I wish all year could be autumn.
I’d be bundled up in a cozy scarf drinking apple cider and eating roasted winter squash every day. And that’s not even to mention how much I love car rides in the country to take in the glorious fall foliage, and pumpkin spice lattes, which, incidentally, always seem to taste best in fall.
One of my favorite autumn traditions is watching the Harry Potter movies with my niece. We usually start around mid-October when the air takes on a nice chill and the trees have begun losing their jewel-toned leaves.
This year I decided to take our Harry Potter experience to the next level for her and make a Harry Potter-inspired treat to enjoy while we watch. Chances are, no matter whether or not you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ve probably heard of pumpkin juice, treacle tart, cauldron cakes, pumpkin pasties, or the infamously wonderful butterbeer.
We tried butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter last time we were in Orlando and it’s something I’ve wanted to play around with at home ever since. (Actually, it’s something I’ve wanted to play around with making ever since I first saw the scene with Harry, Ron, and Hermione enjoying butterbeer in The Three Broomsticks.)
Butterbeer is a fun flavor combo, and you definitely don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to enjoy it; if I had to sum it up in just two words, I’d say butterscotch vanilla. (See? Total crowd-pleaser.) I use a combo of four extracts (vanilla, almond, butter, and rum), plus molasses and a bit of salt to get the right flavor. I also add just a hint of nutmeg, which you won’t be able to pull out flavor-wise, but I think it just adds that je ne sais quoi that puts this recipe over the top.
My niece is in 11-year-old butterbeer heaven, but trust me, I’m a pretty happy girl too.
- 12 cups air-popped popcorn (slightly heaping ½ cup of popcorn kernels)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon butter extract
- ¾ teaspoon rum extract
- 8 tablespoons (115 g) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon water
- ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt (use less if using fine salt)
- Put the popcorn into a large bowl and set aside. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat liner; set aside. Sift together the baking soda and nutmeg in a small bowl; set aside. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, butter extract, and rum extract to a small bowl; set aside.
- Cook the butter, sugar, molasses, water, and salt in a medium-sized, thick-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until the temperature reaches 305F (hard crack stage), stirring occasionally. Carefully stir in the mixture of extracts and then the baking soda/nutmeg mix.
- Pour the toffee over the popcorn and use two heat-safe rubber spatulas to toss the popcorn around to distribute the toffee throughout. Spread the popcorn out onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Let the popcorn cool and then break it apart; store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Making This on a Hot and/or Humid Day: If it’s a hot and/or humid day and the butterbeer popcorn is too sticky, you can dry it out in the oven. To do so, leave the butterbeer popcorn on the baking sheet and bake it in a 200F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, tossing it every 10 minutes.