Tuesday, June 5, 2012

At Home with Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, Part One: Backyard Mint

The Setting: A lovely apartment made even lovelier by ceiling fans and central air. Oh, how I will miss these luxuries come August!

The Soundtrack: Children playing boisterously somewhere nearby. Sounds like summer.

Steaming up the Oven: Muffins.

The Scenario: It's been a long time in the coming...but finally...at long last...I present to you...courtesy of Artisan Books...Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home!

How can I even begin to express my love for this cookbook?

Hoosband and I first discovered Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Hot and Cold, a small coffee/tea/ice-cream/ice-pop shop in Nashville's Hillsboro Village.

With flavors such as Cherry Lambic, Salty Caramel, and Riesling Poached Pear (Hoosband's favorite), the artisan ice creams and sorbets had us clamoring for more with each enticing spoonful.

At first we assumed that Jeni's was native to Nashville, as most of Hot and Cold's offerings come from local artisans (Bongo Java coffee, Olive and Sinclair chocolate, and Las Paletas ice pops), but we were surprised to learn Jeni's is actually a proud product of the Buckeye State.

Whether your allegiance to Jeni's dates back to the original North Market shop in Columbus, Ohio, or you're just hearing about the deliciousness for the first time, you can now make Jeni Britton Bauer's incredible ice creams at home, thanks to this easy-to-follow cookbook that breaks down fan-favorite flavors for reproduction in the average household ice-cream maker.

What are Jeni's secrets?

There are several. Jeni is an ice-cream-science nerd, and proud of it.

She eschews the use of eggs as a thickener, favoring a one-two punch of corn (or tapioca) starch and cream cheese to keep ice crystals in check (meaning this homemade ice cream gets the green light for any pregnant mamas out there avoiding potentially uncooked eggs--woohoo!).

The main secret, however, is Jeni's focus on quality ingredients and fresh, natural flavors, as expressed in my current summer favorite, Backyard Mint, which literally derives its crisp, clean flavor from a big handful of mint leaves fresh from the backyard...or grocery store...you know, whatever works.

The Following recipe is excerpted with permission from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer. My notes are in red.

Backyard Mint Ice Cream
"Bright and sweet-scented muddled mint and fresh cream--completely refreshing."

2 cups whole milk
1 T plus 1 tsp cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
A large handful of fresh mint from your backyard or farmers' market, leaves roughly torn into small pieces.

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. If you have trouble whisking the cream cheese, microwave it for 10-15 seconds to soften it a bit more.

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

COOK  Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, 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 gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.

Bring the mixture 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.

CHILL  Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Gradually is the key word--if you add it all at once, it will be very difficult to get out all the lumps. Add the mint. 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.

Refrigerate to steep for 4 to 12 hours.

FREEZE  Strain out the mint. 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 park of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Makes about 1 quart.

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

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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