What We’re Reading: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts

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What We're Reading: Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Desserts

Nothing says summer like a bowl of rich, creamy ice cream, melting slowly in the hot sun. Even better? An over-the-top ice cream sundae. We’re digging deep into Jeni Britton Bauer’s new book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts, full of recipes for sundaes, parfaits and other ice cream-centric desserts, perfect for warm-weather parties and outdoor fun. We asked Jeni all about her inspiration, the cool, creative recipes, and her best sundae tips — read on!


What We're Reading: Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream DessertsWhy did you decide to write this book? How is it an extension of your first one, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream at Home?

You know, wherever I go, everyone expects me to serve ice cream. And if anyone comes to my house, they expect me to serve ice cream, too. I think it’s just as fun to make other things that go with ice cream, which is how this book came about. I have a small treasure trove of recipes that I go back to constantly and use to serve with ice cream. And, I had a lot of new ice cream recipes that I wanted to get out there in the world, recipes for new ice cream bases and flavors.


The new book is an extension of the old book in that you can use ice cream recipes from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home to mix and match with the recipes from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts. As for the new book itself, each recipe is meant to be mixed and matched. You can freestyle so many things by combining recipes from different parts of the book. I talk about this on jenis.com and show lots of ways to freestyle the book. The book is in many ways, an extension of my personality. I love to shape-shift and do new things constantly.


Why are ice cream desserts best when they’re a little messy?

Because that’s naturally how they are. You can’t control them, so you might as well roll with it. That’s what we do. Ice cream desserts truly are like people: the more you try to control them, the more they will rebel. Ice cream is melting – you’ve got to pay attention to it before it disappears!


How do you create desserts that still allow the amazing ice cream to shine?

It’s the reverse. Ice cream makes other desserts shine! And ice cream can change the conversation of a dessert on your table. A simple, beautiful cake becomes many different things depending on what ice cream it’s served with. Then you can add a sauce, berries, or other garnishes and you end up with a dessert that is made up of lots of different flavors, textures and temperatures.


Any tips for balancing textures, flavors, etc.?

When it comes to making ice cream, sorbet, or frozen yogurt, the main thing is water—it’s either with you or against you. You have to corral it, otherwise you get iciness. As far as everything else goes, keep it simple and always use the best ingredients you can find/afford. Everything you add to the mix affects the ice cream’s texture.


Have you always baked? How did you become interested in baking?

I have always baked. In fact, I worked at a French bakery before I began to make ice cream. We’ve always baked the ingredients that go into our ice cream. Today we have 25 people who work in our bakery making everything from our cookies for ice cream sandwiches, to marshmallows, pralines, and sauces for our ice creams.


What are some of your favorite baked goods to make/flavors to bake with?

I love simple, lovely cakes. I love that if you put strawberries between the layers and whipped cream on top, then you get a lovely strawberry cream cake, or if you add chocolate glaze between the layers and all over the top, you get a sublime chocolate glazed cake. I like that cakes absorb ice cream as it melts.


Toasted almonds are some of my favorite things to bake with. They imbue everything with so much flavor!


Which baked goods work best with ice cream?

There is not a baked good that isn’t made better with ice cream! Ice cream melts all over it and turns into the perfect accompanying sauce.


What are some of the most popular ice cream desserts at Jeni’s?

The Milkiest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World with Salty Caramel Sauce, smoked almonds, and extra whipped cream.


Your personal favorites?

I love to take one of our ice cream sandwiches (Hazelnut) and douse it in our Extra-Bitter Hot Fudge and whipped cream and share it with someone. It’s not on the menu, but you can request it.


Can you tell us about some creative/unexpected ways to use ice cream in other desserts that you’ve discovered?

You can make a killer root beer float by making the new book’s recipe for Extra-strength Root Beer Ice Cream and topping it with vanilla soda and a bunch of whipped cream. I call it a reverse root beer float, and we usually serve it in our scoop shops during the Fall. A new way I’ve been enjoying our Mango Lassi Frozen Yogurt is atop Kataifi Nests, which are in the new book, too. That has everything for me: crunch, aroma, deep flavor, sweet, and savory.


How do you go about experimenting with new ideas and creating new desserts? What’s your process?

The process usually starts with an ingredient. Then I learn all I can about the history of that ingredient, or I try to find out something that I didn’t already know. From there it becomes a thread that I follow and eventually several ideas come out of it, which get narrowed down into a flavor. Once I have one or two ideas for flavors, then I write the recipes, hand them to the team and we go into testing. Soon after that, we will begin art and design—photography, illustration, graphic design, shop decor—and I give lots of direction for that as well. Then finally it hits the stores and we move on to the next thing. I am working at least a year out. But nothing goes into production until just before it goes into stores.


What are your secrets to the ultimate ice cream sundae?

A sundae is all about blending different flavors, textures, and temperatures on one spoonful. So, something soft and frozen, gooey and warm, salty and crunchy—all in one bite!—makes the ultimate sundae.


Your go-to toppings or sauces?

If I had to pick just one from each category, I’d go with Salty Caramel Sauce and Salty Graham Gravel. They’re really versatile and great with so many things. And of course, too much whipped cream!


The Salty Grahama

The Salty Grahama


All it’s missing is a string of pearls.


Whipped Cream

Salty Vanilla Frozen Custard

Sliced Banana

Whiskey Carmel Sauce

Salty Graham Gravel

(Recipes follow)


Whipped Cream


Makes about 3 cups


2 to 3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or brandy (optional)

1 ½ cups of heavy cream


Chill a large metal or glass bowl that is wider than it is tall (to make it easier to get full strokes and incorporate air into the cream) in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes; it should be cold to the touch.


Pour 2 tablespoons sugar into the bowl. Add the vanilla or brandy, if using. Pour in a splash of cream and whisk until well blended, then add the rest of the cream and tilt the bowl so that the cream and sugar rest in the crook of the bowl. As you whip, imagine that you are pulling air into the cream. You do not have to go quickly, so don’t overexert yourself. Just continually pull air into the cream in a round motion that begins at your elbow. You will create soft peaks in 2 to 4 minutes. If the cream doesn’t taste sweet enough, add up to 1 more tablespoon sugar. 


Salty Graham GravelSalty Graham Gravel


Makes 2 cups


1 cup finely ground graham crackers (from about 13 crackers)

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted


Preheat the oven to 275°F.


Combine the graham cracker crumbs, flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Add the butter and stir until large lumps have formed and all of the dry ingredients are moistened (the mixture should resemble lumpy wet sand). Add the salt, mixing just enough to distribute it evenly. Pour the crumbs onto
a baking sheet and spread evenly.


Bake the crumbs for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and toss the crumbs with two bench scrapers or metal spatulas, then chop into 18- to 14-inch pieces.


Bake for 10 more minutes, or until gravel is a rich brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.


Salty Vanilla Frozen Custard


Makes about 1 quart


2 ¾ cups whole milk

6 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 ounce (2 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream

¾ cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup


Prep: Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk, the egg yolks, and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.


Whisk the cream cheese, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth.


Fill a large bowl with ice and water.


Cook: Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually add about 2 cups of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture, one ladleful at a time, stirring well after each addition. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, just until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and strain through a sieve if necessary.


Chill: Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.


Freeze: Remove the frozen canister from the freezer, assemble your ice cream machine, and turn it on. Pour the custard base into the canister and spin until thick and creamy.


Pack the custard into a storage container. Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.


Salty Goat’s-Milk Chocolate Frozen Custard: In the Cook step, reduce whole milk to 2 cups and add ¾ cup evaporated goat’s milk to the saucepan with the cream, sugar, and corn syrup. After you cook the egg yolks, add 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% or more cacao) and stir until completely melted.


Whiskey Caramel Sauce


Makes about 1 cup


A beautiful caramel sauce with a nutty aroma.


2/3 cup sugar

¾ cup heavy cream

Big pinch of fine sea salt

Whiskey Caramel Sauce: As you stir in the salt, add 2 tablespoons of your favorite whiskey.


*Do not double this recipe. If you need twice the amount, make it twice instead*


Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the bottom of a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan and set it over medium-high heat, standing by with a heatproof spatula. When you see that there is a layer of melted sugar underneath the unmelted white sugar in the center of the pan, use the spatula to mush and stir the hot melted sugar into the unmelted sugar. Continue to push the sugar together until it is all melted and evenly medium amber in color. Remove from the heat. Using caution, slowly add the cream a little at a time, stirring constantly until incorporated. If you get any lumps of hardened sugar, place on medium heat and stir until completely melted.


Pour the sauce into a bowl and let cool slightly, and then stir in the salt.


Excerpted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts by Jeni Britton Bauer (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Kelsey McClellan.




Join us at your local Williams-Sonoma store for a special book signing, ice cream demonstration and tasting with Jeni Britton Bauer. She will be signing copies of her new cookbook, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts.


Jeni Britton Bauer’s first cookbook, the New York Times bestseller Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, won the James Beard Award for Best Dessert Book for transforming the way we make ice cream at home. Now, in her new cookbook, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts, she delivers 100 dazzling recipes for one-of-a-kind ice cream-centric desserts that play with texture, temperature, and color, plus breakthrough new recipes for dairy-free and soft-serve ice cream and frozen custard. Britton Bauer is the founder and chief creative officer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, which is based in Columbus, Ohio.


Lenox Square
Friday, June 6, 2014 at 6:00pm
3393 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30326
(404) 812-1703


Green Hills Mall
Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 1:00pm
2126 Abbott Martin Rd., Nashville, TN 37215
(615) 292-5066


Lincoln Park
Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 2:00pm
1550 N Fremont St., Chicago, IL 60622
(312) 255-0643


*Jeni will only be signing copies of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home purchased at the Williams-Sonoma store where the event is being held. Proof of purchase required.

3 comments about “What We’re Reading: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts

  1. celebrate summer with ice cream ~

  2. Toasted Marshmallow Homemade Ice Cream

  3. Sonya

    The salty graham gravel definitely called out to me when I was reading through Jeni’s cookbook. I made the graham gravel today, and had a few issues with it – I only needed 8 graham crackers, not 13, to get a cup of fine crumbs using my food processor. I was asked to add the salt at two places in the recipe. And it took a lot longer than the time specified to cook (I have an oven thermometer) to a rich brown, and after 30 minutes it still wasn’t really a rich brown, but I took it out anyways. Finally, I thought that the gravel was good, but not amazing. We had it on a few flavors of ice cream and it detracted from those flavors, but I think I’ll try the rest on lemon ice cream and see if it becomes more special. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as I was expecting it to be based on the ingredients. I generally love this type of flavor, but still, it often comes down to personal taste in a recipe, even a very good one.


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