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How Jeni Britton Turned Seattle into an Ice Cream Flavor

This feature was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and Visit Seattle. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.

Been There, Made That

Jeni Britton Bauer

Ice Cream Maker

Seattle is full of inspiration. We invited artists from across the country to visit the city and create something new based off their experiences.

Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni’s Ice Cream, has been making ice cream for more than two decades out of her hometown, Columbus, Ohio. She’s seriously inspired by scents (she almost went into perfume-making) and flavors in making her unique flavors, like Brambleberry Crisp or Savannah Butternut.

So she came to Seattle to follow her nose and to create an ice cream flavor based off her experience there. "I've created flavors that are based on moments or experiences within a city, but I have never created a flavor that was inspired by the whole vibe of the city," she says. "When I think of Seattle, I think of apples, cherries, seafood like salmon and oysters, and wild, foraged ingredients. I think of the market, I think of the scent of greenery, wet wood, and the water. I knew that there would be this great sense of nature and the scent in the air of the ocean. There’s a lot to discover here."

The Journey

The Inspiration

Seattle Cider Company

Cider is back, and Seattle Cider Company is on it. The first cidery to open in the city since Prohibition, Seattle Cider Company uses Washington-grown apples, local and natural ingredients, and the same yeast used in white wine to ferment their dry and semi-sweet ciders.

Jeni looking at apples
Jeni drinking cider

"I really loved Seattle Cider Company. When we walked in, you were hit with this bright scent of apple. Apple is just such a pretty scent floating around in the air. As we walked through, that just increased. You get this sort of yeasty apple aromas as we got into tasting, they're just so light and effervescent in aroma. And the bubbles! I don’t think that people get to experience true, bright apple scent, it’s always flavorings and candies. I really feel like apple is such a gorgeous scent."

Woodinville Lavender Farm

Tucked away in Washington’s wine country is the Woodinville Lavender Farm, which sits on acres of the purple flowers: perfect for strolling through or enjoying an outdoor picnic. The farm makes lavender essential oils, bouquets, and soaps from the flowers grown onsite.

Jeni smells lavender

"Lavender is everywhere but it's tempered by this other scent that’s very green from all of the foliage around and the grass. It's this beautiful heady scent in the air. I’ve been working with lavender for more than twenty years. It was actually one of the reasons I got into ice cream because I started adding essential oil to ice cream, using ice cream to carry the scent. Lavender is one of the oldest ingredients for me in my culinary journey."

Flowers at the Market

"I was so inspired by the farm to see how quickly you could distill lavender into essential oil. These kinds of stills are on farms all across America — we could get essential oils from so many beautiful herbs and flowers. I'm thinking about all of the different varieties of basil and all of the varieties of lemon verbena, we can use those as ice cream makers. I really think that this will become something bigger for me."

Fairmont Olympic Hotel Rooftop Apiary

Anyone can be a beekeeper these days. The Fairmont Olympic Hotel Rooftop in Seattle opened a "bee hotel" as a way to support the local environment and to harvest their own honey onsite. Now, the hotel is home to five rooftop beehives, and 500,000 bees that produce up to 200 pounds of honey per year.

bee on white flower
Bees flying around the apiary

"We raised honeybees growing up and I always saw my grandfather going to the hives, but I always kept a safe distance. So visiting the apiary, it was really cool to be able to carry the smoker and get right up next to the bees. Prying the boxes and frames apart and pulling the honey out, the scent of honey is everywhere. Sometimes I feel like sunshine penetrates something and gives it a little extra burst of warmth. I felt like this honey was just full of the flavor of sunshine. The flowers were blooming, the honey was glistening in the sun, and the wax was warming up — it was just a beautiful rooftop experience."

Theo Chocolate

Theo Chocolate, a leader in the "bean to bar movement," made some of the first organic, fair-trade chocolate in the U.S. more than a decade ago. The company sources organic cocoa from Congo to make its coveted chocolate bars.

chocolate being decorated
jeni in a hairnet talking to another woman

"I learned a lot at Theo Chocolate. I've worked with chocolate makers, but I've never been to a chocolate roastery and factory. I loved that the way that the chocolate de-gasses, similar to coffee. When we first got there, the factory smelled acidic and almost vinegary. By the time we turned around and walked back through, it was full of this fruity chocolate aroma. The same batch of chocolate was just at a different place on the line, which affected its scent. That was something new to me."

Process

"After having spent a couple days in Seattle, I feel like I've experienced a lot of scent — almost an overload, but in a good way. Going from the forest to the water, and then the clouds and then the sun and the rooftop — it's all over, this sort of scent experience. There's so much cool stuff that’s happening in Seattle. Whether it's wild foraged ingredients or just any sort of market ingredient or flower-cultivated, there’s so many interesting possibilities for flavor."

Apple Bloom Ice Cream

Ice cream base

To make this recipe, you will need an ice cream maker.

    2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 1½ oz. cream cheese, softened
  • ⅛ tsp sea salt
  • 1 ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp dried rose petals
  • 1 tsp dried osmanthus flowers
  • 1 tbsp dried chamomile flowers
  • 2 apples, washed & cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • ⅓ cup plain kefir

Preparation

  1. Prep

    In a small bowl, mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.

  2. Cook

    Combine the remaining milk with heavy cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a boil and cook for four minutes. Add the cornstarch slurry to the mixture and bring back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula until slightly thickened, about one minute. Strain the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese and whisk until smooth.

  3. Chill

    Place apples and dried flowers in a bowl and pour ice cream base over the ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until completely cool, about four hours.

  4. Freeze

    After it’s cooled, strain the mixture and pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister, add in the kefir, and turn on the machine. Once the ice cream mixture is thick and creamy, turn the machine off. Scoop the soft ice cream into a storage container. Press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze for at least 4 hours in the coldest part of your freezer.

  5. Serve with a light almond or vanilla cake and mead.

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This feature was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and Visit Seattle. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.


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