Pop popcorn. You can do this in an air popper, a stir popper, in a pan on the stove, or even in the microwave. You can use a small amount of butter or oil, but you don’t wanted seasoned or salted popcorn. You will need 10 cups of popped popcorn.
Combine butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup in a medium to large saucepan and cook over medium to medium-high heat.
Cook and stir until butter is melted and mixture begins to boil. Insert candy thermometer and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, without stirring, until mixture reaches 248 degrees, or firm ball stage.
Remove from heat and carefully stir in the baking soda. The mixture will foam up, which is why you want a larger saucepan than you think you need.
While caramel is cooking, combine popcorn and nuts (if using) in a large greased baking pan. I’m talking about a sheet pan, preferably with 2-inch sides. If you don’t have a pan this big, the bottom part of a large broiler pan may work. Or divide evenly between two 13×9-inch cake pans.
Pour caramel mixture (after baking soda has been added) over the popcorn and nuts. Stir well to coat all pieces. If you do not want to use nuts, sprinkle the coated popcorn with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.
Move to a 250-degree F oven and cook for 45-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. The caramel corn is done when no “loose” caramel is pooling in the bottom of the pan. Everything should be coated onto the popcorn and it shouldn’t be too sticky. It will firm up the rest of the way once cooled.
Once caramel corn is cool, melt the chocolate in a large bowl. Toss with 6 cups of the caramel corn until completely coated. Spread onto parchment- or waxed paper-lined baking sheet and let harden. I placed mine in the fridge for a few minutes to help it set.
If using more than one type of chocolate, like I did, melt each type separately. I used 1/2 cup each of pumpkin spice chips and chopped chocolate almond bark. I mixed each type with 3 cups of the caramel corn.
If you want to add sprinkles, add them to the chocolate-coated popcorn before it sets,
Combine coated caramel corn with uncoated and mix well to distribute. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
You can use any type of chocolate or chips that you want. Dark, milk, white, peanut butter. Colored candy melts also work great and make it easy to customize for any holiday or event.
Try red and green for Christmas; red, white, and blue for Fourth of July; team colors for tailgating; school colors for graduation.