Sweet and salty, rich and buttery, fragrant with freshly popped corn—this ice cream is an easy choice for movie night.
Note: When it comes to popcorn, homemade is best for out-of-hand snacking, but fake butter microwavable popcorn is better for this ice cream. Its hydrogenated butter-flavored oils carry more "buttered popcorn" flavor than real butter, and they freeze less hard and clumpy. Since popcorn brands vary in salt levels, add salt to your ice cream to taste in small increments.
The scoop you see in the photo above is studded with some Cracker Jacks for extra-corny flavor, and while I'm happy to have them in there, I'm calling the addition optional. Despite their sugar coating, the Cracker Jacks collapse and lose their crisp crunch in the ice cream. If you don't mind chewy, ice-cream-softened candied popcorn in your ice cream, the Cracker Jacks are a nice addition. If you're not on board, feel free to leave them out.
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- Yield:makes about 1 quart
- Active time: 1 hour
- Total time:2 hours, plus a 6 hour to overnight chill
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups freshly popped butter-flavored popcorn (see note)
- 6 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- Salt to taste
- Optional: 1 cup Cracker Jacks or caramel corn, chilled in freezer (see note)
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring milk and cream to a bare simmer. Remove from heat, stir in popcorn, cover, and let steep for 1 hour.
In a second heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until pale in color and slightly thickened. Chill in refrigerator until dairy has finished steeping.
Pour dairy through a fine mesh strainer into pot with egg-sugar mixture, then whisk rapidly until very well combined. Press on strained popcorn with a spoon against the strainer to squeeze out all remaining dairy.
Put saucepan on medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until a custard forms on the back of a spoon but a swiped finger across the back leaves a clean line. Add salt to taste in 1/4 teaspoon increments, then strain custard into an airtight container and chill overnight, or at least 6 hours.
The next day, churn according to manufacturer's instructions. If using Cracker Jacks or caramel corn, add them in the last few seconds of churning and let churn until well integrated. Transfer ice cream to container and chill in freezer for at least 3 to 4 hours before serving.