Jeni’s Splendid Blank Canvas

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Every week, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Jeni Britton Bauer is the founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream and the author of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. To kick off next week’s Ice Cream Week at FOOD52 (that’s right — stay tuned!), Jeni shares the blueprint for making her famous, splendid ice cream.


Let me cut to the quick: I was never too excited about eating or making ice cream at home. Growing up in Illinois and Ohio, I can’t remember ever eating one bowl of homemade stuff that ever lived up to the hype. It was usually icy, eggy, slushy, and overly sweet, with little other flavor. Making ice cream at home was one of those “good, ol’ days” things that always seemed like a neat idea, but never tasted worth the effort—not when there was a Häagen-Dazs just around the corner and fully loaded with their dense, super creamy ice cream in a multitude of flavors.

But the thing is, you can make ice cream worth the effort at home. All it requires is a balancing act. Ice cream is a frozen emulsion of water, butterfat (the concentrated fat in milk), proteins (whey and casein), sugars, starch, air, and flavor ingredients. It’s the balance of ingredients that determines the sensory facets: taste, texture, body, and finish.

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When I set out to adapt my recipe to countertop machines to write Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, I wanted the homemade results to match both the texture and flavor of the ice creams we sell in our shops; I also wanted it to have the dense, creamy body that rolls beautifully into a frozen scoop and melts slowly like buttercream on your palate.

My home recipe requires a slightly unconventional balance of ingredients that work together to create what I call “American scoop shop ice cream” — hard-pack, scoopable, super creamy, and flavored any way you like it.

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Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Base
Makes 1 quart (2 pints)

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces cream cheese softened/room temperature
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

So you have an idea of what to do before jumping in, here’s an overview of the four steps you’ll take to make any ice cream flavor in my book.

Some ice creams will call for ingredients that must be made in advance. Recipes for roasted nuts, sauces, candies, and cakes can be found in Basics (page 191). Have these components chilled and ready to go before beginning the process.

24 hours before you want to make the ice cream, wash the canister, dry it well, and place it in the coldest part of the freezer. Do not remove it until you are ready to pour the chilled cream into it.

In a small bowl, mix about 2 tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry. In a medium bowl, add the salt and room-temperature cream cheese and whip all the bumps out. In a large bowl, make an ice bath (heavy on the ice) and set aside.

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Pour the milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and set a timer for precisely 4 minutes—the timing is critical. Turn off the heat and add the cornstarch slurry to the ice cream base in the pan.

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Incorporate the hot cream mixture into the cream cheese. Do this a little bit at a time so that you can whip out any lumps of cream cheese. Pour the hot ice cream base into a Ziploc bag and seal. Submerge in the ice bath until very cold.

12_How to Tell When Your Ice Cream is Done

Cut the corner off the bag, pour the chilled base into the ice cream machine, and turn on the machine. When finished, transfer to a storage container and freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

The ice cream is finished at the exact moment when the machine isn’t freezing the ice cream anymore; the ice cream will begin to pull away from the sides (about 25 minutes). If you stop too soon, there will be a thin layer of really dense ice cream on the sides of the canister (see photo). Sorbets are done when they achieve the consistency of a thick smoothie; they should be frozen enough to be just barely pourable. If you fully freeze sorbets, too much air will be whipped in and they will become fluffy and crumbly.

If you are packing the ice cream with a sauce (or variegate), alternate layers, creating pockets with the sauce. Be sure to put a bit on the bottom of the container and reserve some to put on the top of the ice cream. If you are adding chunks, layer them in evenly ?as you go.

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Then, working quickly, pack the ice cream into a container, cover with parchment paper or wax paper to seal out air, and let the flavors bloom while it hardens in your freezer for at least 4 hours.

When you remove the ice cream from the freezer, let it sit and relax for 5 to 10 minutes before you scoop? and serve it — it doesn’t need to melt, but it does need to thaw slightly. Ideally, serve and eat it while it’s quite firm but pliable and you are able to easily roll it into a ball. Once you’ve scooped it, return any remaining ice cream to the freezer. If the ice cream has melted too much at room temperature, refreezing it will result in an ice cream that is too icy.

Save and print the recipe here.

Jeni will be answering questions about ice cream on the Hotline for those of you who want to take on this project at home. For the quickest response, go to her recipe and ask a question from there — we’ll email her your question right away!

Excerpted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer (Artisan Books). Copyright 2011. Photographs by Stacy Newgent.

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