Popcorn-Obsessed Pastry Chef Bakes Her Way Through 50-Pound Bags of Kernels

Popcorn sundae at New York City's North End Grill © Derek Edward Pfohl.
By Chelsea Morse Posted January 26, 2015

Pastry chef Tracy Obolsky goes through popcorn in 50-pound bags at North End Grill to create nostalgic desserts like her popcorn sundae. Her newest creation is just about to hit the menu: the popcorn soufflé with salted butterscotch sauce.

“Who doesn’t love popcorn?” says pastry chef Tracy Obolsky. “Going to the movies growing up, I remember loving the salty popcorn with extra butter—so much butter that it was wet.” Now she goes through popcorn in 50-pound bags at North End Grill, where she translates her snack obsession into nostalgic, sweet creations for the dessert menu. Her latest stroke of inspiration: an outrageously good popcorn soufflé. Here, she describes the path of her addiction:

“My popcorn obsession started the first time I made a sweet corn panna cotta with candied popcorn as a garnish—the interplay of textures was so great. After that, I resolved to make popcorn ice cream, but I wanted it to be smooth and to taste like popcorn without just copping out and tossing chunks of popcorn into a vanilla base. Once I’d created the popcorn ice cream, I thought, ‘Wow, this would make a great sundae.’ So I ended up making a popcorn sundae with popcorn-flavored ice cream (made with real, freshly popped popcorn) with chunks of homemade popcorn financier, drizzled with salted butterscotch sauce and topped with black pepper whipped cream.

With the sundae, I realized that you can do a lot more with popcorn than just make ice cream. That’s when the soufflé came into play. Over three weeks, I tested out eight different recipes, looking to achieve the buttery-salty popcorn flavor but with the lightness of the soufflé. I spent a lot of time adjusting ratios and playing around...grinding the popcorn finer, trying different temperatures and times. The popcorn is actually incorporated into the mixture, which could cause the meringue to deflate, so it’s a very delicate balance—it’s kind of like an ecosystem where one change affects everything else. When I first made it, it looked like a muffin—I don’t want to make muffins! I want to make a truly delicious, iconic soufflé! After many weeks, we arrived at the final result: a popcorn soufflé with salted butterscotch sauce, candied popcorn and vanilla pink peppercorn ice cream. I finally got it right.” northendgrill.com.

Other popcorn desserts we're craving:

Popcorn beignets with pineapple, espelette pepper meringue and popcorn ice cream at Little Bird Bistro in Portland, Oregon.

Buttered popcorn pot de crème at The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland (which inspired the pudding recipe here).

Winter White sundae with popcorn ice cream, coconut and white mocha sauce at Park Avenue Winter in New York City.

Related: Popcorn Recipes
Ice Cream Sundaes
America's Best Salty-Sweet Desserts

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