Mmmm! Treats! Autumn-inspired almond bark … sort of.
BUT! Not your average candy- and sweets-laden bark. In fact, I’ve only added a few candy corns as decoration — a bit of fun. And added popcorn. And dried apples. So it is not really “bark” but more of an almond-bark coated melange of autumny, yummy bits.
This fall-inspired treat, which I finally named Autumn Popcorn Bark, is something I’ve been dreaming up for a few weeks now. I don’t know what planted the seed (pumpkin seed, that is!) to put dried apple slices together with white chocolate and other autumn-y things, but once that idea was in my head, a small part of my brain has continually worked on it.
Then I started getting advice from my son. No candy corn. Maybe add caramel. Hmmm…
Meanwhile, I was thinking: if I am going to have fruit and healthy pumpkin seeds, maybe I could keep it from becoming a TOTAL nutrition disaster. Introducing the popcorn was key for this — hello, volume! — but it also turns out to make such a tasty contrast to the other bits and pieces :)
A couple trials ensued:
Trial #1 — dried apples, pumpkin seeds, gingersnaps, broken pretzels, plain popcorn, with candy corn as garnish
Proportions: 1/2 c broken dried apple, 1/4 c salted pumpkin seeds, 3/8 c broken gingersnaps, 3/8 c broken pretzels, 3 c popped microwave popcorn, 12 oz white almond bark (vanilla candy coating)
Trial #2 — dried apples, pumpkin seeds, broken pretzels, caramel popcorn (Crunch n’ Munch Caramel, to be exact)
Proportions: scant 3/4 c broken dried apple, 1/2 c salted pumpkin seeds, 1/2 c broken pretzels, 2 c caramel popcorn, 12 oz almond bark (vanilla candy coating)
You see a common theme: dried apples, pumpkin seeds, popcorn. Autumn! That tangy taste of the dried apples is such an unexpected contrast to the mellow sweet almond bark. The pumpkin seeds (and pretzels) add a nice bit of salty and crunchy contrast.
If you are totally into the sweets, add candy corn to your heart’s content — especially sprinkling some over the top!
My fave was the second batch, but only because the taste of the apples came through the way I wanted. But I found I missed the taste of the plain popcorn with its different buttery/salty flavor. My son and his friend liked the first batch best, I’m imagining for that reason. So I say, skip the expensive caramel corn and pop up a bag of cheap, plain microwave popccorn — mine was store-brand — and you’ll be good to go.
I had combined each batch differently. The first worked best for keeping the popcorn flavor distinct! That’s the method you’ll find in the recipe below.
Here are the proportions for the next go-round. They’ve been scaled up/down based on my trial batches and are just right! You know you can change this recipe up however you like, but for me and my Autumn Bark Vision, I’ll be keeping the popcorn/candy-coating/dried-apple proportions as listed.
Honestly, I think we have enough Autumn Popcorn Bark treats to last us for a long while. I’m not heading to the store for more candy coating just yet, but I will definitely be putting together another batch of this when the time is right!
- 2/3 c. dried apples, slices broken into pieces roughly the same as the width of the slice
- 1/3 c. skinny pretzel sticks, broken into 1/2" to 1" segments
- 1/3 c. salted pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 c. broken gingersnaps (pieces about the size of a piece of candy corn, 1/2" x 1/4"-ish) or substitute more pretzels and seeds
- A handful of Candy Corn for garnish, if desired.
- 2.5 - 3 cups popped microwave popcorn (regular style, which is lightly salted and lightly butter-flavored)
- 12 oz white (vanilla) candy coating, aka almond bark (see Notes)
- Slowly melt candy coating in a double boiler with barely-simmering water, stirring frequently until smooth. Alternately, melt in microwave according to package directions, being cautious not to overheat.
- Prepare each ingredient. Place popcorn on a sheet pan covered with baking parchment. Combine remaining stir-ins in a bowl after setting aside a few photogenic tidbits of each, with the candy corn, for garnish.
- Toss popcorn with 2 - 3 Tbsp. (two flatware-tablespoonsful) of candy coating, tossing gently with those spoons until evenly distributed -- it will be a very light and incomplete coating. Gather popcorn into a single layer. It will cover about a dinner plate-sized area.
- Stir remaining candy coating into other ingredients, folding and stirring until everything is coated. Drop by spoonfuls over popcorn on the parchment-covered pan. Toss gently until mixture begins to hold the popcorn together, but not so much that the coating becomes evenly distributed -- leave the popcorn somewhat bare.
- Scoot all the mixture together into a single popcorn-thickness layer, taking loose bits from the outside edges to fill voids in the center. A fork works well for pushing things around here. If you notice any large puddles of the candy coating, you can scoop it up to the top layer. Remember to try to keep the popcorn from becoming completely coated.
- Place reserved garnish ingredients across the top, anchoring them into places where there is plenty of candy coating.
- Cool in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, until the center-bottom is no longer warm and the candy coating has set.
- Break into small serving sized pieces. I suggest about 2" x 3" although it will break very randomly.
- You could use actual white chocolate (which you all know is my favorite!) but it might sieze and make mixing difficult.
I had some fun with the early morning sunshine while I was prepping for my busy day…
I’m going to enjoy the results of my experiments SO MUCH! If you try some of this and come up with another good combination, be sure to let us know in the comments!