I don’t enjoy sandwiches. They give me unwanted flashbacks of dehydrated sandwiches served during work meetings. And also they remind me of work so that’s another good reason for my aversion to them.
This brings me to these salted candied popcorn and caramel parfait sandwiches. I know it sounds slightly repulsive because the word sandwich indicates that bread may be involved, which would obviously not be very appetising in a dessert. And parfait is just a fancy word for ice cream in this case, so don’t get confused with the chicken liver parfait I made a few weeks ago. Even after I told my friend Nic about my plans to make them (and he who knows everything about food), he was still somewhat perplexed about what the hell this was going to look like and diplomatically opted to wait and see the photos.
I’m not going to lie, I made the process harder for myself when I decided to create individual little round sandwiches instead of just making a single slab and cutting it into bars as suggested. The choice is yours depending on your level of sanity. The salted candied popcorn rounds look suspiciously like those cardboard-flavoured corn cakes that people on diets eat with cottage cheese on top. These are definitely not the same thing so you need to remove that psychological notion from your brain because these corn cakes are held together with a honey buttery salty sugary caramel. I also doubled the original recipe because if I’m going to slave away on something, it had better yield copious amounts to make it worth my while, damn it. Besides, twelve ice cream sandwiches is hardly an obscene amount. It’s only one per day for not even two whole weeks.
The idea for these was brought to my attention by my new friend Wendy, who like me, is also very particular when it comes to desserts. Be careful not to make the popcorn rounds or the caramel parfaits too thick because once you put them together, you need to be able to get your mouth around them without dislocating your jaw in order to do so. I confess that I tested the size by pretending to eat one just to ensure that I could open my mouth wide enough to fit it in. I could, in case you were wondering.
These “sandwiches” are extremely satisfying because I’m one of those people that needs to eat something sweet after eating something salty and vice versa. This pretty much means I am eating all day long to counteract what I just ate. Such a vicious circle.
Salted Candied Popcorn & Caramel Parfait Sandwiches
adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Salted Candied popcorn
2 tbsp vegetable oil
100gm popping corn
100g caster sugar
100g butter, coarsely chopped
60 gm honey
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes
800 ml pouring cream
Scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean
300 gm caster sugar
8 egg yolks
200g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa
For caramel parfait, combine 150ml cream and vanilla seeds in a small saucepan over low heat, stir occasionally until warm. Whisk yolks in an electric mixer on medium-high speed until pale and doubled in volume. Meanwhile, heat a saucepan over high heat until hot, add sugar (it should start to melt then colour) and swirl pan occasionally until sugar is dissolved and dark amber in colour (3-5 minutes). Do not leave unattended as sugar can burn very quickly. Gradually add warm cream (be careful as hot caramel may spit), stirring to combine. Decrease mixer speed to medium-low and slowly pour in hot caramel down side of bowl. Increase speed to medium-high and whisk until cool (6-8 minutes). Whisk remaining cream in a bowl to stiff peaks, then fold into yolk mixture in three batches. Line your desired shape cake/muffin tin as used earlier to make the popcorn and pour in caramel mixture. Freeze until firm (3-5 hours).
For candied popcorn, heat a large saucepan over high heat, add oil, then corn, quickly cover with a lid and shake pan occasionally until all corn has popped (2-4 minutes). Transfer popcorn to a tray and cool to room temperature (10-15 minutes), discard unpopped kernels. Combine sugar, butter and honey in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stir until sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and boil until caramel (3-5 minutes). Add popcorn, stir to coat, then divide between a 2 x 12 cup muffin tins or a 2 x square cake tins and press candied popcorn into tins. Sprinkle each popcorn round/slab with sea salt. Stand until cool, then remove from tins and place on a tray until required. Repeat this process if you don’t have 2 tins.
Remove caramel parfaits from freezer and sandwich caramel parfaits between two sheets of popcorn. Return to freezer and freeze until very firm (3-5 hours), then cut into bars (if required).
Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (4-5 minutes), and keep warm. Dip one end of each parfait sandwich in the chocolate, place on sheet of greaseproof paper and freeze until ready to serve.