Nutty and Sweet — Jeni’s Maple Ice Cream with Salty Buttered Nuts

22 Nov

You may not realize it, but Columbus is the ice cream capital of the world.  While other cities may host good, or even above average, ice cream shops, try telling a Columbus native about them.  They’ll get a faraway look in their eye—and you’ll get an unintentionally condescending “I’m sure they’re good…but…” in response.  The reason for this, is that we in Columbus have been spoiled.  We’ve been spoiled by being home to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, the greatest ice cream shop known to man.  (Hyperbole much?)

Until very recently, the only way to sample this idealized form of ice cream was to visit Columbus.  Then, last year, Jeni decided to compile a large numbers of recipes into a cookbook.  We in Columbus were torn.  On one hand, we could now make at home all of that delicious ice cream we had been enjoying in Jeni’s stores for years.  On the other hand, we were now deprived of leverage which we had previously used to coerce our out-of-state friends into visiting. (The cookbook actually wasn’t the first time Jeni had ventured into the realm of home ice cream making.  She had developed a few recipes previously, which can be found here.)

If it’s possible, Jeni’s ice cream cookbook was as successful as, or even more than, her ice cream stores.  It was a New York Times Best Seller.  And it won the James Beard Award.  No longer was Jeni’s ice cream a local Columbus secret.  She was a full-blown national sensation and treasure.

But, you may ask: Are the recipes really that good?  After all, why in the world would she give away all of her secrets?  Wouldn’t that be counterproductive and cut into store sales?  The answers to those questions are: Yes, I don’t know, and No.  The recipes really are that good—better than any other homemade ice cream I’ve ever had.  And I still go to the stores just as often; ice cream is frequently a spur of the moment treat, when you want it, you don’t always want to plan several hours ahead to make it.

Recently, I needed to make space in my freezer. (I had won 5 lbs of awesome pork from Davidson Farms and am still making room so I can bring it home from its temporary residence at a friend’s house.)  One of the things that takes up a lot of space is my ice cream freezer.  Rather than just pull it out though, I decided to make ice cream.

Nuts, buttered and salted, ready for the oven.

The recipe I settled on was Maple Ice Cream with Salty Buttered Nuts.  One of the awesome things about Jeni’s cookbook is that whenever it includes ice cream recipes that calls for mix-ins, it has a recipe for those mix-ins as well.  So if you want to make macaron ice cream sandwiches, there is a recipe for macrons.  The same goes for gooey butter cake, brown butter almond brittle, and a variety of delicious sauces.

For this recipe, you can use whatever nuts you have handy.  I had some walnuts, so that’s what I chose.  When they were done, it was hard to keep from eating them all straight away.  They tasted like hot, delicious buttered popcorn.

Maple syrup, being reduced.

The maple flavor came was provided by a maple syrup reduction.  The recipe calls for using Grade B or even C maple syrup.  I unfortunately couldn’t find anything but Grade A, so that’s what I used.  The ice cream tasted great anyway.  I imagine if you use one of the lower grades, you’ll end up with a stronger maple flavor.

Jeni’s recipes work so well in part because of two ingredients not commonly found in other homemade ice cream recipes.   Those are 1) cream cheese and 2) corn syrup.  The cream cheese provides important texture and scoopability.  The corn syrup keeps the ice cream smooth and creamy, preventing the formation of crystals in the final product.  To many people I’ve talked to the words “corn syrup” set off alarm bells and they instinctively recoil.  It’s important to note the corn syrup called for in this recipe is very different from the oft-demonized “high fructose corn syrup.”  It’s just Karo brand syrup, not much different from the log cabin stuff people frequently put on pancakes.  The only difference? Lack of artificial flavoring.

Anyway, enough rambling.  Here’s the recipe(s).


Maple Ice Cream with Salty Buttered Nuts

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons light corn syrup (Karo syrup)

1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup (recipe calls for Grade B or C, Grade A will work as well)

Salty buttered nuts (walnut, pecans, or hickory nuts)

Preparation steps:

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

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

3. Mix the cream and corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout.

4. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Cooking steps:

1. Bring the maple syrup to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium and continue boiling for 8 minutes, or until it has reduced by one-half and has begun to darken around the edges.

2. Remove maple syrup from the heat, and stirring constantly, slowly add the cream and corn syrup mixture.

3. Add the remaining milk.

4. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and cook for 4 minutes. (The mixture may appear curdled from the acidic maple, but it will come back together in the finished ice cream.)

5. Remove from the head and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.

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

Transferring the chilled mixture into the ice cream maker.

Chilling steps:

1. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth.

2. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag. Submerge the bag into the ice bath.  Let stand until cold, about 30 minutes.

Ice cream, being frozen and close to being done.

Freezing steps:

1. Cut off a corner of the Ziploc bag and pour into spinning frozen canister.

2. Spin until thick and creamy (25-30 minutes.  The ice cream should pull away from the side of the canister when done.)

3. Pack the ice cream into a container, folding in the nuts as you go.

4. Press a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper against the surface of the ice cream and seal with an airtight lid. (Do not use plastic wrap as it will stick to the ice cream.)

5. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.


Ice cream, packed and ready to be frozen for about 4 hours.

And the nuts:

Salty Buttered Nuts

3/4 cup nuts halves or quarters

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the nuts with the butter and salt in a bowl, tossing to coat.

3. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and back for 10-15 minutes, turning once.

4. Let cool.

The best part: the eating!


One Response to “Nutty and Sweet — Jeni’s Maple Ice Cream with Salty Buttered Nuts”

  1. taniaexplorescolumbus November 25, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    I LOVE that ice cream. I’m curious, though, as to why Jeni calls her sandwich cookies “macaroons” instead of “macarons” (I noticed that you spelled it correctly in your blog). Regardless, those salty, buttery nuts are amazing!

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