Last year for Christmas I took my team to Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant at Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, New York. For dessert, we ordered his famous salted caramel sundae. It’s sweet and salty peanut caramel popcorn, salted caramel ice cream, and chocolate sauce. It was so crazy delicious that I came right home and made my own version.
- 1 cup roasted, salted peanuts
- 4 cups plain (not butter-flavored) prepared microwave popcorn, such as Newman’s Own Natural
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel
- Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)
- 2 pints Talenti Sea Salt Caramel Gelato
- Sweetened Whipped Cream (recipe follows)
Chocolate Sauce (makes 1½ cups)
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules, such as Nescafé
Sweetened Whipped Cream (makes 2 cups)
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For peanut and popcorn brittle:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Spread the peanuts on a sheet pan and roast for 7 minutes, until they become fragrant. Pour into a medium bowl, add the popcorn, and set aside. Line the sheet pan with parchment paper.
3. Place the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium (10-inch) sauté pan and mix with a fork until all the sugar is moistened. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves — from this point on, don’t stir the caramel, swirl the pan! (Don’t worry if the mixture looks as though it’s crystallizing.) Continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes until it becomes a clear golden brown, swirling the pan constantly at the end. (Be careful, the caramel is very hot!) Off the heat, quickly add the corn syrup and vanilla (it will bubble up!) and swirl the pan to combine. Working quickly (the caramel will continue to cook in the pan), add the popcorn and nut mixture plus the kosher salt and toss with two large spoons until the popcorn and nuts are completely coated.
4. Pour the mixture plus any extra caramel in the pan onto the prepared sheet pan and spread the mixture out in one layer, pulling it apart with two forks. Sprinkle with the fleur de sel and set aside to cool. When it’s completely cooled, carefully break into large clusters with your hands.
Pro tip: When making caramel, if even a grain of sugar drops into the hot mixture, it may cause the caramel to solidify. While you’re cooking the mixture, use a wet brush to brush down any stray grains of sugar on the side of the pan.
Make ahead: Prepare the peanut and popcorn brittle and cool completely. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to a week.
For the chocolate sauce:
Place the chocolate, cream, corn syrup, and coffee in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Be sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Serve warm.
Pro tip: When chocolate burns, it will seize and turn grainy. Heat it only until it melts, then take the bowl off the double boiler.
Make ahead: You can keep the sauce warm for up to an hour in a double boiler over simmering water.
For the whipped cream:
Pour the cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat on high speed until the cream forms soft peaks.
Pour puddles of chocolate sauce into shallow bowls. For each serving, place 3 small scoops of gelato on the chocolate sauce, sprinkle with some of the caramelized popcorn, and add a dollop of the sweetened whipped cream in the middle. Serve immediately.