I live with a candy corn enthusiast. When I got a head cold last year and I sent him to the pharmacy to get medicine, he also brought back sour tropical candy corn that tasted lightly of vomit. Alas, it did not cure my sinus troubles. Another time, he came home from a quest for toilet paper with Brach’s now infamous Thanksgiving Feast candy corn. (Much to my surprise, the green bean flavor tasted the least like food.)
Candy corn on its own doesn’t thrill me, personally, but I’m not offended by it. It’s always struck me as fun in a lightly malicious way, as though some mad food scientist dared to ask the question, “What if we combined three types of sugar, then melted and shaped the goo into tooth-shaped morsels?” and then had the gall to do it.
On the kernel level, candy corn is too small and creepy to chew, and it bears colors that nature has warned us not to eat. Its flavor profile is limited to one note: sugar, corn syrup, and honey all coming together to form a wall of sweetness.
Recently, in a quest to get rid of the dregs of our Halloween candy, I melted down a bag of classic candy corn and transformed it into an ice cream. The process was far simpler than any other custard-based homemade ice cream I’ve attempted, but the result was far more pleasing than I could’ve dreamed. Mellowed and chilled with milk and heavy cream, the candy corn didn’t become merely palatable. It was delicious.
Melted candy corn provides an excellent base for my favorite type of dessert. After all, if you want to churn up smooth ice cream at home, it’s generally accepted that you need three things:
High butterfat dairy products. More butterfat = more volume.
A cold base. This will help create smaller ice crystals, which provide a more pleasing gustatory experience.
A high-viscosity liquid sweetener. Put your qualms aside: corn-based syrup—or candy corn slurry—is ideal.
This three-ingredient recipe requires far less work than whipping up a custard from scratch, which is great news for home bakers because that’s the hardest part of most homemade ice cream recipes.
While I encourage you to make this recipe using whatever leftover candy corn you have on hand, I recognize that some people may be inexplicably inspired to go out and purchase a new bag of the stuff. For these folks, two notes: Brach’s is best, and freshness doesn’t matter.
Candy Corn Ice Cream
Yield: 1 quart
Active time: 40 minutes
Total time: At least 6.5 hours
1 ½ cups heavy cream (divided)
¾ cup whole milk
1 ½ cups candy corn (divided)
In a pot over medium heat, combine ¾ cup heavy cream with ¾ cup candy corn. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula. Do not let the milk boil, and don’t let the candy stick to the pot, unless you wish to experiment with burned candy corn.
As the cream heats, it will pass through a shade like persimmon into an alarming tone of orange not unlike a construction cone. The scents emanating from the pot will smell strongly of, well, molten candy corn. Don’t be put off—this will dissipate. When the candy has fully dissolved, remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.
Stir in the remaining ¾ cup of heavy cream and ¾ cup of whole milk. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Give this mixture at least 3 hours to mature. I like to speed up the process by placing the bowl in an ice bath in the fridge. I have no proof that this makes a difference, but it makes me feel like I’m really trying my best to chill the base.
Set your ice cream maker to “Stir” and pour the mixture into the bowl of your pre-chilled insulated freezer bowl. (I use a KitchenAid attachment, but this recipe should work with any ice cream machine.) Stir for 17 minutes, at which point the mixture should have the texture and appearance of soft serve ice cream.
While you wait, you may wish to attempt to dice the remaining ¾ cup of candy corn and add it to the bowl of the ice cream mixer. Candy corn doesn’t like to be cut, but it can be done.
Continue to stir the mixture for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 3 hours before serving.
I assume that like most homemade ice cream, the final product should be good for 5 to 7 days in the freezer, but I’ve never had the opportunity to test it after more than 3 days.
This ice cream pairs well with chocolate. It’s lovely in a brownie sundae or in the middle of an ice cream sandwich. For the latter, I recommend Smitten Kitchen’s Brownie Roll-Out cookies or any leftover sugar cookies you have around the house. ’Tis the season.