Ice cream / Recipes

Jeni Britton Bauer’s Ice Cream Base

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photo by R. Siegel

To make great ice cream you need to start with a great base recipe that you can then build on with additional flavors. I first read about Ms Bauer’s in Saveur magazine and her base is one that I use regularly. I was put off from trying it for a while because of her use of cornstarch and (horrors!) corn syrup. Boy was that a huge mistake! For one thing the light corn syrup she uses is not the same as the high fructose corn syrup used in sodas. Most importantly, for philadelphia-style, eggless bases, it doesn’t get any better than this one.

The most amazing distinguishing quality of Jeni’s base is its texture. Smooth, grain free and slightly chewy, with an inherent warmth that allows you to bite into it without it being so cold as to hurt your teeth. And it melts in your mouth in that perfect lush wave of dairy creaminess which is what ice cream is all about. Her’s are the only ice creams I make that I prefer eating after hardening for a few hours in my freezer, as opposed to right out of the ice cream maker. That time and additional freezing very noticeably locks in the texture. Unlike most homemade ice creams this recipe stores well and scoops out like a dream.

No ice cream recipe is for everyone (what fun would that be?) so let me point out a few aspects that I have read people having issues with. Some people find the cheesecake component really stands out in flavor, and either find it distractingly strong or just don’t like it.  Try to use a very high quality cream cheese (she recommends Organic Valley). If you are concerned this will be a problem for you, just leave it out. The recipe will be less smooth but cream cheese is not a deal breaker. Some people also claim the taste of corn starch is overwhelming to them. Though my natural inclination is to think this is a figment of their imagination, the fact is the range of what people taste is surprisingly broad so who is to say.  I don’t taste corn starch in the final product.

One issue that I do notice is that with 3/4 cups of sugar and two tablespoons of light corn syrup this is a very sweet ice cream base. Not unusually so, many ice creams use a full cup of sugar. To sweet for my personal taste. Jeni says you can reduce the the amount of sugar by two tablespoons but no more. Honestly I reduce it by 4 tablespoons (using 1/2 cup of sugar rather than 2/3 cup) and yes it degrades the texture a small, but noticeable amount. Life is compromise. I would suggest you try making the original recipe (below) to the letter before making any changes.

The last thing I want to point out is that you need a good 3.5 or 4 quart saucepan or pot that conducts heat evenly. Jeni has you bring the milk and cream mixture to a rolling boil for 4 minutes in order to reduce out some of the water in the mixture. If you use one with a thin metal base, you are much more likely to get some burnt milk sticking to the base. I use an enameled cast iron Le Crueset style soup pot as it totally avoids this issue. The downside is that it is heavy and doesn’t have a lip. Whatever you use, try to set the heat of your burner low as you can and still bring the mixture to a boil.


  • Use Organic Valley cream cheese or better.
  • Harden the ice cream in your freezer for at least a few hours for the best texture.
  • Use the best quality ingredients you can. If you can get local, fresh milk and cream you will taste it.
Jeni Britton Bauer’s Ice Cream Base
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Cook time: 
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Serves: 8
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. of cornstarch
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • ⅛ tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp. (1.5 ounces) cream cheese, softened (10 seconds in a microwave will do it.)
  • 1 Heavy duty 1 gallon ziploc freezer bag. Or a flat heatproof tupperware or rubbermaid style container that seals tightly and can hold a quart of liquid. The freezer bag works the fastest but can be a little messy when emptying.
  • A large bowl with a tray or two worth of ice and water in it.
  1. In a small bowl, stir together a few tablespoons of milk and the cornstarch to make a slurry. Set aside.
  2. Place the cream cheese and salt in heat proof bowl or pitcher big enough to handle the full quart of mixture. Ideally this would have a pouring spout and and handle to make your life easier and would be non metallic so you can microwave the cream cheese for 10 seconds to soften it.
  3. In a 4-qt. saucepan, whisk together remaining milk and the cream, sugar, syrup, and salt; bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Boil for 4 minutes; give the corn starch slurry a remix and stir it into the pot.
  5. Return to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about a minute. Coat the back of a spoon with the mixture and run a finger through it. If the track left by your finger doesn’t immediately fill back with the mixture it is thick enough.
  6. Pour in ¼ cup hot milk mixture into your cream cheese bowl whisk until smooth. Whisk in remaining milk mixture.
  7. Pour mixture into the ziploc bag or container. Seal, and submerge it in a bowl of ice and water until chilled. This takes about 30 minutes.
  8. Pour mixture into an ice cream maker. It is a little less messy if you cut off one of the bottom corners of the bag and pour the mix out through that.
  9. Process according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  10. Transfer ice cream to a storage container and freeze until set. At least a few hours. This step is essential to fully lock in the perfect texture Jeni as conjured into this recipe.

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