Friday, September 16, 2011

"Cookbook" Review: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer

I started the summer with an ice cream recipe book review, so why not end the summer with one?

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio is one of the most well-known, popular ice cream shops in all of America. Her commitment to quality ingredients and unusual flavors, in addition to her tireless work at experimenting with different base concoctions before getting just the right texture, has put her on the map.

Now, home cooks can recreate some of her most popular flavors in their own kitchens with this new recipe collection.

What sets this one apart from other ice cream recipe books is that Jeni has really gone above and beyond with trying to get the perfect ice cream texture. She sees ice cream making as an art AND a science. Anyone who has been around the block with ice cream making knows that while the most popular way of making ice cream, an egg custard isn't the most ideal way to freeze milk, cream, and sugar because it doesn't prevent water that sneaks in the mixture from freezing and messing with the ability to get a smooth, creamy texture.

Jeni's solution to this problem is to use corn syrup, corn starch and cream cheese as a binder instead of eggs.

While this adds several extra steps to the process, it really does make for a perfectly smooth, creamy texture as promised. And better yet, the integrity of the texture remains stable quite a few days later, unlike an egg custard base that so often needs to be eaten within two days because it deteriorates quickly by getting sticky and mealy.

However, I don't think the cream cheese as a binder is ideal for delicate flavors like vanilla. I made the basic vanilla ice cream (disclosure: I didn't get the "Ugandan" vanilla beans as specified in the recipe) and as I already mentioned, the texture really was beautifully smooth, but the cream cheese is not a neutral enough flavor to use for vanilla. I can taste the tang of the cream cheese in each bite, and while it's very mild, it's still strong enough for me to feel like I'm not eating a true vanilla ice cream.

For stronger flavors like chocolate, the cream cheese would probably work better, but I would stick with an egg custard for the more delicate flavors.

So if you're interested in the science behind ice cream making and/or your ice cream batches stick around for longer than two days and you're frustrated with how quickly egg custards deteriorate in the freezer, then I highly recommend giving this book a try. However, if you have a highly discerning palate (i.e., "picky") then you more than likely won't be diggin' the cream cheese base for those lighter, delicate flavors. Save the cream cheese for the stronger, heavy flavors.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer
Published: June 11, 2011
Publisher: Artisan
Pages: 217
Genre: Cookbook
Audience: Ice cream lovers
Disclosure: Library Copy 

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  1. Very interesting. I live a few towns away from Penn State, which has a very famous creamery and ice cream course (Ben and Jerry took it, for example). I always thought it'd be fun to learn the science behind ice cream while getting to sample the results.

    As soon as I read cream cheese, I was a bit put off. My initial reaction was that the cream cheese flavor would be evident. Glad to see my instincts were right. Of course, perhaps Ugandan vanilla beans are stronger?? :)

  2. While I like cream cheese as much as the next person I'm really not sure that it's the right thing for icecream. Clearly Jeni thinks it works. I'm also all for substitutions or tweaking when they work, but I remain very dubious about this. I'd be happy to try the icecream one day of course, although I have never been to Ohio, and am not expecting to get there, so it may have to remain one of life's little mysteries.

  3. This does sound interesting! Especially since I tend to avoid egg in my ice cream when making it myself. My health is sensitive and since there can go a lot wrong with raw egg, I try to avoid it. I am only a beginner at making ice cream though.

  4. @Louise, I think Jeni actually uses a different base at her ice cream shop. She changed the base for the home kitchen because the ingredients she uses (tapioca starch for example) are harder to find for the home cook.

    @Uniflame hmmmm... the ice cream book that I have that uses egg in the base has you cook the egg into the cream and sugar to make a custard so there's ever any raw egg "oogieness" Ha! I just made up a word. LOL!

  5. My first thought was how would the cream cheese be masked in the finished product, and then I saw, oh it wasn't...I have never attempted to make my own ice cream, but I love reading about food science, so I want to check this one out.

  6. I am one of the few women who isn't so wild for ice cream. I like one kind - B & J's plain chocolate. I eat it a few times a year when there's a sale. This sounds like a great book if you want to make your own at home.

  7. corn syrup, corn starch and cream cheese..interesting, but I am not totally sold.

  8. I gave my new d-i-l an ice cream maker and I was thinking that I should look for a good recipe book to go with it. Thanks for the suggestion.

  9. I can imagine that the cream cheese would be too strong a flavour for something like vanilla. Interesting concept, though. You are right, with chocolate it would probably go very well.

  10. I haven't really thought about trying to make ice cream at home!

  11. I don't think cream cheese in ice cream would be good unless you were going for that flavor. Egg custards intimidate me but I guess it is the best way to go.

  12. I'm happy to have found your review. While the flavor combinations featured in Jeni's book *are* splendid, I could taste the cream cheese in both recipes that I've made so far, the sweet potato and the darkest chocolate (which contains coffee!). Strong flavors, those, but the cheese still comes through. Also, the texture of these ice creams was a little gritty compared to custard-based ice creams. I'm going to try switching cream cheese brands and may use tapioca starch instead of corn starch next time. I have read so many reviews that rave about the creamy texture you get when using this technique, so I feel like something must have gone wrong-but what? My custard ice creams always turn out very smooth and creamy.