Just when I think I have a handle on some recipe like, say, ice cream, I go and learn a bunch of new things that completely blows my afore-perceived expertise out of the water. This constant putting-of-me-in-my-place ought to be discouraging, but I can’t help not minding, especially when my mouf is full of ice cweam.
I discovered my latest obsession in the food section of our little newspaper. Usually the section’s two or three pages are full of recipes (that call for processed food) and info (calorie counting) that don’t interest me, but every now and then there is a nugget and I have to run for the kitchen scissors and cut it out right quick.
This week I clipped an entire article (not a recipe in sight) about a woman named Jeni Britton Bauer who purportedly makes the most fabulous ice cream ever. Her tricks? No eggs to eliminate the coating-on-the-tongue effect (not something I usually dwell on, but totally true), a little cornstarch to thicken it up, and a nub of cream cheese to give the ice cream body and heft.
At first I thought I’d have to create the recipe on my own, working under the little guidance that the paper provided, but then I started the Googling process, and after watching some videos about her shop and reading a couple articles and interviews, I finally happened upon a basic recipe.
Two nights ago, I made the ice cream. Oh! My! Stars! It is wonderful! The texture is clean and sharp and smooth, and the taste is full-on vanilla, rich and fragrant. The cream cheese doesn’t give flavor as much as it gives body—plus, they say it makes the ice cream scoopable. And because there are no eggs, the ice cream is a brilliant, classy white.
If any ice cream can surpass this one, I’ll eat my hat. (Or else the ice cream, because it would be stupid to fill up on hat if there is good ice cream around).
Next on my to-do list, incorporating other flavors into this base. The article mentioned something about a salty caramel....
Jeni’s Best Ever Vanilla Ice Cream
Adapted from Food and Wine
2 cups milk, divided
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, cornstarch
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cups sugar
1 ½ tablespoons light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
Put the cornstarch in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of milk. Set aside.
Put the remaining milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, along with the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla bean. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 4 minutes. Off heat, stir in the cornstarch paste. Return the pan to the heat and boil for one more minute, whisking constantly. Take the pan off the heat and remove the vanilla bean.
Put the cream cheese in a medium-sized mixing bowl and gradually whisk in the hot milk mixture. Add the salt, and if using vanilla extract in place of the bean, add that now. Set the bowl in a pan of ice water to cool, or if you’re not pushed for time, put it in the fridge to chill.
Freeze the ice cream according to your maker’s directions.
Yield: about one quart.
This same time, years previous: preserving stone fruits, pasta with roasted tomatoes and summer squash (I've been craving this for weeks now), cooked oatmeal