Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Jeni Britton-style vanilla ice cream

If you go back through my ice cream post archive (the "actual ice cream", not "ice cream" which includes sherbets and sorbets for lack of a better generic term), you'll see that I'm interested in alternate ways to produce rich creamy ice cream to adding a half dozen egg yolks.

Bananas are the substitution I've used most often although I've had limited success with some other fruits too. Mass market ice creams often use chemical stabilizers--notably carrageenen and guar gum--but that's not something you often find artisanal ice cream shops doing. Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio is an interesting exception.

The stabilizer Jeni Britton uses isn't one of those industrial standards, just corn starch with assists from cream cheese and corn syrup. She was profiled in Food and Wine last year (a co-worker kindly pointed this out to me) and I've been meaning to try out her recipe for some time. Administration at the library where I work have declared tomorrow Pie Day so I figured this was a good time to make a basic vanilla ice cream as an accompaniment.

Her recipe from the article is:


2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened (3 tablespoons)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt


1. Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In another large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.

2. In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup and vanilla bean and seeds. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves and the vanilla flavors the milk, about 4 minutes. Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

3. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Whisk in the salt. Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes.

4. Strain the ice cream base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pack the ice cream into a plastic container.

5. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid. Freeze the vanilla ice cream until firm, about 4 hours.

I made the minor changes of using 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and ripening the base overnight in the refrigerator instead of quickly in an ice bath. I was a bit worried about how the cornstarch would hold up over time, but the base clung to a spatula like a rather thick custard as I was putting it into the churn.

In the churn it thickened up readily with a bit of worryingly dense build-up on the sides and an unsettling slightly gooey texture, but not the worst I've seen by a long shot. It got to a good thickness at around 20 minutes without excessive amounts of air churned in. The vanilla flavor was a bit strong and chemical so I was worried about the amount of extract I had used, but I knew the flavor would be moderated by colder temperatures.

Here it is, after ripening, in vanilla ice cream's natural habitat--on top of pastry. This baklava, by the way, mysteriously appeared on a table in my department with no one claiming credit for it. I can only assume that my wishing for baklava last night made it so. I will endeavor to use this power wisely.

The ice cream was, in fact, quite creamy and fairly rich. I'd put it on par with a standard 2:1 cream to milk ratio recipe with a modest three egg yolks. It noticably lacked the rich mouth-coating texture that the high-fat super-premium ice creams have. Still, very respectible for the low 1.25:2 cream to milk ratio and the small amount of fat from the cream cheese. You could almost, sort-of, call this low fat?

I thought I could taste a slight cheesecake note from that cream cheese, but I knew it was in there so I may have imagined it an it was subtle enough that, if real, it would be easily overwhelmed by any other flavorings. And, certainly, there's nothing in this recipe that would preclude using it as a base for any flavor you'd care to make. No more angel food cake from all those extra egg whites, though.


kat said...

Interesting, might have to try this. I certainly looks like a good ice cream

kat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Isn't your job a scientific organization? They should know that Pi Day is 3.14, not 2.4 or 2.5!

billjac said...

That's what I said! And the American Pie Council's National Pie Day was last week so they missed that too. It's like they just don't care.

LaDivaCucina said...

The texture looks really nice. Did you take the photo with your new camera?

billjac said...

Yep, that's the new camera. No way I could get that nice of a close up using my cel-phone camera. I'm finding it a slippery slope, though. First I get a new camera and now I'm worrying about lighting, arranging the food just so, taking a half dozen variations on the shot, punching them up in post-production. Just what I needed; a new hobby.