Ice Cream 101

The problem with homemade ice cream is that it's often too soft or too dense, lacking a luscious mouth-feel. Ice cream is basically a frozen emulsion, in which components that do not naturally meld—fat, water, and air—are encouraged to marry by adding such things as heat, proteins, sugars, and starches. The stronger the marriage, the more supple the ice cream will be. If water is not bound well with the other ingredients, it becomes nasty little ice shards that disrupt the smooth sensation on the tongue. Jeni Bauer of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams has developed a technique that addresses, and solves, some of these common problems head-on. Her basic formula is foolproof, and applies to all flavors, from nutty praline to good old-fashioned chocolate. This article was first published in Saveur Issue #140, along with Molly O'Neill's story Here's the Scoop.

In a small bowl, mix milk with cornstarch to make a slurry. Cornstarch absorbs moisture, preventing ice shards; it also has a neutral taste, allowing the flavors of the other ingredients to shine.Illustration: Brenda Weaver
Pour milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup into a saucepan; boil for 4 minutes. Heating the milk evaporates moisture and makes the proteins more apt to bind with the water, creating a smooth texture and rich flavor.Illustration: Brenda Weaver
Stir the slurry into the warm milk mixture and return to a boil for 1 minute to thicken base. In another bowl, whisk the base into softened cream cheese a little at a time until smooth.Illustration: Brenda Weaver
Pour the hot ice cream base into a large, resealable Ziploc plastic bag. Seal the bag, making every effort not to trap in air, and submerge the bag in a large bowl of ice water.Illustration: Brenda Weaver
Submerging the bag in an ice bath allows it to chill more quickly: The shape of the bag provides maximum chilling surface area for the mixture inside, so it should be cold in 20 minutes.Illustration: Brenda Weaver
Cut a corner off the plastic bag, pour the chilled base into the ice cream machine, and freeze according to your machine's directions until thick, smooth, and creamy. See the recipe for Jeni's Ice Cream Base » See 6 low-tech ways to make ice cream »Illustration: Brenda Weaver