Edward Lee’s Popcorn Bread

December 16, 2017
5 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

This is a variation of cornbread that is light and nutty and nostalgic. I was eating a bag of popcorn at a local farmers market here in DC and I realized how much I like the little granules that end up in the bottom of the bag. They are tiny and salty and crunchy and remind me of eating popcorn in movie theaters when I was a kid. I got the idea to grind the popcorn into a course meal and use that as a base to make a loaf of bread instead of cornmeal. It makes a crumbly bread that feels like cornbread but it is lighter and fluffier on the inside. To make the movie theater memory more pronounced, I actually brush the tops of the bread with movie theater butter—that fake stuff that every movie theater uses on popcorn—it has that unmistakable artificial butter smell that actually makes me nostalgic.

When making this bread, don’t overwork the mixture. It should just come together in your hands. Also, it is important to use an organic popping corn. They taste a lot better than commercial popcorn. Eat and serve right away. It is best when warm. If it cools down just reheat in a low oven for 5 minutes or you can pop it in the microwave for 40 seconds.

Excerpted from Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2018. —Food52

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 3/4 tablespoon dry yeast
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 2 cups popped popcorn
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons artificial movie theater butter
  1. Combine water and milk in a small pot. Heat gently to 112°F. Transfer the liquid to a small bowl and stir in the yeast and sugar. Let the yeast activate for about 10 minutes.
  2. Run popcorn through a blender or food processor until it is the consistency of cornmeal. Reserve about 4 tablespoons. Transfer the rest to a large bowl.
  3. Add the yeast mixture to the ground popcorn and salt. Next, add the eggs and cooled melted butter. While stirring with a rubber spatula, fold in the flour a little at a time. Knead the dough by hand for 5 minutes. Transfer to a clean bowl that has been lightly greased. Cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm spot for 30 minutes.
  4. Check the dough, punch it down and let it rise once more.
  5. Put dough out onto a work surface. Separate into 2 equal pieces. Roll into shape and place in greased bread pans. Let rise again until doubled in size.
  6. Brush the top with movie theater butter and sprinkle some of the reserved ground popcorn.
  7. Bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes or until loaves are golden brown. Slice into thin slices.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Mother Daniel
    Mother Daniel
  • Megan
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  • Elizabeth

19 Reviews

ChaosPancake April 16, 2022
Overall this recipe was lacking, but the end product tasted good. It didn’t end up as dense as I thought it would be despite how little this dough actually rose/stayed risen. Definitely needs some small changes to keep it from just making two super flat loaves.
Mother D. March 23, 2018
I am planning on using kettle corn or Cracker Jacks, minus the 1/8C sugar. Can't think any reason there'd be anything wrong with that.
Danine W. January 6, 2018
After 3 cups of flour, the dough was still very sticky, and I probably used almost another whole cup while I was kneading it to make it a good dough. Is the dough supposed to be very sticky? Also, I found the measurements to be difficult. 3/4 of a tablespoon of yeast and 1/3 of a cup of butter. Is there a way to adjust this recipe so that the measurements are more standard? The dough is rising now, I will be interested to see how it turns out.
Alex T. February 3, 2018
mine is also extremely sticky! it's going through its second rise didn't really puff up...
Megan January 5, 2018
Step #4 is a touch vague - "let rise once more". For what amount of time, or to what level?
taxidog December 31, 2017
I bet you could get the same effect by adding a smidge of butter extract to real butter. That's my plan. I can’t wait to make this. I had popcorn ice cream once and I damn near died. It will be interesting to see what the texture will be.
Mike December 30, 2017
Would love to make this, but the instructions conflict with each other: "don't overwork the mixture. It should just come together in your hands" vs. "knead the dough by hand for 5 minutes." Any advice?
Megan December 30, 2017
Hmmm, that is odd! I didn’t see that in the author’s note until you mentioned it. Even the description of the final product conflicts a bit with the actual recipe in that traditional cornbread has more of a cake-like texture, but the recipe and instructions suggest the final product will end up like more of a yeast bread texture. I was personally more interested in the latter, and given the short rise times indicated in the recipe, I’m gonna go ahead and knead it to speed up gluten production.
Evonne December 29, 2017
I was hoping to get some clarification on the quantity of popcorn required. Is it 2 cups of popcorn kernels popped or 2 cups of popcorn already popped?
Evonne December 29, 2017
Oops never mind! I think I read through the recipe too quickly the first time. 2 cups already popped. Got it. Can't wait to try the results!
Gary M. December 29, 2017
Could I use rice flour, instead of ap? I have friends who have celiac or are gluten conscious. Would I need to add baking powder or soda, to the rice flour?
Winness December 25, 2017
OK, I struggled with posting this comment. Are you aware of just how unhealthy artificial movie theater butter really is? I think I can capture some nostalgia with butter and salt brushed on top of this bread that I plan to bake soon. But please read this:
Pam G. December 22, 2017
How much sugar?
Elizabeth August 20, 2019
1/8 cup = 2 Tbsp

But I would be inclined to use less. In fact, when I mixed the dough this morning, I accidentally on purpose forgot to put in any sugar at all.
Laura December 22, 2017
Couldn't you just brush the top with regular melted butter? I'd prefer that.
mary M. December 22, 2017
here's where you get it:
LW.ATX.78 December 21, 2017
Same question. Is this referring to Flavacol?
If so though, that's powder. How would you brush that on top?
emcsull December 21, 2017
where on earth to get artifical movie theater butter ?

Elizabeth August 20, 2019
The phrase "it is important to use an organic popping corn" really seems to clash with the instruction to slather the top of the just baked bread with "artificial movie theatre butter". It's not at all surprising that this ingredient is omitted in the recipe on page 42 of "Buttermilk Graffiti". But I do like the idea of brushing the top of the loaf with actual butter and sprinkling with extra crushed popcorn just before putting the bread in the oven. Surprisingly, this step does not appear in the book. I'm really glad to see it here and can't wait to try it. (Dough is mixed and rising now....)