Preheat oven to 250° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Prepare popcorn: Add ¼ cup oil (or just enough oil to cover the
bottom) to a large pot over medium-high heat. Add ¼ cup popcorn kernels.
Cover and pop. To avoid unpopped kernels, give the pot a little shake
during the popping, so unpopped kernels fall to the bottom. When popping
sound slows down, remove pot from heat. Wait until the popping sounds
completely stop and transfer popcorn to an extra large bowl.
Prepare the chocolate sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium-high
heat, combine sugar, cocoa, margarine, and corn syrup. Stir constantly
as the margarine melts and the mixture comes to a boil. Let boil 2
Continue stirring constantly. Remove from heat and quickly add
vanilla and baking soda. Immediately add sauce to the still-warm
popcorn, and stir to thoroughly coat. I like to use a rubber glove or
plastic bag over my hand to mix the sauce and popcorn more thoroughly
than I could with a spoon. Spread popcorn on baking sheet and bake
about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until popcorn is crunchy.
Assembly: Add chocolate-covered nuts to the popcorn.
Variation: Vanilla Bean Popcorn. Replace cocoa with additional ¼ cup
sugar and vanilla extract with one vanilla bean, scraped.Replace
chocolate covered peanuts with
yogurt covered nuts or pretzels.