Monday, September 26, 2011

So Splendid: Jeni’s Lemon Cream Ice Cream

Lemon Cream Ice Cream based on a recipe from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams opened in Columbus a few years after after we moved away.

My husband had gone back for a visit and was expected to bring home a few pints of Graeter’s (a Cincinnati institution whose Lane Ave. shop in Columbus was where I used to stand in long lines for scoops of coconut or blackberry chip).

He called and said, “Everybody’s talking about Jeni’s. I think you’d like these flavors. Should I bring some home?” He then rattled off half a dozen flavors and I couldn’t decide— which often happens when I am presented with too many choices. (Same reason I could never go to the movie store, but that is another story.)

We settled on pints of Wildberry Lavender and Coriander Raspberry, which were my first introduction to Jeni Britton Bauer’s splendid kaleidoscope of flavors.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home was published this summer and it features her secrets for the home cook. Food52 recently featured her Lemon Cream recipe in its genius collection—and for good reason.

One thing that has always bothered me about some ice cream recipes is the abundance of egg yolks, so many that I could taste the egginess. Not using a custard base, though, often resulted in something a bit more icy (un-scoopable really) and it lacked that desirable smooth mouth-feel of rich ice creams.

The genius move by Jeni is to use cream cheese and cornstarch. The cornstarch did not surprise me because many Italian gelatos use cornstarch to bind and smooth the mixture.  The cream cheese, though, is the real stroke of brilliance. Its fat carries flavor and adds a smooth texture. It is so perfect for lemon because the light tang of cream cheese echoes the citrus.

This ice cream is delicious on its own, but would take nicely to accessorizing, which I hope to get to the next time I make it. Lemon Cream Ice Cream is meant for fruit desserts, though, such as the peach-blueberry crisp I served it with first, and the sautéed Italian plums that came next.

Don’t save this recipe for summer. Instead, put it beside autumn’s desserts —spiced apple cake, gingerbread or pumpkin cookies.

Lemon Cream Ice Cream
adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home and Food 52

Lemon syrup
2 to 3 lemons
2 T sugar

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from 2 of the lemons in large strips. Halve the lemons and squeeze enough juice to make 1/2 cup. Combine the juice and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and refrigerate until chilled. This syrup will be on the thin side.

Ice cream base
2 c whole milk
1 T plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/8 t fine sea salt
1 1/4 c heavy cream
2/3 c sugar
2 T light corn syrup (I used light agave)
zest of 2 lemons

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.

Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and lemon zest in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes—watch it closely and stir occasionally to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.

Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

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

Remove the lemon zest and process according to your ice cream maker’s directions. Add the lemon syrup and continue to spin the ice cream until thick and creamy.

Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of plastic wrap directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, about 4 hours.

Makes about one quart.


  1. I am usually not a lemon dessert fan, but lemon ice cream is amazingly good. Have you had the Haagen Dazs Five lemon ice cream? I love it. In fact, you can eat a whole pint in a day. Perhaps that happened at my house one time.

  2. Amy, I haven't tried Haagen Dasz's lemon ice cream. Thanks for recommendation. It's amazing how quickly one pint can disappear ; )


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