No one else makes ice cream like Jeni Britton Bauer. Based in Columbus, Ohio, Bauer has spent well over a decade perfecting her formula since opening her first shop called Scream in 1996. Since 2002 she has run Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, now with nine Ohio locations and two in Tennessee, and published an ingenious cookbook called Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. Where most ice cream makers traditionally use egg yolks to thicken their bases—if not chemical emulsifiers—Jeni’s uniquely creamy base relies on high-quality milk, specifically the proteins and rich butterfat from grass-pastured Ohio cows. She flavors her ice creams with hand-selected, often local ingredients, and even makes sure every pint is hand-packed. Below, Britton reveals her techniques and every other secret to a happy life of ice creams, frozen yogurts and sorbets—from the right color of peppercorns to sprinkle on lemon frozen yogurt, to why you should never moisten your scoop before dipping.
How is ice cream made?
Most ice cream is traditionally made with a French custard base, milk thickened with eggs and sweetened with sugar, then frozen in a spinner. But I have this thing against egg yolks in ice cream. A small amount is a great emulsifier, but egg yolks interfere with other flavors. Egg yolks also have a fat that gets brittle when it’s frozen. More importantly, raw milk already has the proteins you need. We devised a system that uses only the milk proteins to thicken the base.
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What is your special technique?
We start with raw, grass-pastured milk from the cows right at the dairy. The milk comes in, and we separate it in a centrifuge into heavy cream and skim milk. The cream goes into a tank. When I go to the dairy, that’s the first place I go—I take a ladle and sip it. It’s foamy, like a lightly sweetened whipped cream.