Childhood memories, funnel cakes and glitter.
Put all those things in a mason jar and shake well. That’s what it’s like at the Tennessee Valley Fair.
It’s an atmosphere of happy squeals, mechanical clicks/whooshes, the smell of funnel cakes and hot sugar being spun into cotton candy. This year’s take-home treats? Candied apples and a monster bag of cotton candy.
But it wasn’t enough. I didn’t get my fill of carnival food so I decided to make my own at home.
Classic candied apples are cinnamon-y, crunchy and have a slightly sticky candy coating. I have a dip-and-swirl technique which creates a thin layer of candy over the apple. This is key. No double-dipping or the candy will become an impenetrable force. And what good is that?
The popcorn balls are only classic in their shape. Instead of sticky boiled corn syrup, these are held together with a mixture of melted marshmallows and butter. They are more like a rice crispy treat but made with salty popcorn instead of cereal.
And don’t forget the sprinkles!
Classic Candied Apples
Yield: 8 Candied Apples [click for printable version]
Adapted from the SprinkleBakes book
8 pink lady or Fuji apples
8 sturdy wooden pop sticks
1/2 cup clear (light) corn syrup
3 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/4-1/2 tsp. cinnamon flavoring oil
1/2 tsp. red food coloring
Jimmies and nonpareils, if desired
Note: Buy organic apples if possible to avoid the food grade wax that is applied to apples. The candy won’t adhere to the waxy surface
- Grease a jelly-roll pan well with vegetable shortening and set aside.
- Clean and dry the apples well. Remove the apple stems and carefully punch a slit in the top with a knife for the pop sticks to be inserted. Insert sticks into guide slit and lift each apple to make sure each can securely be picked up. Set aside.
- Combine the corn syrup, water and sugar in a medium saucepan with a handle. Heat at medium-high until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and bring mixture to a boil.
- The sugar mixture will take about 20-25 minutes to reach 302 degrees F. on a candy thermometer. This is known as the hard-crack stage.
- Once the correct temperature has been reached, remove the pan from the burner and add the cinnamon flavoring and food coloring. Mix well. Mixture is ready for dipping when the bubbles have subsided.
- Dip apples, one at a time, swirling until completely coated in syrup. Dip them only once! Double dipping will make them too hard. Hold apples above saucepan to let excess candy drain off. As you work, you may need to tilt the saucepan to pool the candy to one side. This will help ensure all apples get a full coating as your mixture gets lower.
- Place the apples on the prepared jelly-roll pan and allow to dry. Pour equal amounts of jimmies and nonpareils in a small bowl and dip the bottoms of the apples into the mix. Place in decorative candy or cupcake papers.
Marshmallow Popcorn Balls
Adapted from Kraft Foods [click for printable version]
Yield: 8-10 Popcorn Balls
1/4 cup (1/2
stick) unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
12 cups buttery popcorn, popped
- Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add butter.
Stir until melted. Add marshmallows,
vanilla and salt. Heat until
marshmallows are completely melted and mixture is well incorporated, stirring
- Place popped popcorn in large bowl. Add marshmallow
mixture on top and toss with two wooden spoons to coat.
- Shape into 8-10 large balls with well-buttered
hands. Place on sheets of parchment paper and sprinkle with nonpareils if desired; let stand until firm
Supplies for Candied Apples and Marshmallow Popcorn Balls:
Martha Stewart Crafts Paper Tape, Vintage Girl
CK Products 16 Ounce Jimmies/Sprinkles Bag, Mixed
CK Products 4 Ounce Non Pareils Bottle, Mixed
Mini Striped Scoop Popcorn Boxes
Taylor 1470 Digital Cooking Thermometer/Timer
I love popcorn (and marshmallows & candied apples!) This entire post is one big carnival for me 🙂
These are so fun and whimsical! Love!
Your pictures are so happy! I wish I was there <3
PS: Have you made funnel cakes? I bet you'd have a lovely take on them.
Loving the popcorn balls! 🙂 Everything is so cute, i love the photos!
Mmmhhh, two wonderfully regressive treats!
They both look like so much fun! 🙂
This is such a fun post. I want to go to the circus or he carnival now 🙂 the popcorn balls are my favorite 🙂
Those popcorn balls look amazing! And my husband loves candy apples!
Oh I love these-pure, nostalgic kid food. Only now I'm a grown up and I can eat them whenever I want!
Oh, Heather. What a beautiful post! So visually compelling. I felt like I was at the Fair! I love that you didn't make your candied apples so that you leave your teeth in them. Love the spin on the popcorn balls, too. I have to try that with my homemade mallow recipe! XO (Heather & SprinkleBaker-in-Training.
All of this stuff is so festive!!! Love it!
Gorgeous post Heather! These treats are reminiscent of my childhood as well and it definitely took me back to the days of not having a care in the world as well as having no concept of time! XO
I'll take one of each, please! You should charge state fair prices–$20 each! 🙂
So gorgeous!! Love the popcorn balls too!!
I'm DYING for some of that cotton candy 🙂
I just love seeing this page of goodies and rides it brings back so many memories. thank you for that
what a happy post!
Haven't fairs changed a lot since way back when?
Now we have deep fried Oreo's, Snickers, butter…
I love going to the fairs for the Italian sausages; I have heartburn for days but it's so worth it.
We went apple picking this weekend and came home with 50 pounds of apples. Know I know how to get rid of a few.
que ricuras y preciosidades!
What gorgeous pictures. This post is a treat for the eyes as well.
Per usual, I love what you made. Do you mind letting us know where you got the short semi-cupcake wrapper you put the candied apple in?
Love these especially the popcorn… makes me smile!
Your pictures are beautiful and the popcorn balls look amazing!!
Perfect! I am just in the throes of organising a Carnival themed birthday party for my soon-to-be-6 year old. Thanks so much!
Bringing the fun home….so cute!
Hi Gwen, there's a link to them right after the recipes in the "Supplies" section. They are considered treat cups, but they are great for candied and caramel apples.
Wilton White 2.5 Inch Round Treat Cups, 18 Count
I want to double fist one of each! So gorgeous, Heather. I need those popcorn balls!
If he knew what it was, I am certain Charlie (5) would ask you to adopt him. I found him looking at your cookbook the other day and grabbed my camera. Will have to send them to you.
Love these….They are perfect for fall.
Looks so delicious and very appealing to the eye, love the way the apples are decorated !
Perfect treats for a carnival-themed wedding, too!
Stunning! Love this idea!
We go to Silver Dollar City in So. Missouri twice a year. All four of us turn into big 'ol kids and eat our way through this fabulous amusement park. The funnel cakes are to die for. Your photos of the popcorn balls and apples are stunning. Mmmmmm….how fun it would be to sample each!
Mouth literally watered when I looked at your popcorn balls *drool*
I love the cute little flags, and the popcorn balls with sprinkles is the only way to go:) I will definitely have to remember that!
I have always been amused to be here….simply an awesome post..
Somehow you are always able to take sprinkles to that next level. WOWEE! xoxo ~Lili
These look incredible! I really want to make the popcorn balls. Is it 12 cups before it's popped or after? I feel like that makes a huge difference and I don't want to mess up!
12 cups after popping! 12 popped cups. Now the word popped sounds really weird to me. 🙂
Hope this helps!
Makes me want to go to the fair! Thanks for posting!
I just made the popcorn balls for a 4th of July picnic. I used a cupcake tin filled with liners to stick the balls into, and got 24! Then I sprinkled 4th of July themed sprinkles all over. They were a total hit!! I called them Popcorn Firecrackers. Definitely keeping this in my arsenal.