Sunday, March 13, 2016

Welcome to Our Guest Kristi Abbott! & #Giveaway!!

I have been cooking with booze for a long time. I learned it at my mother’s knee. There was a time when her special dish was something called Bourbon Beef, which she served with Whiskey Rice. Even her brisket recipe calls for quite a bit of red wine. When I was in college she would send me care packages. She would make brownies, cut them up, put them in a coffee can, douse them with bourbon (she’s a good Kentucky girl), and ship them off. She said it was to keep the brownies moist in the mail. All I knew was eating the brownies at the bottom of the can was like doing a shot. Plus they were delicious.

When I started developing recipes for Kernel of Truth, it seemed natural to me to add alcohol. After reading a lot of popcorn ball recipes, I realized that it would be pretty easy to substitute the vanilla for something more interesting. I experimented with different liqueurs, finally settling on Kahlua. It just goes so well with chocolate and I think it’s enhanced by the salty bite of the popcorn.

The chocolate glaze is also my mother’s. My dad’s favorite cake was her yellow Bundt cake with the chocolate glaze. We would mock argue over who got to eat the chocolate that pooled in the center of the cake.

Here are the ingredients you need to assemble.

To make the popcorn balls, you’ve got to start with popcorn. Here’s my tried and true method.

Pour 1/4 cup oil into your pot. I personally like my Dutch oven. It’s got a nice thick bottom so it can take some heat and the lid fits well. You can experiment with the oil, too. If I’m just snacking on the popcorn, I like the flavor olive oil gives to the popcorn. For something like this, I often use coconut oil because it seems a little more neutral. Put in two or three popcorn kernels. Cover the pot and turn the heat on high.

When those kernels pop, you know your oil is hot enough. Put in 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels and throw in some salt. I use Kosher salt, but I think sea salt works well, too.

Once the corn is popped, turn it out into a bowl and set aside. This makes approximately 8 cups of popcorn. Now it’s time to soften the marshmallow crème. I put it in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for thirty seconds or so on 50% power. Be careful. Use a bigger bowl than you think you’ll need. That stuff puffs up like crazy! Once it’s pourable, stir in the Kahlua then pour over the popcorn. Mix thoroughly, then grease up your hands and form the popcorn into balls. I don’t have any pictures of this part because my hands were greasy and covered with marshmallow goo! Sorry! But here’s what the balls look like. I like to make little bite-sized ones rather than huge ones. It’s daintier and Lord knows we want to be dainty when we’re eating our booze-filled snack food!

Now it’s time to make the chocolate glaze. Combine the cocoa, butter, and powdered sugar in a pot over a medium heat. Stir the milk in slowly. Word of warning here. This glaze is particularly sensitive to all kinds of things and I’ve found it needs different amounts of milk on different days. Humiidity seems to be a big factor. You want it to be thin enough to pour, but thick enough to really coat a spoon. It’s delicious even if it’s drippy, but if you want it to harden into a nice glaze, you have to watch the milk.

All that’s left is to dip the popcorn balls into the glaze and then set them aside to harden.

Chocolate Kahlua Popcorn Balls

3.5 ounces of marshmallow crème
Kahlua (or vanilla if you prefer or really any kind of liquer)
4 c. popcorn

Heat the marshmallow crème in the microwave. I recommend using 50% power for 30 seconds. Keep going with 30 second increments until it’s easy to stir. Stir in the Kahlua. Fold in popcorn. Grease your hands and form into balls. Allow the balls to sit on wax or parchment paper while you make the chocolate glaze.

Chocolate glaze:

3 T. cocoa
2 T. butter
1 c. powdered sugar
3 T. milk

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Whisk together over a low heat until combined. Don’t let this glaze sit. It hardens relatively quickly. You can reconstitute it by adding a little milk and heating again, but it won’t be quite the same.

Dip the popcorn balls in the glaze. Let sit until the glaze hardens. 

Opening a gourmet popcorn shop was never on Rebecca Anderson’s bucket list. But after a failed marriage to a celebrity chef, she’s ready for her life to open up and expand. She has returned to her hometown of Grand Lake, Ohio, with her popcorn-loving poodle Sprocket to start a new business—naturally called POPS. As a delicious bonus, Cordelia “Coco” Bittles, a close family friend who has always been like a grandmother to Rebecca, owns the chocolate shop next door, and the two are thinking of combining their businesses.

But when Coco’s niece, Alice, discovers her on the floor of her chocolate shop, those dreams go up in smoke. The local sheriff thinks Coco was the victim of a robbery gone wrong, but Rebecca isn’t so sure. As suspects start popping up all over, Rebecca is determined to turn up the heat and bring the killer to justice in a jiffy!

Kernel of Truth is Kristi's first book with Berkley Prime Crime. She has been obsessed with popcorn since first tasting the caramel cashew popcorn at Garrett's in Chicago. If you've never had it, you might want to hop on a plane and go now. Seriously, it's that good.


Kristi is giving away a copy of A Kernel of Truth to one lucky person who leaves a comment!

Kristi lives in northern California, although she was born in Ohio like the heroine of Kernel of Truth. She loves snack food, crocheting, her kids, and her man, not necessarily in that order.

Kristi also writes as both Eileen Rendahl and Eileen Carr.