adding nuts here, and a sugar-coating there, a pinch more salt in some batches – and it just keeps improving. It took all my willpower to save a paltry tumbler (the photo at top) for my housemate to try. Even then, I had to portion it out, sit it on his desk, close the door, and run to make a tea so I would forget it. Popcorn that good.
I’m hopeful that by the time I deplete this jar, I’ll be so sick of peanut butter I avoid it for another couple of years. But I’m not holding my breath. And I still need to make that sandwich.
Peanut butter fudge popcorn
(serves two – well, one, unless you have incredible restraint)
10 cups air-popped popcorn
2Tbsp dark brown sugar
1/4tsp fine sea salt
tiniest shake of cinnamon (just a pinch!)
2Tbsp crunchy natural peanut butter
2 tsp brown sugar, reserved for shaking
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Pop popcorn using your usual method into a large container that has a lid. You’ll need room to shake the corn, so sometimes two batches works best.
In a small pan over medium-high heat, combine brown sugar, salt and cinnamon with a scant tablespoon of water. When it starts to bubble rapidly, remove from heat and stir in peanut butter. The mixture will look like a thick caramel sauce. Pour over popcorn, pop lid on, and shake vigorously until all the kernels are coated. Open the container and add the 2tsp reserved brown sugar, tossing again to coat.
Spread evenly on two parchment-lined cookie trays and place in the oven to harden, about 8-10 minutes. Remove and let cool and store covered at room temperature.
[bear photo via]