Popcorn Ice Cream

popcorn ice cream recipe corn salted cinema sweet buttered popcorn frozen custard

I know, I know: only two posts ago I was offering up another ice cream recipe, and in fact, this will be my fourth in the last six months. I’ll hold my hands up to it: I’ve become obsessed.

Of all the things I’ve learned how to make over the last four years, I would never have guessed ice cream would be the thing that kept me awake at night, littered the notes folder in my phone, or filled my freezer.

I’ve never really longed for ice cream: I’m not one of those people who disappears headfirst into a pint of Haagen Dazs when faced with heartbreak, menstruation, or a really good film. My chosen poison tends to be enormous bags of crisps, or a pizza twice as big as my head. But discovering ice cream as something I can make myself has changed that.

My little freezer groans with tupperwares of frozen custard in increasingly ridiculous flavours. It longs for fish fingers and sagging bags of petit pois and instead finds itself filled with pints of custard infused with tea and spices and buns and, now, popcorn. And my to-make list grows every day: from the trendy (bay leaf) to the trashy (caramac). Next on my agenda is mastering the sorbet, with a wish-list of fruits as long as my arm.

I’ve found that I really love the way ice creams will take on flavours and run with them: they go further than merely being a vehicle for them, they conjure up that which has flavoured them, and delight and evoke.

This ice cream absolutely delivers on the delighting and evoking. What was more surprising was that this ice cream ended up really quite sophisticated in taste. I assumed this would fall on the trashier end of the scale, unapologetically sweet and, in both senses, corny. But I was wrong: this ice cream is clean, impossibly smooth, and a clear popcorn flavour rises out of it. But there’s a slightly bitter note in popcorn that is easy to overlook when it’s doused with toffee or sweet butter; this comes through bright and strong in this ice cream, providing the perfect counterpoint to the sweetness – and it works particularly well with a similarly bittersweet salted caramel sauce.

popcorn ice cream recipe corn salted cinema sweet buttered popcorn frozen custard

It goes like this:

Popcorn Ice Cream

Makes: Just over a pint of ice cream
Takes: 1 hour plus 4 hours of freezing
Bakes: 15 minutes on the hob

300ml double cream
300ml milk
80g light brown sugar
5 egg yolks
80g popcorn

1. First, infuse your cream and milk. Place the cream and milk in a small pan, and pour the popcorn into it. It will initially seem like too much for the pan, but it will begin to soak up the milk and cream and, as it becomes soggy, will decrease in volume.

2. Bring the milk and cream up to the boil over a medium-low heat. At the first sign of bubbles, turn off the heat, cover, and leave for thirty minutes.

3. Place a piece of muslin or an unused dishcloth in a sieve, and the sieve over a bowl or jug. Carefully pour the popcorn infused mixture through the sieve. A lot of the liquid will have soaked into the kernels, so you’ll need to squeeze it quite a lot. Squeeeeeeeeze.

4. Reheat the cream until it is just shy of a boil. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until they are lighter in colour and thicker in texture, falling in ribbons from the whisk. Pour a quarter of the liquid into the sugar and eggs, whisking the whole time. Add the rest of the liquid, still whisking, and then return to the pan.

3. Cook very gently, stirring the whole time with a spatula, constantly moving the liquid on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the custard has thickened so that it covers the back of a metal spoon. First, the tiny bubbles will disappear, start testing on the back of a metal spoon when this has happened. The liquid will break apart on little spots on the spoon: this means that the eggs haven’t properly coagulated yet. When they do, there will be no spots, and you can run a finger down the back of the spoon, and a clean break will form between the sides of the liquid. You have custard!

4. Decant into a fridge-appropriate container, and cover with clingfilm, which should directly touch the surface of the custard. Chill.

5. Once the custard is thoroughly cold, you can churn your ice cream. If you have an ice cream maker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If not, pop the custard into the freezer and, at half hourly intervals, stir vigorously, breaking up the ice crystals.

6. When the ice cream has been churning for about thirty minutes and is very thick, like soft serve ice cream, remove from the machine and then decant into a suitable tub and place in your freezer.

7. Depending on the ferocity of your freezer, you may need to take the ice cream out about twenty minutes before serving, if you want big, handsome boules.

Icing on the Cake

We ate this in big bowls, drizzled with salted caramel sauce, and sprinkled with extra popcorn.

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