Don’t you just love New York in the fall?
I can hear Tom Hanks’ voice in my head from the iconic You’ve Got Mail line whenever I walk down Michigan Avenue on my way to and from work, sun shining and tulips abloom, but rather asking:
Don’t you just love Chicago in the spring?
Spring, a loose definition.
While I do fancy myself a fall girl, I do love this time of the year when the city seems to come alive from its winter hibernation. The excitement never gets old. The same drill, year after year.
A few days ago, one of those “time hop” things showed up on my friend’s Facebook page with a law school graduation picture…”8 years ago today!” and I stopped in my tracks. 8 years. That’s a hella long time.
Time flies. At the speed of light.
I’ve lived in Chicago 8 years this May. I moved here “fresh of the boat,” so to speak, from my semester in London, with a broken foot, without a job and one friend in Apple Crisp. While I may still live on the same street on which I signed that first lease (true story), so much has changed. I’ve been able to maintain most of the friendships that I made that first year and have picked up many more along the way. I passed the bar, and have a grown-up job. I’ve made big girl purchases (car) and taken mind-blowing vacations. While a few pounds heavier, I still manage to wear the same size from back then and am still without any grey hairs (I got SOME good genes, it seems!). It’s been a good ride so far.
While an 8-year anniversary seems an odd thing to celebrate, I’m going to do it. Mostly because, with this week being somewhat cut short by my trip to Denver for Frites’ wedding, I don’t want to dive head first into Bolivia just yet. I suspect I’ll be coming back from Colorado with a recipe or two to share.
So, in an ode to Chicago and my 8 years here, I’m making a Chicago dish! A Chicago dish, Buddha-fied.
Chicago has some pretty iconic food: the “Chicago dog,” deep dish pizza, Italian beef, Garrett’s popcorn…I can’t say that I’m a fan of most. I’ve never had a Chicago dog, think deep dish pizza is pretty gross and Italian beef is just…meh. Garrett’s…I’ve give ya that. That is some addictive crack.
So that’s what I’m making today. With a twist, of course. Because I just made the pipoca, it seemed silly to make another variation on popcorn. It did NOT seem silly to try and turn it into an ice cream. And I’m not silly.
After doing some research, it seemed like a not-bad idea, and I figured I’d use the straightforward approach of infusing the cream with some cheddar popcorn and then swirling in some homemade brown butter caramel. And, because extraneous steps were necessary at the beginning, I’d use the handy-dandy no-churn approach for the rest.
And that’s where things started to get tricky.
Somehow, someway, the infusion of the cream with the popcorn changed its chemistry enough that the cream would not whip. Fifteen minutes later on high speed, I had little more than somewhat frothy cream, but no peaks in sight. Good thing I had already opened my can of sweetened condensed milk…planning fail. Because I don’t have magical powers that re-seal cans, I had to plow forward as originally planned, but ended up throwing that whole mixture into the churn. The result, probably from the sweetened condensed milk, left for a very soft serve ice cream. Not a bad thing, but not as expected.
Nevertheless, the flavor I wanted was still there. I decided to add the caramel in layers in the freezer container rather than swirl it in as the churn was running to try and maintain some of the integrity of the caramel rather than have it blend all in together. It worked a little bit. The final, soft-serve product tasted just as good as you’d expect a Chicago mix ice cream to be, even if the consistency did not end as planned. Still, a good alternative if you loathe the whole heat-milk-add-eggs-don’t-scramble-custard process that often times come with making proper, scoop-able ice cream.
I have no doubt I’ll be trying this again.
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 6 TB unsalted butter
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (pure, alcohol based)
- In a deep saucepan over medium-low heat, add the sugars and water and stir until dissolved. Once sugar crystals start to form, stop stirring.
- Let the sugar cook until it reaches 350F on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat.
- Add the butter, cream and salt, and stir until smooth and creamy, putting it back over low heat if necessary.
- You don't really need a candy thermometer. However, since the brown sugar added an amber color, I thought it would be harder to tell when it was done, and I didn't want it to burn. Thermometer to be safe.
- The addition of the vanilla was to ensure the caramel didn't get rock hard in the freezer. That'd ruin it for sure.
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup brown sugar salted caramel
- 3 cups cheddar popcorn
- In a medium saucepan, add the popcorn and the milk and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, add the vanilla and let infuse at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- When you’re ready to churn, strain the popcorn from the cream, squeezing out as much cream from the corn as you can. Combine the cream with the sweetened condensed milk, and give it a good whisk.
- Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions until thick, about 30-40 minutes.
- Place about 1 cup of the ice cream into a freezer canister. Layer about 1/3 of the caramel, and then add another layer of ice cream. Repeat until the caramel is all used up. Freeze until solid-ish, at least 4 hours.
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