Like so many things in life, the glorious rules of the Pastry Kitchen -- always use chilled butter in a pie crust, always temper egg yolks into a hot liquid -- are made to be precisely and respectfully learned. And subsequently broken.
When it comes to ice cream, no one has perhaps done more to shake up the waffle cone scene more than Jeni Britton Bauer, owner of her namesake Ohio-based ice cream mini-chain, with her unusual cornstarch-only ice cream technique (most ice creams are stove top-thickened with egg yolks; cornstarch is the traditional thickener for puddings). Then she (gasp!) stirs in a few tablespoons of cream cheese.
A pretty brilliant, always-creamy concoction, and without the egg-tempering fuss. Turn the page for more on her new book, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home, and her vanilla bean ice cream recipe. Happy first day of summer.
The book begins with the story of how Jeni got into ice cream, and how -- good for her -- she now has a pretty impressive multi-chain business (we'll leave that to her to tell you). Then she gets right to the point: The basics of ice cream making. Her basics, at least.
It goes something like this: You heat your milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup in a pan. You boil it. You add a cornstarch slurry (cornstarch in a little milk). Like a pudding, you cook the mixture for a brief while (not very long here), then turn off the heat and add your other ingredients. In this case, cream cheese. Yes, cream cheese. Taste and learn. Not a bad job, actually.
Which gets us to the ice cream flavors. The recipes are organized by season, beginning with roasted strawberry and buttermilk ice cream in the spring and goat cheese-red cherry ice cream come summer (along with sweet corn-black raspberry and a myriad of other interesting eat-them-now combos). Frozen yogurts are here, too (passion fruit, lemon, baked rhubarb), as are sour beer (!) sorbets: Peach-Lambic and black plum-black currant Lambic sorbet for starters. By fall, there are dark chocolate-peppermint and cognac ice cream scoops, as well as a dozen other combos we won't be waiting until September to make (lime-cardamom frozen yogurt, maple ice cream with salty buttered nuts).
In between the seasonal ice cream recipes are those for desserts -- think Baked (Apocalypse?) Alaska and "Tuscan sundaes" (salty caramel ice cream served with honey-Vin Santo sauce and homemade biscotti), as well as profiles of the purveyors whom Bauer uses for ingredients: Her dairy farmer, the favorite watermelon grower, the Fair Trade vanilla bean farmer from, of all places, Uganda... by way of Britain.
The beans from Ndali Estate, which Bauer swears are the best she has ever tasted, are the inspiration for this ice cream recipe. We might even one-up that and say, yeah, this is one of the best ice cream books we've seen in a long time.
Ugandan Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
From: Jeni's Spendid Ice Creams At Home
Note: Bauer uses Ndali Estate beans, but you can use any high-quality vanilla beans you prefer.
Makes: about 1 quart
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1. Prep: 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 water.
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2. Cook: Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup and vanilla seeds and bean in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heat-proof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
3. Chill: 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 into the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
4. Freeze: Remove the vanilla bean. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, 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.