Did you know July is National Ice Cream Month?
Like I needed another excuse to binge on my favorite summertime treat.
So what did I do to celebrate the start of such an important culinary celebration? I met the queen of ice cream, Jeni of Jeni’s Ice Cream.
Remember the Bourbon Ice Cream with Salty Buttered Pecans and Cranberry Royale Sorbet I made for Thanksgiving?? Those are all Jeni.
Remember the Bangkok Peanut Ice Cream I mentioned that Julisa used to win hearts and minds at work? Jeni’s recipe.
The book I just bought my brother for his birthday? Jeni’s best-selling cookbook.
I first heard of Jeni’s from Bobbie and Robert, who were original fans of her Columbus-based business while living there. We had all been pretty big Graeter’s fans, but this was different. Jeni’s is special.
I’ve been using Jeni’s first cookbook for years now, my love of her recipes proven with each stained and warped page. In that first volume she unlocks her culinary secrets behind many of her best-selling flavors and sauces. It’s definitely not your classic ice cream cookbook–these magical concoctions are elevated in sophistication and will bring out your gourmet palate, even if you swear you don’t have one. Trust me, Jeni will find it.
I was so excited when I heard Jeni was coming out with a second cookbook, even when I learned it wasn’t going to be all ice cream like the first book. This is Jeni’s DESSERTS –items you can bake to pair with her ice creams. Okay, I’m listening. It still would have a good handful of new ice cream recipes, but the selling point to me was the inclusion of her famous gravel recipes. She uses these baked strudel-like mixtures as sundae toppings with flavors like “Everything Bagel,” “Donut,” and “Salty Graham.” I needed those gravels in my life. I was going to get this book…at some point.
Like most things that involve money, I tend to drag my feet. But that hesitation was greatly rewarded when I learned Jeni would be coming to Salt Lake City on her book tour, and that I had to buy her book at the store to hold a spot in the signing line. Hook. Line. Sinker.
So on Tuesday, order confirmation in hand, my friend Chilali and I headed south for a meet-and-greet, ice cream tasting (um, YES!) and book signing!
The bookstore was in an awesome, quaint neighborhood called 15th & 15th. Awesome small businesses tucked between neighborhoods of gorgeous houses with flowers everywhere. And there was a Caputo’s across the street.
Do you remember Caputo’s? You probably remember their Cheese Cave.
We grabbed a few sandwiches and sat outside, where I may have not-so-stealthily stalked Jeni as she made her way to the bookstore. Totally not me.
The event had a very manageable crowd, for which I was grateful. We met up with another friend of ours, Samus, and secured front row seats before anyone else could nab them. I’ve always been a front-row kind of girl.
Jeni had picked two ice cream flavors for us to sample with three different sauces. I had the Salted Vanilla Custard with Honey Butterscotch Sauce. It was completely mind blowing.
I love salty-sweet desserts, but this was incredible. I wanted to drink that butterscotch sauce, which is actually featured in her first cookbook. There, Jeni confesses that she eats the sauce by the spoonful. Glad I’m not alone on this one.
Hearing Jeni talk was the highlight of the night for me (well, a close second at least behind that sauce). She was an art major with a strong sense of flavor–thinking she would someday be a perfumer when one day she mixed essential oils into an ice cream base and found her calling. She spoke of her early days, struggling to make it work, and how she now has 17 stores with over 200 employees. Living the freakin’ dream.
She said a proper ice cream can be judged on four components: flavor, texture, body, and finish. Flavor and finish are easy, she says. Just use the best ingredients you can, but it’s the texture and body that can be so variable. I won’t bore you with melting temperatures and fat contents, but it was informative and way more scientific a talk than I anticipated. But that somehow made it even more awesome.
I love listening to people talk about food–the way it’s changed their life, the way it navigates their memories. Makes me want to sit at the kitchen table with them and compare notes. I definitely had that wish with Jeni.
Here are a few more pictures from our time in SLC, which ended with a Trader Joe’s run to stock up on our favorites.
Oh yeah, Samus and Jeni hit it off from the start. Here’s her personal email (which I’m sharing with the interwebs) that she gave him so they can connect when he passes through town later this summer. Whaa? What just happened?!
And because I cannot and will not shut up about that butterscotch sauce, here’s my gift to you. Happy National Ice Cream Month!
Jeni’s Honey Butterscotch Sauce
1 c. sugar
2/3 c. honey
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
pinch of fine sea salt
Combine the sugar and honey in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is melted. Then cook without stirring, swirling the pan occassionaly. The mixture will become foamy at first, then the bubbles will turn to huge glassine spheres and subside into smaller shiny bubbles. At this point, the sugar wil begin to brown rather quickly; it will darken around the edges first and slowly begin to darken into the center. Use a heatproof spatula to stir until the caramel is a deep butterscotch brown, then remove from the heat.
Carefully drizzle the cream into the caramel, stirring until completely dissolved. Add the butter pieces and stir until melted and smooth. Add the salt and stir well. Serve warm, or let cool and refrigerate. The sauce will keep for up to two weeks. To serve, reheat, stirring, until the sauce is warm and fluid. (Too lazy? You can also buy it here.)
Who uses “glassine spheres” to describe a recipe stage? *sigh* I couldn’t love her more.