Welcome to Celebrity Chef, a column from Refinery29 where we embark on a culinary mission to find, make, and try recipes and food hacks from our favorite stars. No flavor combination is too wacky, no tip or trick too bold, and no questionable creation goes un-tasted.
Did you know that Hollywood actress-model-singer-bombshell Scarlett Johansson is, among other things, also the proud owner of a Parisian popcorn shop? I didn't. In fact, it was just last week when People Magazine posted about miss Jo's favorite flavor that I first heard of such a fantastical thing. Celebrities, France, popcorn — why the hell not?! The chic snack store, befittingly named Yummy Pop, was born out of a partnership between the actress and her (now) ex-husband and boasts an array of festive flavors. The most festive of all? Well, it just so happens to be Scar Jo's fave and therefore the one I endeavored to recreate: Salted Caramel & Chocolate Hazelnut (recipe below).
On first consideration this flavor sounded tasty, but it also gave me pause: salted caramel AND chocolate hazelnut? Why not simply one or the other...But, as Johansson told People, this particular pop is so special precisely because "the hazelnut flavor of the chocolate and the nutty flavor popcorn are a perfect compliment..." So although I was slightly wary about there being a bit too much at play here (in my humble popped corn opinion), I opened my mind, my heart, and my kitchen to the possibilities of this sweet mashup.
The ingredient list was more or less straightforward, and many of the items I already possessed on the baking shelf of my cupboard. As I followed Scar Jo's instructions and brewed the light brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt, vanilla extract, and baking soda in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, I couldn't help but feel like I was taking part a brownie-making meets chemistry class experiment. This was thanks to the fact that the mixture nearly instantly foamed up, bubbled over, solidified, singed, and smoked up my stovetop. While all of that was occurring, I was also attempting to pop the corn on another burner, make sure the oven was preheated, and prep a baking sheet for spreading. I managed to get the kernels fully popped without any burning (I'm a p-corn pro, nbd), the oven was warm, the sheet was ready — but the sauce? The sauce was a situation. As soon as I added in the Nutella, things got weird. The previously foamy substance before me clumped and curdled, but I pushed on and proceeded to coat the popcorn with it and then stick it in the oven.
Once removed from the oven, the result was puzzling: A sheet pan of popcorn buried beneath a mound of what appeared to be bubbling burnt brownie batter. I gave a last ditch effort to mix it around, let it cool, and then popped it in a bowl for sampling. The taste was distinctively chocolatey and salted with no real hints of caramel at all. And the texture was that of burnt brownie crumbs that had somehow adhered themselves to popcorn pieces (or as my coworkers deemed, styrofoam). Did I eat it? Yes. Would I purchase it from a fancy French shop? TBD. But it was decent and I didn't hate it.
I will close with the star's claim that "Everything is better when it's smothered in Nutella — especially popcorn." However true, this may not be the case for me, my small Brooklyn kitchen, and my caramel sauce skills (or lack thereof). Next time, I'll be leaving the fancy popcorn mashups to seasoned hands of Scar Jo and Yummy Pop. So here's to keeping my popcorn separate and my Nutella spooned straight from jar-to-mouth. No burning, brewing, stewing, required.