Our second interview is with Jeni Britton Bauer the founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams whose cookbook Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home came out last month and recently made it on to the New York Times Best Seller List. You can find Jeni’s splendid ice creams in her shops in Ohio and Tennessee, as well as online and in select grocery stores around the country.
How did you get started making ice cream?
Jeni: I started making ice creams from scratch 15 years ago behind one dipping cabinet in the North Market in Columbus, Ohio. I was an art student at the time and fell in love with telling stories through flavors. The first flavor I made was Queen City Cayenne, a nod to Columbus’ neighbor, Cincinnati. Working every day in the market I was surrounded by fresh, local ingredients as well as exotic flavors from around the world, which is how Thai Chili (now Bangkok Peanut) came about. I love ice cream, but I’ve also always loved telling the stories of people, places, and ingredients through ice cream.
Which flavor do you crave most often?
Jeni: My favorite flavor all year is Lemon Yogurt. It’s simple, zesty and fresh. I love it with Dark Chocolate.
Is there one flavor that you will never make again?
Jeni: Smoked Banana. I may revisit it some day, but for now, I can still taste the smoke in the worst ways. I’m always tweaking and revising my flavors. I have a few I am working on now that aren’t ready to go but will be after some more testing and tweaking.
What tips would you give to someone who is just getting started with homemade ice cream?
Jeni: Making great ice creams is all about using the best ingredients you can find and following your own curiosities. And never be afraid to fail. You can always start over. Here are my five favorite tricks from my years of making ice creams.
1. Be sure your ice cream canister is thoroughly dry and frozen. If you have time, allow it to freeze in the coldest part of your freezer overnight, which will let your ice cream base solidify very quickly and will also help eliminate the formation of ice crystals in the machine.
2. When cooling your ice cream base, it’s best to use a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag. They are sturdy enough to hold the hot base after it boils and pliable enough to help the ice cream base quickly cool down in an ice bath or overnight in your refrigerator.
3. Transferring your ice cream from the canister to a storage container should be done as quickly as possible using a pre-frozen container and a wooden paddle. If the container is the same temperature as the frozen base, it will eliminate melting while you transfer. You also do not want to scratch the ice cream canister when scooping out the frozen base into a storage container. A wooden paddle or spoon will help you here.
4. If you are interested in packing a variegate like swirling a sauce or mixing in a homemade streusel or homemade marshmallows into your ice creams, do this at the same time you transfer your frozen base into a pre-chilled storage container. I like to alternate layers of fresh ice cream and variegate, starting and ending the layering process with a generous spreading of variegate. These alternating layers will form bursts of flavor pockets throughout the batch as the ice cream hardens in your freezer and flavors bloom and bind to the butterfat in the ice cream.
5. When freezing your ice cream in your ice cream machine with a well-frozen canister, don’t turn off the machine until the entire batch of ice cream has begun to pull away from the sides of the canister. If you end the freezing process too soon and transfer the partially frozen ice cream into a storage container, its texture and consistency will not be very scoop-able.
Jeni was also kind enough to share a recipe from her book with us:
Sweet Corn & Black Raspberry Ice Cream
A sublime summer match—initial hits of milky sweet corn give way to the floral nose of sweet black raspberry.
Ohio sweet corn is milky-tasting and shockingly sweet. I like to eat it raw straight off the truck. We add sea salt and fresh cream and milk to make a delightful peak-harvest ice cream, then swirl it with black raspberry sauce. This is the taste of summertime in Ohio, especially in Columbus, where this flavor has had a loyal following since I first made it over ten years ago.
Sweet corn ice cream is delicious on its own. My initial reason for adding black raspberries was visual, but black raspberries offer a perfect sweet-tart perfume to the flavor (complementary colors often make complementary flavors). If you can’t find good black raspberries for the sauce (some years they are all seeds—don’t bother), use half blackberries and half red raspberries, so the color is still a deep purple to complement the yellow corn.
Makes a generous 1 quart
1 ear sweet corn, husked
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
Black Raspberry Sauce (see below)
Pairs well with: Blue corn cakes with lots of powdered sugar and Queen City Cayenne Ice Cream. Bumbleberry crumble. Honey Butterscotch Sauce.
Slice the kernels from the corn cob, then “milk” the cob by scraping it with the back of your knife to extract the liquid; reserve the kernels and liquid.
Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.
Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn and juices, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and force the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, leaving the corn “cases” behind. Return the mixture to the saucepan and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.
Pack the ice cream into a storage container, alternating it with layers of the black raspberry sauce and ending with a spoonful of sauce; do not mix. Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.
Black Raspberry Sauce
This sauce will not freeze fully when it’s frozen, so it’s perfect to swirl through any ice cream.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
2 cups black raspberries
1 cup sugar
Combine the berries and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 220°F (5 to 8 minutes). Let cool slightly, then force through a sieve to remove the seeds. (Or leave a few seeds in there just to prove you made it.) Refrigerate until cold before using.
Excerpted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer (Artisan Books). Copyright 2011.