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Ice cream queen: Cookbook author to demonstrate 'Splendid' artisan concoctions

| Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sweet corn and black raspberries are two of summer's short-lived taste sensations.

But combining the seasonal vegetable and berries to make Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry Ice Cream• Jeni Britton Bauer, co-founder of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio, says, "Why not."

Bauer is known for her creative, sometimes quirky, always delicious artisan ice cream concoctions that attract customers to her 10 retail locations in Ohio and one store in Nashville. Locally, her ice cream is available at McGinnis Sisters and Whole Foods.

The sweetness of fresh corn mingled with the tartness of black raspberries didn't seem like a bad idea at all when she first made it more than 10 years ago.

"I grew up eating corn fritters in Illinois, so it wasn't a stretch for me," says Bauer, who is on a national tour to share stories, recipes and tips from her new book, "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home" (Artisan Books, $23.95). The tour includes three Pittsburgh-area Market District appearances and ice cream-making demonstrations.

"It's super-popular every year," says Bauer of her corn and raspberry ice cream. "We have trouble keeping up with the product. It will only be in the stores for a few weeks."

Other Splendid summertime flavors that originate, in part, at the local farmers markets she supports include Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Roasted Red Cherries; Cucumber, Honeydew and Cayenne Frozen Yogurt; and Watermelon Lemonade Sorbet.

Come fall, customers will see the return of Blackstrap Praline Ice Cream featuring blackstrap molasses and The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World, made with unsweetened cocoa powder, brewed coffee and bittersweet chocolate. Winter's standbys include Black Walnut Divinity Ice Cream and Wild Berry Lavender Ice Cream.

Besides the seasonal specials, Bauer and her small kitchen staff have year-round signature flavors on the menu, including Salty Caramel, Pistachio, and Honey and Ugandan Vanilla Bean. All of her ice creams are made with a simple milk base that contains no eggs.

Bauer wants people to know how easy it is to make ice cream at home so they will learn to experiment and create unique homemade flavors. Even though she's a success in the ice cream business, not all of her own creations have been winners, including her Smoked Banana Ice Cream, which she says was her worst recipe ever.

The idea originated after she visited her friends' barbeque restaurant in Columbus, where smoked bananas were on the menu. They didn't translate well to a creamy frozen treat, but she says she hasn't given up on the flavor.

"When I smoked the bananas, they turned into a gel inside the peels that tasted like turpentine," she says. "I still feel it can work. I just haven't revisited it because it was so terrible."

Bauer began making artisan ice creams while working for a French pastry shop. She opened her first store, Scream, while attending Ohio State University as an art student. She and her husband, Charly Bauer, launched Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in 2002 in Columbus, where she was named 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year by The Metropreneur, an organization that supports and promotes small businesses in Columbus.

One of her signature flavors, Queen City Cayenne -- a marriage of cayenne pepper and chocolate ice cream -- was featured on The Food Network's "The Best Thing I've Ever Tasted." Bauer offers her ice creams for sale hand-packed and shipped from Columbus via her website, jenisicecreams.com .

Her personal favorites, she says, include her Lemon Yogurt, one of her "least complicated" flavors, and One Night in Bangkok Sundae, which she says is rich, nutty, complex and decadent. "It got me through two pregnancies," she says. The recipe is in her book.

The following recipes were excerpted from "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home" by Jeni Britton Bauer (Artisan Books). Copyright 2011

Farmers' Market Sundae

This ambrosial sundae is eagerly anticipated each summer at the Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream shops. They usually use tawny port, but it works well with almost any wine or spirit. You can add roughly chopped peaches, apricots or plums, or substitute them for the berries.

For the berries:

  • 3 cups blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, halved strawberries, and/or halved pitted cherries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons tawny port, ice wine, Champagne or lambrusco, or 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

For the Lemon Frozen Yogurt:

Lemon syrup:

  • 2 to 3 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Frozen yogurt base:
  • 1 quart plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
  • Ice and water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • Zest from 1 lemon

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup (8 dollops) heavy cream
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the garnish: 6 fresh herb sprigs, such as mint, basil or lemon balm

To prepare the berries: Toss the berries with the sugar, honey, and wine in a bowl and let sit for at least 30 minutes and for as long as 6 hours, to macerate. The berries will create their own lovely syrup.

To prepare the Lemon Frozen Yogurt:

Lemon syrup: Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest in large strips from 1 lemon; reserve for the frozen yogurt (leave the lemon zest in large strips so it's easier to strain out later). Juice enough of the lemons to make 1/2 cup.

Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Frozen yogurt base:

Advance preparation: Fit a sieve over a bowl and line it with two layers of cheesecloth. Pour the yogurt into the sieve, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours to drain. Discard the liquid, and measure out 1 1/4 cups of the drained yogurt; set aside.

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese in a medium-size bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and lemon zest 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, for about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the reserved 1 1/4 cups yogurt and the lemon syrup and whisk 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.

Remove the zest from the frozen yogurt base. Pour into the frozen canister of an ice cream maker and spin until thick and creamy. Pack the frozen yogurt 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.

Makes a generous 1 quart.

To prepare the whipped cream:

Chill a large metal or glass bowl in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes; it should be cold to the touch. Add the cream, sugar and vanilla to the chilled bowl and whip by hand mixer. Use immediately, or refrigerate for as long as 1 hour.

Makes 1 cup or 8-10 servings.

Hints: Invest in a balloon or piano whisk, which has more wires than a regular whisk; these whisks incorporate the air into the cream faster than a standard whisk. If you can find nonhomogenized cream from a local dairy, the cream will whip up faster and the whipped cream will have a lovely light yellow hue. And chill the bowl. The colder the cream and the bowl, the faster the cream will whip and thicken.

If you overwhip the cream slightly, so it begins to turn a bit bumpy, just add a tablespoon of fresh cream and whisk lightly to smooth it out.

You can make whipped cream with honey or maple syrup. Just blend a little cream with the thick honey or syrup to thin it enough to blend easily with the rest of the cream.

To assemble the sundaes: Divide the macerated fruit among 6 plates (or assemble the sundaes in wide-mouthed Mason jars). Place 2 small scoops of frozen yogurt on top of the fruit, then garnish each sundae with a large dollop of whipped cream and an herb sprig.

Makes 6 servings.

Variation: Lemon & Blueberry Frozen Yogurt

For the blueberry sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar

To prepare the blueberry sauce:

Fabulous with citrus yogurts or in sundaes, this sauce is versatile, easy and gorgeous.

Mix the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries are tender and the sauce is thickened, for about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool, then refrigerate until cold before using.

Makes about 13/4 cups

To assemble: Prepare the Lemon Frozen Yogurt as directed. As you pack the yogurt into a storage container, alternate it with layers of blueberry sauce. End 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.

Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwiches

These cookies were inspired by Parisian macarons, but the recipe is not quite as fussy, and they work great for ice cream sandwiches. Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams shops make thousands of these a week. The beauty of these colorful ice cream sandwiches is that the meringues are still soft and chewy, not frozen hard, when you bite into them.

These macaroons normally are made with almonds, but they can be made with pistachios and hazelnuts, as well as smoked almonds.

  • 8 ounces nuts (1 1/2 cups whole almonds or smoked almonds, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons pistachios, or 1 1/2 cups toasted and blanched whole hazelnuts)
  • 2 1/2/ cups confectioners' sugar, divided use
  • 3/4 cup egg whites (from 6 to 7 large eggs), at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • A few drops food coloring, optional
  • 1 batch of ice cream of your choice, slightly softened

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a 3-inch biscuit or cookie cutter as a guide, trace 12 circles on the parchment (This will ensure that the macaroons are the same size and will match when paired). Turn the sheet of parchment over.

Grind the nuts with 1/4 cup of the confectioners' sugar in a food processor until a fine nut-flour forms; do not allow the mixture to become a paste. Add the remaining 2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar and pulse just until incorporated. If necessary, strain the mixture through a sieve and discard any large pieces of nuts.

Whip the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until frothy. (Or, use a hand mixer and a large bowl.) While the mixer is running, slowly add the granulated sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, and whip until the meringue is shiny and holds medium peaks, for about 5 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the almond mixture one-third at a time until thoroughly combined. Without food coloring, the cookies will be a light golden color. If you want more colorful cookies, fold in food coloring a few drops at a time until the desired intensity is reached.

Fit a pastry bag with a 1/4-inch plain tip and fill the bag halfway with the batter. (If you don't have a pastry bag, use a plastic freezer bag. Fill the bag, press out excess air, and seal, then cut about 1/16 inch off one of the corners to create a "tip" from which to pipe.) Holding the bag upright, pipe macaroons inside the traced circles in a spiral, beginning in the center of the circle and working your way out.

Let the cookies sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to dry. This will create the signature crisp crust on the outside of the macaroon.

Heat the oven to 300 degrees.

Bake the cookies for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through, until they have risen slightly and look crisp and set on top. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Slide the parchment sheet of macaroons onto a cookie sheet and freeze; after they are frozen, transfer to a freezer bag or storage container. Be careful: macaroons are delicate. They can be frozen for as long as 1 month.

To assemble the sandwiches: Place 6 frozen macaroons upside down on a work surface. One at a time, place a small scoop of ice cream on each cookie and top with another cookie. Gently press the cookies together until the ice cream comes to the edges of the macaroons. Wrap in wax paper, parchment or plastic wrap and freeze. Sealed in an airtight container, the sandwiches will keep for as long as 2 weeks.

Note: To toast and blanch (peel) hazelnuts, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast in a heated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Wrap the nuts in a kitchen towel and rub off as much of the skin as you can. Let cool completely.

Makes 6 sandwiches.

Variation: Chocolate Macaroons

To make chocolate cookies, add 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder to the confectioners' sugar and almond mixture.

The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World

This mouth-filling, palate-gripping, intense chocolate has a fudge-like texture and a pleasingly dry finish. The recipe is a result of a career-long quest: packing as much chocolate into ice cream as possible without taking away the ice-creaminess. It is rich, bittersweet and dense, and the texture is slightly chewy, with extreme chocolate flavor.

Always use the best ingredients available, especially when making an ice cream with one flavor. Use the best-quality chocolate you can get your hands on. A high-cacao, full-bodied, fruity chocolate will cut through the cream, and the flavor will be more dramatic.

For the chocolate syrup:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (55 percent to 70 percent cacao), finely chopped

For the ice cream base:

  • 2 cups whole milk, divided use
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Ice and water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup

To prepare the chocolate syrup: Combine the cocoa, coffee and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir the syrup until smooth. Set aside.

To prepare the ice cream base: Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese, warm chocolate syrup, and salt in a medium-size bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

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, for about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Gradually whisk the hot-milk mixture into the cream-cheese mixture until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon zippered freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, for about 30 minutes.

Pour the ice-cream base into the frozen canister of an ice cream maker 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, for at least 4 hours.

Makes a generous 1 quart.

Additional Information:

Jeni Britton Bauer

What: The ice cream entrepreneur and cookbook author will make appearances and have cooking demos at Market District stores

When and where:

• 5:30 p.m. Friday, Bethel Park, Village Square

• Noon Saturday, Shadyside, 5550 Centre Ave.

• 4 p.m. Saturday, Robinson, Settlers Ridge

Cost: Free, but reservations strongly suggested

Details: Website

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