I found a copycat recipe for Cracker Jack and discovered the secret ingredients: popcorn, caramel, brown sugar, molasses, and redskin peanuts. I’ve done a popcorn inspired ice cream with great success, so that’s what I’ll use for my base. Caramel is an easy addition using LorAnn Oils Flavor Fountain Flavorings and I’ll add some molasses and brown sugar flavorings, too. Spanish redskin peanuts were a little difficult to find, but I eventually tracked them down at Walmart.
I think this recipe came out really good! Now, I admit that the caramel tastes a little “burnt,” but to me, that’s how Cracker Jack is supposed to taste. My wife didn’t like it regardless of its alleged authentic flavor. My first batch used a full tablespoon of salted caramel flavoring. The second batch used half tablespoon each of salted caramel and caramel delight, which better balances the overall caramel experience. The redskin peanuts are a must! Their small size make them the perfect mix-in for ice cream. The downside are the annoying red skins because they make a mess. I consider the popcorn flavoring as mandatory since I think it’s needed due to the strength of the other flavorings being added. The ice cream came up a little short for a quart of ice cream both times I made it, but I’m not sure why. I think the popcorn absorbed too much liquid.
UPDATE 2018-6-6: I replaced the brown sugar flavoring with burnt sugar flavor extract made by Natures Flavors.
5-6 cups (56 g) movie theater style popcorn, popped
2 cups (476 g) heavy cream, divided
1 cup (242 g) Trader Joe’s Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk
4 tablespoons LC Foods Milk Powder (optional)
1½ tablespoons Truvia
1 tablespoon (20 g) blackstrap molasses
5 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon salt
21 drops EZ-Sweetz
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum or ½ teaspoon Dixie Diner’s Thick It Up Low Carb Thickener
1 tablespoon (18 g) vegetable glycerin
48 drops Capella Flavor Drops Popcorn Concentrate
½ tablespoon LorAnn Oils Flavor Fountain Flavorings, Salted Caramel
½ tablespoon LorAnn Oils Flavor Fountain Flavorings, Caramel Delight
½ teaspoon burnt sugar flavor extract
½ cup (74 g) Spanish redskin peanuts
½ oz (14 g or approx 5 pieces) Just The Cheese Popped Cheese, Butter
- Cut the cheese puffs in half. Add them and peanuts to empty ice cream container.
Store container upright in the freezer now. This serves two purposes: it keeps the container cold and it forces you to make sure that there’s space in the freezer.
- The volume to weight ratio of popped popcorn is specified as 2 cups per ounce on the packaging. However, it’s obviously off:
Use a food scale to measure 56 g, if possible.
- In a small pot, add 1 cup of heavy cream (232 g), the unsweetened almond milk, Truvia, salt, molasses, and popped popcorn. Stir with a spatula to get the popcorn soaked with cream and milk.
Heat on stove top at medium heat until it reaches approximately 200 °F while stirring periodically. Remove from heat and cover tightly. Let it steep for 1 hour.
- Rewarm the popcorn-infused mixture on medium-low to about 170 °F to 175 °F. Set a mesh strainer over a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup and strain the popcorn-infused liquid through the strainer. Press down on the popcorn very firmly with a flexible rubber spatula to extract as much of the flavor from it as possible. Scrape out any remnants from the pot using the spatula and pour the popcorn-infused liquid back into the pot and return it to the heat. Discard the strained popcorn. Add the milk powder if you have it.
- Add the egg yolks to the 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup and whisk them together. Slowly pour the warm popcorn-infused mixture (170 °F to 175 °F) into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolk mixture back into the pot and return it to the stove top. Add the remaining 1 cup (232 g) heavy cream, and EZ-Sweetz to the Pyrex measuring cup, and put the strainer on top of it.
- Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. The temperature should not exceed 175 °F. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Mix in the xanthan gum or Dixie Diner’s Thick It Up Low Carb Thickener, glycerin, and popcorn flavoring drops. Mix in brown sugar flavoring and LorAnn Oils Flavor Fountain Flavorings, Salted Caramel and Caramel Delight.
Stir until cool over an ice bath.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator until ready.
- Follow your ice cream maker’s directions for making ice cream. Remove from the ice cream using a silicone spatula and add some to the container. Sprinkle in some cheese puffs and peanuts then cover with more ice cream. Repeat until container is full. Freeze until solid.