Jeni Britton Bauer is certainly not an ice queen. She is, however, an ice cream queen.
After all, the namesake of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams has been making ice cream for more than two decades. The former art student and bakery employee started blending perfumes and collecting essential oils (for fun), which inspired the start of her ice cream company in 2002.
As one of the first brands to embark on the artisanal ice cream trend—before it was cool (pun intended)—Bauer has earned a James Beard Award and national recognition for her sweet creations.
The cookbook author gave us the scoop about all things ice cream: how to prevent freezer burn, what toppings are her favorite, and the only other ice cream shop she likes to visit (hint: it’s not in North America).
The Feast: What is the best way to scoop ice cream?
Jeni Britton Bauer: The Zeroll scoop is what we use in our shops, and it’s by far the best. The handle pulls the heat from your hand into the bowl of the scoop, and that creates glide. That’s what enables it to roll ice cream into a ball. The harder the ice cream, the better the scoop. And always start with a dry, room temperature scoop.
The Feast: What should we do if ice cream is too hard to scoop?
JBB: Let it sit out. The only reason to ever microwave ice cream is because you need it now—but know it will ruin the ice cream forever, and you’ll have to eat it all at once. Let your ice cream sit and do the squeeze test on the side. You know how they tell you to judge the doneness of a steak by touching your finger to the base of your thumb? The side of a pint should feel like a well-done steak—hard with a little give.
The Feast: How do we prevent ice cream freezer burn?
JBB: Store ice cream in the coldest part of your freezer, never the door. Don’t open the package until you are ready to use it, and when you do, scoop it and put it right back in. Any part of the ice cream that melts will freeze into crunchy ice crystals—what looks like freezer burn—and will attract more ice crystals to form.
The Feast: What is your all-time favorite ice cream shop, besides your own?
JBB: Believe it or not, I tend not to visit other ice cream shops. I am focused on making the best ice cream in America. Although, when in France: Fenocchio in Nice is pretty great.
The Feast: What is your favorite flavor and brand, besides yours?
JBB: OK, I’ll tell you: Häagen-Dazs Vanilla.
The Feast: What's the best way to eat ice cream?
JBB: Licked straight from the cone. Our ice cream is made to melt the right amount on contact with your tongue. The flavors bloom that way—it’s almost like excavating the flavors little by little.
The Feast: Of your flavors, what is your favorite?
JBB: The one flavor I come back to again and again is Lemon Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt. I love our yogurts more than anything else we make. They’re elegant and simple—cultured buttermilk, organic yogurt from Seven Stars Farm, a little cream, and tart fruit. The lemon is beautiful. I use it in place of vanilla all summer long.
The Feast: What’s the weirdest flavor you’ve made?
JBB: Cedarwood, Peru balsam, and vanilla, which turned out to be a very popular flavor. Lapsang Souchong with Armagnac-soaked prunes, on the other hand, did not. It was fantastic but nobody knew what Lapsang Souchang was, and nobody will ever admit to liking prunes.
The Feast: Are there flavors that have taken it too far?
JBB: Fresh strawberries combined with fresh spearmint. Raspberry Peppermint is classic—Strawberry Spearmint is awful. It tasted like chewed Doublemint gum. Ick.
The Feast: How about a least favorite flavor?
JBB: Sorbet—all of it. Dairy is so beautiful and sorbet just doesn’t cut it.
The Feast: Do you have a favorite topping?
JBB: I have a few: macerated fresh strawberries, Spanish peanuts, whipped cream done by hand with honey as the sweetener.
The Feast: How much ice cream do you actually consume in a day?
JBB: I eat ice cream most days—and I mean, eat. Not a taste here and there. A cone or two…here and there.
The Feast: Finally, what's the best advice you’ve received about ice cream?
JBB: Eat it slowly.
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