This post is sponsored by Queen.
I’m quite sure that the very first time I ate popcorn, it was the multi-coloured candied variety. I just assumed that was what popcorn was and had no idea most commonly it was eaten in its natural colour, seasoned with butter and salt.
Country fairgrounds with their ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, laughing clowns and petting zoos were where you could buy candied popcorn back in the 70’s. It was packaged in conical-shaped plastic bags hanging from the bunting that looped around the canvas roof of the market stalls in the fairground. You could buy a bag for a few cents and it was big enough to live off for the rest of the day.
Country fairgrounds have changed a lot since the 70’s but one thing that’s remained unchanged is the conical-shaped bags of candied popcorn hanging from the roof of the stalls. For me candied popcorn conjures up warm memories of a day of great excitement and anticipation at a country fair where the only other thing I probably ate that day was a bag of fairy floss (cotton candy).
When Queen asked me to try their new food colour gels that come in blue, green, yellow and blue, I had just seen candied popcorn in the supermarket and wondered how easy it would be to make my own.
It’s actually very easy. You just make the popcorn then make a sugar syrup and add a few drops of Queen food gels. And you don’t need more than a few drops as these are strongly concentrated gels and a little goes a long way.
But candied popcorn also needs to be flavoured. I bought Fresh As fruit powders that are freeze-dried fruit ground into a powder. There are no additives and the powders are intensely flavoured. I used raspberry, passionfruit and pineapple. If you don’t want to use the powders or can’t source them, Queen has some essences that can also be used like lemon, orange, coconut and strawberry.
Queen’s gel colours are wonderful to use. The colours are strong and give a clean and vibrant result. I’ve seen recipes for candied popcorn where jelly crystals are used to provide the colour for the popcorn but by comparison this gives a very muddy, muted and wishy-washy result. The gel colours also have no bitter taste as some other brands do; these gels didn’t affect the natural flavour of the popcorn at all.
It’s very easy to control how much you use with the gel colours as there’s a very fine tip on the tube and with a gently squeeze you can have just one drop coming out at a time. Because of the way the packaging has been designed, you don’t end up with a mess in your kitchen as there’s no bottle to knock over and spill.
I’ve made the popcorn in all the provided colours of red, green, yellow and blue but also blended the blue and red gels to make purple and you could also blend red and yellow to make orange. I think the candied popcorn would be great bagged up for take-home party-packs at children’s birthday parties.
Another idea for candied popcorn is to colour it for specific celebrations. On Australia Day you could package up bags of green and gold candied popcorn and on July 4, you could make up little bags of red, white and blue. This year for Halloween I’m going to make bags of dark purple and orange candied popcorn for the trick or treaters who land on my doorstep.
Queen gel colours are available in supermarkets and to keep up to date with product uses and new launches, you can follow the Queen facebook page.
- 2 tbspns vegetable oil
- 1 cup popcorn kernels
- ⅓ cup caster sugar x 6
- ¼ cup water x 6
- Queen food gels - red, blue, yellow, green
- Fruit powders or essences
- Heat oil over high heat. Add two kernels of corn and if they start to rotate, the oil is hot enough. Add popcorn then cover saucepan with a lid. As popcorn begins to pop, agitate the saucepan. When popping slows down, divide into 6 bowls.
- Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.
- In a small saucepan combine water and sugar over medium heat. Stir only until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil then do not stir. Allow sugar syrup to boil for about 5 minutes or until it thickens and becomes golden in colour.
- (Note: you need to watch the sugar syrup. You don't want it to be too runny or it will take the 'puff' out of the popcorn as it will wet it too much. But you don't want the sugar syrup to be too thick or it won't coat the popcorn properly so it may take a few trials to get it right).
- Remove from heat and add the desired food gel - just a couple of drops. Swirl.
- Quickly pour in powder (about 2 tspns) or essence (a few drops) and ⅙ of the popcorn.
- Work quickly and use a spoon to mix the syrup into the popcorn.
- Pour out onto baking tray and allow to harden. (It will feel sticky but it dries).
- Repeat process 5 more times making a different colour each time.
- When the popcorn has dried, serve in a bowl or package into individual servings.
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