That’s not a typo: I said brains.
It’s Halloween week! and around my house, that means Halloween craft projects, a near-constant debate over what costume to wear, and me holding off on buying candy until right before Halloween night due to my lack of control around the sweets of my youth.
allow me to give you this little Halloween project to make, if you so desire, for your Halloween festivities. Totally kid-friendly by design, but adults will love them also; anyone can make these, and if I were that kind of blogger, I’d call these “6-ingredient popcorn petit fours.”
But I’m not: so let’s talk about these bloody brains, shall we? You’ve got lots of latitude here in terms of how you make these. To be clear, I made bloody human brain petit fours, but you could switch out the red for a little green food color in here and these morph into bloody zombie brains (because everyone knows zombies bleed green ooze.)
Conceptually, these are straightfoward: popcorn + cocktail peanuts + sea salt to taste, dunked in a melted butter + marshmallow + food dye mixture = bloody brains. Take those brains and press them into a 13 x 9 pan, and voila! Bloody brain casserole. Yum.
Then all you do is take a big knife (like one you’d use to murder a burglar or something; that knife), cut these into 48 squares, and dip them in some molding chocolate, and that’s when the fun begins. I used Chocoley again for these – their extra dark formula, which works tremendously well with the sweet marshmallow popcorn salty peanuts – and it’s fast becoming my go-to chocolate for projects like this. It just makes the coating process so. dang. simple, which isn’t always easy to come by. Try using regular baking chocolate for stuff like this, and you’re liable to end up with weird chunks, uneven coating, and a generally “off” texture to your finished product. The Chocoley is like working with chocolate silk curtains: it just glides over anything – even lumpy brain popcorn, as you can see here – and hardens perfectly so you don’t have tons of runoff. Like when you hear the word “enrobed,” that’s what this chocolate does: it enrobes, which ensures you won’t end up with struggle treats.
See? They look all innocent, like “oh, hiiii…just a little chocolate candy treat over here, don’t be scared” and then they’re all like “MUAHAHAHAHAHA!” (cue Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”)
So much fun. How cute are these? If you’re having a Halloween party, I have a game for you: kids or adults, makes no difference. I’m kicking it like Martha Stewart today, I know.
Zombies vs. Humans (Using Bloody Brain Petit Fours)
- Make 2 batches of bloody brain petit fours (or better yet, halve the recipe and make it in 2 8×8 pans): dye one batch red and one batch green. Cut each batch into 24 squares and dip according to directions, making sure to completely coat the popcorn. Decorate as you wish, but make all of them look the same on the outside.
- Serve each party guest 1 petit four; mix them up so you don’t know who’s getting what. So you make sure to get even teams, count out an even number of each color before serving.
- When it’s time to play, have guests bite into petit fours to reveal whether they will be a human or a zombie. Watch them roll their eyes in joy because these popcorn squares are delicious.
- Proceed to chase each other around like total children as you would in a game of “Cops & Robbers.” It will be the most fun you’ve had at a party in a long, long time.
So there you have it: not terribly complicated, just like the brainy petit fours, yet super fun, just like the brainy petit fours. You’ll be a Halloween hero, and quite possibly the neighborhood show off, because they’re also pretty adorable for individual bagging, which means you can hand these out to the trick-or-treaters who bang on your door.
Did you order your Chocoley back when I did those backyard mint ice cream sandwiches? You should have, silly. If you haven’t, do it now, because there’s maybe nothing more fun and relaxing than swirling things around in melty chocolate that actually works and tastes spectacular. I already have an idea for Thanksgiving, so you have a few weeks to prepare.
Hard to say where this was adapted from: I think popcorn balls are pretty straightforward, and I just took it from there.
Bloody Brains Petit Fours
Makes 48 petit fours*
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 10 oz miniature marshmallows
- 1 tsp red OR green food dye paste (I use Wilton)
- 12 cups air-popped popcorn (it can be pre-popped; I use Vic’s original, and Cape Cod works very well also)
- 1 1/2 cups cocktail peanuts
- Sea salt (how much is going to depend on taste and how much salt your popcorn / peanuts had on it initially) for sprinkling**
- 2 lbs Chocoley Bada Bing Bada Boom Extra Dark Candy & Molding Formula (use regular dark or milk chocolate if it suits you best)
- Chocolate jimmies / sprinkles for the tops (optional)
*Very easy to half-batch these things, especially if you’re wanting human and zombie brains (as one tends to want.) Simply halve all the ingredients and throw it into an 8 x 8-inch pan versus the 13 x 9 and oh my heavens do I ever know that square inchitude of an 8 x 8 times 2 doesn’t add up to a 13 x 9 pan, thank you. but we’re talking popcorn balls and not some classic milk sponge cake so i think we’re probably good.
**Here’s what: Mr. Table dislikes popcorn balls, or rather, is indifferent to them. He says they “taste like stale popcorn.” Mr. Table has a point: something about coating even salted popcorn and peanuts in butter and marshmallow tends to negate the salt entirely, so you have to add it back. If you don’t, truly, your popcorn brains will just not be that exciting, so be generous with the salt, and taste as you mix. This isn’t caramel so it’s not going to get rock hard on you, which means you have time.
Make those brains:
Spray bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 glass Pyrex casserole generously with cooking spray.
In the largest stockpot or dutch oven you have, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the marshmallows and stir constantly until smooth. Add the food coloring and continue to stir until evenly incorporated.
This part goes fast, so make sure you have everything measured out before you begin. Remove the pan from heat and add popcorn and peanuts quickly, stirring with a rubber spatula; you’re looking for a motion which takes your spatula all the way to the bottom, lifts the marshmallow mixture up, over, and through the popcorn and peanuts. This will take patience and a careful but firm hand: you want your popcorn kernels intact but everything needs to be coated; very easy to see thanks to the food dye. As you mix, sprinkle with sea salt and taste: don’t be scared, because marshmallow and butter mute all salt and you’re going to need to bring it back up again, so keep sprinkling and tasting until you get it right. Chances are you won’t be done even when you think you are, so watch the bottom for pools of the marshmallow mixture.
Once everything is incorporated, pour into prepared 13 x 9 casserole dish and press using the spatula until you have a firmly packed, Rice Krispie treat-looking thing. let cool to room temperature on the counter and then place in the refrigerator for 2 hours or longer to really firm up.
When totally chilled, remove from fridge. Slide a thin knife around the edges to unearth the brains casserole, then flip over and the brains should easily release onto your work surface. Using a large, sharp knife, divide into 48 squares, using the above photos as a good visual and this handy guide I made just for you:
Be sure to wipe your knife with a dry towel after each cut: some residual popcorn sticks on the blade and you want clean lines. When finished, press any loose kernels or peanuts back into the squares (it helps when dipping to have everything tightly together.)
Dip those brains:
Melt the Chocoley in a double boiler according to their instructions: it does work the best that way, even if it’s slightly different than how you melt baking chocolate. In the meantime, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set at your work station.
Set the double boiler of chocolate at your work station, along with the brains squares and two forks. Using the forks as grabbers (one in each hand), lift one square and place it in the melted chocolate. Roll gently around with forks until all sides are coated, then lift it up with the fork tines holding the sides and give it a little back-and-forth shake to get any excess chocolate off the bottom. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets and sprinkle with a few sprinkles, if you’re using them. Repeat, placing 24 on each sheet. Once you finish 1 full sheet, place it in the fridge to set up. Repeat with the other sheet.
Serve! These are fine (once chilled) at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days. Happy Halloween!