The Secret Ingredient for Amazing Homemade Ice Cream (That You're Not Using)

An effortless way to make homemade ice cream even better from one of the country's top ice cream makers.

Cookies and Cream Ice Cream
Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Even as boutique ice cream shops continue to spread across the South and more and more fancy pints appear in supermarkets, homemade ice cream still feels like an extra special treat. It's one of summertime's simplest pleasures, and it's fun to make at home too, whether you use a high-tech machine or an old-fashioned ice cream freezer with rock salt.

However you make ice cream, or however you like to flavor it, there's one simple way to amp up the creaminess and give it more body. All you have to do is add a little cream cheese.

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That's right! Cream cheese. This tip comes from Jeni Britton Bauer, author of The Artisanal Kitchen: Perfect Homemade Ice Cream: The Best Make-It-Yourself Ice Creams, Sorbets, Sundaes, and Other Desserts and the owner of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, a growing chain of scoop shops (and pints available at many grocery stores). If you've ever tried Bauer's ice cream, you'll see why it has a cult-like following. Jeni's imaginative, ridiculously delicious flavors like Sweet Cream Biscuits and Jam and Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flecks, have a creamy texture that doesn't immediately melt in the summer heat. As she writes in her book, "The best ice cream in the world has a hard, sturdy body and a fine texture."

And I'm convinced that cream cheese is her secret (along with good-quality full-fat dairy). In Bauer's Sweet Cream Ice Cream recipe, which serves as a base for many other flavors, she calls for four tablespoons softened cream cheese, along with the usual ingredients: whole milk, cornstarch, salt, heavy cream, sugar, and light corn syrup. Bauer recommends Organic Valley cream cheese "because it is a true cultured cheese and has a clean dairy flavor and minimal natural thickeners, but any full-fat cream cheese will work."

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