Jeni Britton Bauer make ice cream right here in Nashville at Rolf & Daughter's. To those of us that follow the religion that is ice cream, she is basically the savior, come to lead the rest of us down the path of dairy enlightenment. Her book, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, has been dubbed the "homemade ice cream-making Bible" by The Wall Street Journal. As a person, she is as sweet and colorful and the ice cream that she makes and after half a lifetime of obsessing over ice cream, it is clear that she is still completely entranced by her work. Before she even started pouring the milk, she made one thing very clear: "An ice cream obsession isn't about all the fun flavors you can do; it's about the texture and body."
According to Jeni, great ice cream combines excellent flavor, texture, body and finish, making it an intensely multi-sensory experience. The first two are pretty straight-forward; flavor is detected on the tongue and aroma in the nose. (Flavor, by the way, is always accentuated by salt, even in ice cream, so throw a pinch in!)
Texture and body are a little more tricky. As far as ice cream goes, I consider texture to be a visual and tactile indicator of greatness. Texture is the way ice cream feels or looks when it is outside of your mouth: creamy and smooth, almost glossy, scooped with ease and free of ice crystals. Body is closely related to texture and is the hardest component to explain because it is the way ice cream feels inside your mouth: dense, rich, sumptuous.
One of the reasons that dairy products are so delicious is butterfat, which is one of only two types of fat (the other one being lard) that melt at human body temperature. "I'm getting goosebumps right now thinking about butterfat," Jeni said, as she began to explain its magic. If you've successfully coaxed your butterfat and other ingredients into having amazing texture and body, your ice cream should melt effortlessly as you eat it- just enough to coat your tongue evenly with each lick. And in my mind, that means that Fate has destined ice cream for the human tongue.
Jeni's Ice Cream Base, which can be found online at Saveur.com. I highly recommend trying simple flavors at first: add a large handful of fresh herbs after you remove the base from the heat, but before chilling. Strain the mixture before churning. Have fun with your topping choices, too! Try something like sage ice cream with bourbon blackberry sauce, or rosemary ice cream with toasted or spiced nuts. If you want to try more exotic flavors, look into purchasing essential oils (such as DoTerra) and remember that a little bit of essential oil goes a very long way.