This ice cream tastes like the movies, like settling down into a seat in a dark theatre, the film flickering on the screen. The taste is a little surprising – sweet and savoury. The buttery flavour of the popcorn carries right through the ice cream. Popcorn is steeped in the custard the ice cream is made from, so once it’s removed the rich buttery flavour is held. Served topped with the salty crunch of fresh popcorn (or as we first had it, with a salty caramel sauce), it’s incredibly good.
We first ate this ice cream in the Californian desert, at La Quinta, in a beautiful restaurant in the original La Quinta resort, which was built in the twenties and still has the essence of that old school Hollywood glamour. Then, it was quiet hacienda that drew the likes of Greta Garbo up the winding roads from the Californian coast. Now, there is a freeway that cuts right through the mountains, after passing through a valley of wind turbines, the arms lazily turning giant circles in the prevailing winds. La Quinta is surrounded by golf courses, the green green grass and palm trees of Palm Springs resplendent against the red hills that surround it.
We loved it, the desert and canyons are only moments away, the Mexican influence, the margaritas in Mason jars, the modernist houses set up against the craggy rock faces and the green suburbia, surreal as a dream. This ice cream is as strange and compelling as the landscape. I really didn’t expect to love it, or Palm Springs as much as I did.
Buttered Popcorn Ice Cream
(Adapted from a recipe that Jimmy Schmidt, head chef at Morgan’s, was kind enough to share with us at La Quinta Resort, California.)
1/4 cup popping corn
4 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp butter
1 cup of full cream milk
1 cup of pure cream
5 free-range egg yolks
1/2 cup of caster sugar
In a heavy based saucepan heat the canola oil. It should be hot enough that when you place a popping corn in the oil it sizzles and spins. When the oil is hot pour the popping corn in and place a lid on the pan tightly. Lower the heat to medium. The popcorn should start popping. When the popping slows, turn the heat off. Stir the tablespoon of butter in with the popped corn. Set aside to cool.
Place the milk and cream in a heavy based saucepan, add the cooked popcorn. Warm on a low heat until it reaches 70 degrees (or warm but not boiling – this is important). Meanwhile, whisk the sugar and egg yolks until combined and foamy in a separate bowl.
When the mixture reaches the correct temperature strain the liquid into a bowl, discarding the popcorn. Add the egg yolks to the milk mixture. Wash your saucepan and place the mixture back on a low heat. Stir the mixture constantly and when the custard is thickening and covering the back of your wooden spoon, remove from heat and place in a container suitable for the freezer. Place the mixture in the freezer and stir every hour or so, making sure to scrape the icy bits from the side of the bowl, until it reaches an ice cream consistency. This should take a few hours depending on your freezer. Alternatively, churn in an ice cream maker until it reaches the desired consistency.