If you ask us to quickly name two things we really like eating, the words cheesecake and popcorn would immediately come to mind. So naturally we wondered if we could make a cheesecake popcorn. Of course we can, what a silly question.
We sat down to create the recipe by thinking of the key flavors and ingredients of cheesecake and those are sugar, cream cheese and the graham cracker crust. Those get bound together with a custard of eggs and sour cream when baking a cheesecake so we needed to find another base for those flavors. A form of caramel seemed ideal because it uses sugar and dairy, usually heavy cream. So could we substitute some of the heavy cream with cream cheese? Well, we tried it and we loved it.
The caramel takes on an enriched, extra creamy cheesecake style flavor that, quite frankly, we’d be happy to just eat with a spoon. But in between spoonfuls, we stirred in some of our freshly popped Move Theater style popcorn and then spread it out on a sheet pan to dry. We added crumbled graham crackers to represent the crust and we had ourselves a cheesecake flavored popcorn snack.
It’s really tempting to just eat this right off the sheet pan where its drying but, if you can manage to resist, it will be so much better after the cheesecake caramel coating has dried and adhered to the popcorn. Or, if you can’t resist, maybe make a double batch so you can have your snack both now and later. We may or may not do it that way around here. We’re not telling but we also won’t be judging.
Add the granulated sugar and water to a heavy bottom pot and place over medium low heat. Allow the sugar to melt but resist stirring the mixture so as not to cause crystals to form. Once the sugar has melted, you can stir and continue cooking until it begins to brown. Do NOT walk away from the stove because caramel can go from not done to burned very quickly.
When the mixture is a light golden brown, whisk in the heavy cream and butter. The mixture will bubble and may form lumps but keep whisking until smooth. Then whisk in the cream cheese and sea salt. If you notice the mixture getting too dark, remove it from the heat and keep stirring.
When the cream cheese caramel is smooth, stir in the popcorn and spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to cool and slightly harden. Sprinkle on the crumbled graham crackers and store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Note: If you want the popcorn to be crunchier, bake the mixture for 10 minutes in a pre-heated 300 degree F oven and allow to cool.
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