Jeni Britton Bauer calls herself an ice cream explorer, and indeed she is with flavors such as dark chocolate rye whiskey, Black Forest cake, juniper lemon curd among those in her new cookbook, all charmingly photographed as scoops atop antique spoons.
Bauer makes us all capable of artisan ice cream in “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts” (Artisan, 208 pages, $23.95).
She’s the one behind more than a dozen ice cream shops nationwide (with pints available in the Twin Cities — see below), with headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. Bauer’s first book, “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home” taught us how to make perfect ice cream. (Her secret ingredient is cream cheese.) This new volume delves into the possibilities of those dishes that benefit from a scoop of ice cream (and, let’s be frank, that’s just about everything). Think macaroon cake with a scoop of ice cream. Or Apple Rhubarb Bette with the same. Maybe a waffle topped with the sweet stuff, or an ice cream sandwich. There are pies and fritters, Dutch pancakes and empanadas, as well as recipes for the sauces that make them even better.
You get the idea. This book is about ice cream and more.
Q: You had an interesting background before going off into ice cream.
A: Ice cream was what I was meant to do. My whole path in life led me to ice cream in my early 20s. I was thinking about going to pastry school, and I’d been making pastries in an all-French-speaking kitchen and studying art and studying perfuming. And it all came together. Ice cream is edible perfume — butterfat melts perfectly at body temperature. And as a perfumer, you want that. Once I realized the culinary potential and artistic potential of ice cream, I dropped out of school a few weeks later. Six months later I started my first business, making ice cream in an indoor public market. I’ve been doing ice cream for almost half my life now. I’m almost 41.
Q: What’s your advice for making ice cream?
A: The base [mixture] has to be very, very cold, and the canister [of the ice cream machine] has to be very, very frozen. You can make that base into any flavor you want using the recipes in my book.
Q: Does it take long to make homemade ice cream?
A: The prep time is 15 minutes. Then you cool the mixture and it goes into the freezer for four hours. If you put it in the coldest part of the freezer and cover it well, the shelf life will be a couple weeks. I tried to make the recipes as foolproof as possible.
Q: What are some of the desserts that are particularly friendly to home cooks?
A: All the cobblers. They are very easy. The biscuits are three ingredients. The recipe comes together very fast and you bake it once and it’s done. The sheet pie is very easy, too — a simple dough, just fruit and sugar. One of my favorite recipes is our simple lady cake. The cakes are really, really beautiful. I love having a small piece of cake with fruit and a little ice cream. It’s a perfect dessert after a meal. And having a go-to recipe for cake is something everyone should have.
Q: What’s different about your book?
A: The book was written to exist in your house in a different way than at my house. The way you choose to combine techniques and ingredients will be different for everyone.
Q: Tell me about your Midwest collection of flavors.
A: I spent months reading about the Midwest. I always write primers for the whole team about this so people understand where I’m coming from. But that never gets told over the counter. It makes us [the staff] understand why we’re doing it. It gives us this sense of purpose that translates into flavor.
The four flavors this summer, inspired by the Midwest, are saison with sunflower seeds and golden flaxseeds; cantaloupe and sun tea sorbet; pineapple upside-down cake buttermilk frozen yogurt, and cherries kickapoo [caraway ice cream and roasted cherries]. These are not flavors that would be instantly recognizable in the Midwest, but their ingredients would be familiar, found on Midwestern tables.
Q: When you travel, do you sample ice cream?
A: I never eat ice cream on the road, and not because I don’t care. I respect other ice cream makers. But I am so surrounded by ice cream that when I’m in another city, especially if only for 24 hours, I am eating all the savory foods I can get my hands on. I’m looking for a pickle maker or a curry maker. Vinegar is the perfect antidote to sweets. Last night I had sauerkraut and sausages in San Francisco. That’s my treat.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream is available at many Twin Cities markets. Check her website for specifics at www.jenis.com.
Follow Lee Svitak Dean on Twitter: @StribTaste