What I'm Bringing to the Party: Peanut Butter Caramel Corn Mix

It's November, which means that the holiday season is nearly upon us. And with the holiday season comes holiday parties and the need for plenty of party food.

This past weekend, D and I attended a Halloween costume party hosted by our friends. Sticking with the Wes Anderson theme we started last year by dressing as Suzy Bishop and Sam Shakusky from Moonrise Kingdom, this year we went as Margot and Richie Tenenbaum from The Royal Tenenbaums. Along with Margot's mopey attitude, I also brought along this decadent peanut butter caramel corn mix to the party.

This caramel corn mix is an ideal treat to bring to a party because it is dangerously addictive. Meaning, it's better to have it (and leave it!) at someone else's house than to keep it in your own. Or, at least, that's definitely true for me, anyway. The caramel, which gets extra oomph with the addition of some peanut butter during the cooking process, is drizzled over a mix of popcorn, pretzels, Reese's Pieces, and pretzels. After being baked in the oven at a low temperature for 20 minutes, dark chocolate is drizzled over top the caramel corn mix along with festive sprinkles. You can easily adjust the ingredients to match your holiday -- orange and brown go just as well with the autumnal harvest holiday of Thanksgiving as they did with Halloween; green and red M&Ms along with festive snowflake sprinkles would work nicely for Christmas. And of course, rainbow sprinkles, and a confetti of M&Ms would work well for a party on any day of the week.

Peanut Butter Caramel Corn Mix (printer-friendly version)
makes 12+ servings

For the popcorn mix:
12 cups air-popped popcorn
1 cup lightly salted roasted peanuts
1 cup Reese's Pieces
3 cups mini twist pretzels

For the peanut butter caramel:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup golden syrup (or dark corn syrup)
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup dark chocolate melts, melted
1-2 teaspoons festive sprinkles [optional]

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Pop up 12 cups of popcorn -- I used 4 tablespoons popcorn kernels in my air popcorn popper. Spread the popcorn evenly onto the two prepped baking sheets. Divide the peanuts, Reese's Pieces, and mini twist pretzels evenly across the two baking sheets.
3. In a medium sauce pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar, golden syrup, and creamy peanut butter. Add in the salt and stir to combine.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture begins to boil, let it continue boiling for five minutes without stirring.
5. Remove the sugar mixture from the heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract. (The mixture will foam up.)
6. Pour the caramel evenly over the baking sheets with the popcorn mix. Stir to combine, evenly coating the mix in the caramel.
7. Place both of the baking sheets in the oven on two separate racks. Bake for 20 minutes in the oven, stirring after 10 minutes, and switching the position of each baking sheet in the oven.
8. Remove from the oven. Drizzle each sheet of caramel corn with the melted dark chocolate, then top with the sprinkles. Allow to cool completely. Store the peanut butter caramel corn mix in an airtight container at room temperature.

(inspired by this Back to Her Roots post)