There’s a perfect dessert to cap off your summer picnics: homemade ice cream.
But if you stick with vanilla or chocolate, you’ll risk being labeled an old fuddy-duddy.
A recent CBS News segment noted that ice cream is going all nouveau these days, with the unexpected addition of ingredients like foie gras, lox, olive oil or beer.
If you want to talk unusual ice creams in Ohio, there’s only one source to go to: Jeni Britton Bauer, co-owner of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, which has 11 stores in Ohio (mainly in the Columbus area) and two in Nashville.
Bauer’s original store, located in Columbus’s North Market, provided the inspiration for her unique flavors. She’d comb the market each morning, picking up ingredients like fresh herbs, goat cheese and fresh fruits. Then she’d cart her loot back to her own shop and stir up such imaginative flavors as Chamomile Chardonnay Ice Cream or Beet Ice Cream with Mascarpone, Orange Zest and Poppy Seeds.
You can find her ice creams at several stores and restaurants in this area, including Dorothy Lane Market locations, The Fresh Market in West Chester, Olive Dive and Citilites in Dayton and Seasons Bistro in Springfield. (Check jenis.com for a full list.)
Bauer also has written a cookbook, “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home.”
“I have never been a fan of ‘homemade’ ice cream,” she wrote in the introduction. “It’s usually icy, goopy, soupy, crumbly, eggy, gritty and too buttery.”
So she translated her shops’ commercial recipes into home adaptations.
Her formula calls for boiling the milk, which she says changes the proteins and makes the end result smoother and creamier.
Not that everything she’s ever made has been a success. You won’t find this in the cookbook, but in a phone interview, Bauer said her biggest flop was an attempted Smoked Banana Ice Cream.
Her friend often has a summer picnic where he smokes brisket all day and, in the last 45 minutes, adds bananas still in their peels. He’d serve the smoked bananas with some of her Salty Caramel Ice Cream, and the duo was a hit.
So she should be able to combine the two into one glorious ice cream flavor, right?
“It tasted like turpentine,” she said.
Not that she discourages experimentation. In fact, she says her cookbook makes it easy, allowing cooks to consult a base recipe and then add ingredients of their choice.
“I love telling stories through ice cream,” she said, encouraging home cooks to use ingredients like mint grown in a pot on the patio so they can share the ingredients’ back stories with their guests.
She’s working on a second cookbook, due out next summer, that will focus on ice-cream-centric desserts.
And while she has no immediate plans for a Dayton scoop shop, she said she’s always on the lookout for the perfect new location.
“Maybe someday,” she said.
SWEET CORN & BLACK RASPBERRY ICE CREAM
The earliest varieties of local sweet corn, sown under plastic in the early spring, are just beginning to appear in the farmer’s markets. If you reserve an ear before grilling the rest for your picnic, you can whip up this flavor for your Fourth of July guests.
1 ear sweet corn, husked
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1½ ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1¼ cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
PREP: Slice kernels from corn cob, then “milk” the cob by scraping it with the back of the knife to extract the liquid; reserve the kernels and liquid.
Mix about 2 tablespoons milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.
Whisk cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
COOK: Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn and juices, 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 force the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, leaving the corn “cases” behind. Return the mixture to the saucepan and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
CHILL: Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese 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.
FREEZE: Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.
Pack the ice cream into a storage container, alternating it with layers of the black raspberry sauce (recipe below) and ending 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.
YIELD Makes 1 heaping quart.
BLACK RASPBERRY SAUCE
2 cups black raspberries
1 cup sugar
Combine berries and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 220 degrees (5 to 8 minutes). Let cool slightly, then force through a sieve to remove the seeds. (You may leave a few seeds if desired.) Refrigerate until cold before using.
Makes 1¼ cups sauce.
SOURCE: “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home” by Jeni Britton Bauer (Artisan Books, 2011)