Chocolate covered popcorn

You can't go wrong with chocolate-covered popcorn—it satisfies a craving for a crunchy snack and dessert all in one. But this gourmet offering usually isn't cheap. Save a few bucks and cook up your own batch; it also makes a lovely hostess or birthday gift.

Pop the Popcorn

Add a thin layer of vegetable oil to a large pot over medium heat. Pour kernels into the pot (half a cup of kernels yields approximately 16 cups of popcorn). To make kettle corn, add two to three tablespoons of white or brown sugar to the oil.

Cover the pot with a lid and lift it above the heat. Shake the pot continuously to keep the kernels from burning. After the popping sound slows to between two- and three-second intervals, remove the pot from the stove. Transfer the popcorn into a large bowl and let it cool. Stir the sweetened kettle corn occasionally to break up any clumps.

Melt the Chocolate

Fill a saucepan with one inch of water and allow the water to heat over medium heat. Let the water come to a simmer but do not boil. Place one and a half to one and three-quarters cups of dark, milk or white chocolate pieces, finely chopped, or chocolate melts into a separate, dry glass or metal bowl.

Tightly nestle the dry bowl containing the chocolate morsels into the pot of simmering water on the stovetop. Stir the chocolate gently until it is halfway melted. Remove it from the heat and continue to stir until it melts completely to avoid scorching the chocolate.

Instead of the double-boiler method above, you can use a microwave at 50 percent power to melt the chocolate. Microwave the chocolate in a non-glass, microwave-safe bowl for 30-second intervals. Stir the chocolate after each interval, repeating the process until the chocolate turns creamy and smooth. It is imperative to stir the chocolate between intervals to prevent the chocolate from scorching and to ensure the chocolate melts smoothly and evenly.

Drizzle the Chocolate

Pour the melted chocolate onto the cooled popcorn and use a dry mixing spoon to gently toss the chocolate and popcorn together. Cut one or several pieces of parchment paper large enough to accommodate the popcorn. Pour the chocolate-coated popcorn onto the parchment paper, spreading it out into one single layer. Leave the popcorn out at room temperature to let it cool and harden.

Other Chocolate-covered Popcorn Options

Substitute air-popped popcorn or microwave popcorn if you prefer to avoid the added oil. Although the microwave melts chocolate quickly, this method leaves more room for error. Use dry utensils when melting chocolate because moisture makes it gritty. Remember to stir the chocolate often. Try drizzling melted dark and white chocolate over popcorn spread in a layer on parchment paper. This method works well with candy-coated kettle corn. Sprinkle the coated or drizzled popcorn with nuts, crushed candy canes, candy pieces or sea salt.

For gift giving, place chocolate-covered popcorn in a decorative plastic bag and tie it with a ribbon.