Back in the olden days before this summer, it seemed the only way to lock down a smooth, scoopable, re-freezable homemade ice cream was to get eggs involved and make a proper custard. This is fine, when you're up for willing egg yolks not to scramble and ice cream that always seems to taste a bit like French Vanilla.
At some point in the fifteen years she's been making and selling ice cream, Bauer realized that an eggy custard base has a nasty habit of muting other flavors. Here's why: The butterfat in cream will melt and bloom as soon as it hits your tongue -- loud and clear, you're tasting roasted pistachio, dark chocolate, or cognac. Egg yolk fat isn't so quick on the uptake. It sits on your tongue and gets in the way.
Yolk is great and all -- for enriching a hollandaise or painting on a pie crust -- but here, it acts like some washed up lounge act with the real talent just left to hum and sway in the background.
So Bauer kicked the diva to the curb and developed a formula to put the butterfat in charge while keeping gritty ice crystals at bay too -- all with the help of readily available baking aisle staples.
Most of her recipes start with the same comforting step, prepping three bowls (see above, left): a lump of soft cream cheese whisked with salt; a cornstarch and milk slurry; and an ice bath, with a sturdy Ziploc bag bobbing in it, waiting to cool down your base fast, fast, fast.
This is like food chemistry lab for preschoolers. "You can do this," say the three bowls. Because once you have them lined up, you're halfway to ice cream.
But Bauer's genius is also in giving you tools: she provides the blueprint, plus the science behind it in digestible form, so you can go your own way with brittles and infusions and variegates, like she has.
Dolling up her basic formula for ice cream (or frozen yogurt) can be as simple as steeping a vanilla bean or making a lemon syrup, or as complicated as you like. Cones, marshmallows, caramelized white chocolate freckles; they're all within reach.
Though her recipes lean noble and from-scratch, there's also the occasional, well-played indulgence. To wit, there is a sundae, the Chocomole, that involves a Chocolate Frito Crunch. (Before you cringe: When was the last time you looked at the ingredients on a bag of Fritos? There are exactly three, and Michael Pollan's great-grandmother would recognize all of them as food. I say: Frito on, Jeni.)
All Fritos aside, below you'll find the blueprint, and a simple Lemon Cream Ice Cream. It will charm you any time of year, from the stickiest last days of summer to the peak of winter citrus season: it's racy yet mellow, clean yet rich -- and show-stopping, in a way egg yolks would never stand for.
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by William Brinson
The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.
I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."