Spicy Caramel Popcorn

20 cups freshly popped corn (from 3/4 cup popping corn)
4 cups sweetened puffed-corn cereal, such as Corn Pops
1 1/2 cups salted roasted peanuts
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder


In a very large, lightly oiled bowl, toss the popped corn with the corn cereal and peanuts.

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar with the corn syrup, butter, water, vanilla bean and seeds. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the syrup registers 295? (hard-crack stage) on a candy thermometer, about 18 minutes. Stir in the salt and chipotle powder.

Immediately pour the hot syrup over the popcorn mix. Using a lightly oiled wooden spoon, stir to coat. Working quickly, scrape the popcorn onto a large sheet of lightly oiled parchment paper. Discard the vanilla bean. Wearing lightly oiled sturdy rubber gloves and using a very large, lightly oiled ice cream scoop (1/4 cup), form thirty-six 2-inch-wide balls, pressing lightly without compacting. Transfer the balls to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Let cool completely before serving.