Buttered Popcorn Gelato

small dish of buttered popcorn gelato with caramel popcorn on top

3 words: Buttered Popcorn Gelato. Are you in?! Heck yes you are. This is (microwaveable) buttery, slightly salty, popcorn soaked in milk and cream (more milk than cream b/c it’s gelato and we fancy), combined with brown sugar and egg yolks to become the creamiest, richest, borderline fluffy custard that’s then churned away into Popcorn Wonderland. (Disclaimer: this trip to Popcorn Wonderland requires an overnight stay in the fridge. Gotta chill that custard, babe.) If you really want to make this dessert true magic, make the honey-brown sugar-caramel corn to go on top. Real talk though, you are already magic for making gelato… hellooooo. ✨

2 small dish of buttered popcorn gelato with caramel popcorn on top

This recipe is where my ice cream machine met its destiny. It was born for this. I was born for this. And if there is ever a reason to buy an ice cream machine, this is it. Truth: I can’t promise you’ll get the same lush, alluring textural result with any method other than using an ice cream machine. Sorry. The good news is, I’ve been using this one from Cuisinart for 7 years; it only requires the flip of a switch to operate, and it costs less than $70. (*These are a guaranteed gift-giving win. At least 3 people in my life have given or received one, always to great success.)

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Buttered Popcorn Gelato

2 small dishes of buttered popcorn gelato with caramel popcorn on top

The creamiest, most silky-smooth gelato flavored with caramely brown sugar and buttered popcorn (hint: you steep the popcorn in the milk and cream! So Good!)

  • Author: Megan
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes/overnight
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 C whole milk
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 1 bag of microwaveable popcorn w/ butter (I used Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter Popcorn b/c there are no artificial ingredients)
  • 3/4 C brown sugar, divided
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1/4 t salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Pop the popcorn in the microwave. Combine the milk and cream in a sauce pan over low heat and add the popcorn. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, into a bowl and discard the popcorn.
  2. Return the milk/cream mixture to the sauce pan and add 1/2 a cup of the brown sugar. Cook, stirring, over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat.
  3. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup of the brown sugar with an electric mixer until it is thick and light yellow – about 4 minutes. Add 1/2 a cup of the milk/cream mixture to the egg yolk mixture and stir to combine. Pour this into the sauce pan with the rest of the milk/cream mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for about 8 minutes or until the mixture is thick and when you coat the back of a spoon with it, you can draw a line through it with your finger. Add the vanilla and salt to taste. (The eggs are cooked at this point; it’s ok to taste.)
  4. Strain this mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill overnight.
  5. Add the chilled mixture to your ice cream machine and churn for about 30 minutes or according to manufacturer instructions. (Start tasting it after about 25 minutes to check the texture; gelato is naturally a little looser than ice cream but it should be thick and not super runny.)

Notes

If you want to make the caramel corn garnish shown in the picture: Pop another bag of popcorn in the microwave. Melt 1/4 C of brown sugar and 1T of honey in a large sauce pan over low heat; stir constantly with a rubber spatula until it becomes the consistency of caramel. Add about 1/2 the bag of popcorn and stir to combine. Let cool before touching!

The idea for this recipe came from Yotam Ottolenghi’s gorgeous cookbook, Nopi. Except, I made it faster/easier, made it gelato instead of ice cream (because creamy-silky-smoothness is my jam), and I used brown sugar for more of a caramelly flavor, kinda like caramel corn.

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