I’m usually late to the party. Fashionably late, by design. Barring a serious shoe dilemma which has been known to cause hourly setbacks, there’s never a really good excuse. So, no surprise I missed the national ice cream party last month all together. Yes, the cold treat was celebrated for 30 days with songs of praise all over the Internets and blogs. I had great intentions of making few buckets worth, inspired by two things: my belly-filing trip to dairy farms in Modesto, California, and what’s been decked as the homemade ice cream bible by the Wall Street Journal, the tantalizing cookbook Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home (Artisan Books, 2011). But, I fell way short. Time escaped me and I was left with buying some just to placate my ego. I hate when I miss events I can really benefit from.
Fortunately, when Jeni Bauer, goddess of artisan ice creams, was in Atlanta last summer for her book tour, I didn’t miss meeting her and tasting her treats. She was making them live and in person at Star Provisions. I was late, you already know. I still managed to squeeze my way to the front and see her ease at work. She talked about her passion for ice cream, how she started in the business, how using the freshest ingredients from local farmer’s in Ohio makes all the difference — where she resides — and sharing secrets on how to duplicate her ice cream: no eggs. Well poised and zen focused on stirring and whipping, she cheerfully answered all of our questions and shared cookie sandwiches and delicious push-ups! Remember those! My greedy childhood instinct kicked in.
I had 4 cookie sandwiches and 2 colorful push-ups.
I walked away with a signed copy of her book and finally had a chance to sit with it. Her story starts kind of average but finishes as a stellar win-win. At 22, ice cream-making was her first business with a shop called Scream. But, it wasn’t ice cream per se that intrigued her to become a master. It was her “discovery of flavor.” Working at a French bakery where sugar was used far more conservatively than American pastries, she learned to appreciated the authentic, true flavor of each ingredient. Like any successful business person, she had a good helping of rejections, disappointments and severed relationships; all keeping her from focusing on ice cream for some time. Her bounce-back had much to do with that old adage: it takes a village. Literally. Her hubby, bro-in-law and loyal customers piled equipment and massive amount of support behind her and paved the path to opening her shop, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, in November of 2001.
Since then, she’s amassed many fans, customers and has fed many mouths with thousands of gallons and pints of ice cream, all hand-labled. Creating over 100 flavor combinations comes from her relationship with very specific dairy farms, love affair with seasonal ingredients, herbs she grows in her garden and fan favorites, like the salted caramel.
(R to L: Me enjoying a push-up; Jeni explaining something; Jeni’s cookbook stash; Cream in ice bath)
While I sat up against the wall in my room, legs crossed with espresso in my hand, I flipped throug the book and read almost every story associated with the respective recipe. One consistent theme is her passion and dedication to her ice cream and to making her customers and friends really happy people. 13-18-hour exhausting days don’t tire her enough to not love doing it all over again the next day. She’s approached her business the way she’s wanted to — unconventional, atypical and totally customizable — with the purpose of producing an amazing product you can’t resist wanting more of.
The bigger point and the ultimate goal of the book is for you and me to make fantastic, tried and true ice cream in our own kitchens using our equipment and tools. The books genius lies in its path to making you confident enough to whip out batches for dinner parties, ice cream socials or just because you want to bathe in high-fat buttercream without the pressure of lacking industrial machines or hundreds of pounds of certain ingredients.
Kitchen tools Jeni says you’ll need to make a kick ass helado: Ice cream machine, heavy-bottomed saucepan, food processor, baking dishes/pans, three bowls, whisk, measuring cups and spoons, heatproof spatula, sieve & cheesecloth, heavy duty plastic bags, parchment paper, ice cream scooper and a freezer! Have those? Then you are on your way to making her winning ice cream en tu casa! If you don’t, well, umm, I guess you can go shopping this weekend or find a boutique shop selling her goodies… and you’ll be a good penny for them! I think something along the lines of $12 for a 1/2 pint.
There were so many I enjoyed looking at, but some of my favorites (for now) are the macaroon cookie sandwiches (pg. 53), ohito sundae which is made with backyard mint ice cream (pg. 92), push-ups and the Gucci Muu Muu (pg. 158) a combination of exotic curry spices with chocolate and toasted coconut!
The artistically designed and colorful book is pure candy. It’s a true guide, replete with all the how-to’s, must-haves and techniques for your kitchen dairy experiments. There’s no reason NOT to make ice cream at home with this libro. Even commercial restaurant chefs can defer to it. And that makes me very, very, happy.
I won’t lie. I haven’t tackled any yet . I can’t decide on which ones. And, plus, my ice cream maker is in storage. Go figure. So for now, I’ll do us a favor and share one of her recipes, c/o of Jeni herself.
Let’s see. It’s August 3rd, well in the middle of Summer. It’s definitely not too late to bask in creamy and frosty puddles of soft ice cream!
For more recipes and Jeni’s full story, check out her book at your local store. You’ll want this pretty lil’ thing in your kitchen to tease your man (or vice-versa) with, whilst sucking on a push-up. He just might join you in the stirring-process!
Available on Amazon and boutique shops, nationwide. $23.95, Hardcover.
Oh, try the Kona Stout flavor (pg. 64). It just sounds delicious. I’m not the biggest fan of beer and somehow I think I’d fall in love with this. Beer in ice cream? I think I smell a flan coming! And of course the Tres Leche (pg. 174)! I mean, you know a post wouldn’t be right w/out some Latin connection. It’s just divine. I can taste it. To make at home now: why not the Rhubarb Sundae? It’s so en mode every summer and so we might as well enjoy it, too!
* Book photographs and cover by Stacy Newgent