In 1996, Jeni Britton Bauer was an art student in Ohio, working at a pastry shop by day and studying perfumery by night, tinkering with scents in her kitchen. One fateful afternoon, while eating chocolate ice cream, she mixed in cayenne pepper oil. "It was so good, it was like the sky opened up," she says. "I knew right then that creating flavors was all I wanted to do." Bauer made good on her new obsession, quitting school and opening an ice cream parlor. "My family thought I was crazy," she says; considering how little she knew about pasteurization and cash flow, maybe they were right. The shop closed after four years. But two years later, after completing Penn State's famed week-long ice cream course and devising a smarter business plan, she opened Jeni's in Columbus. Today Bauer, whose cookbook Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Desserts just hit shelves, presides over a mini empire of 16 shops from Chicago to Nashville. To concoct flavors like Sweet Potato with Torched Marshmallows and Chocomole (tortilla-chip-studded spicy chocolate), she relies on these essentials:

1. Princess Portrait

"Years ago, I did a collection of flavors influenced by Marie Antoinette (like Toasted Brioche with Butter and Jam). While researching, I discovered Princess de Lamballe, who came to a brutal end in the French Revolution. But she lives on in my office, along with Zelda Fitzgerald and George Washington, all a reminder that inspiration can come from anywhere, especially history!"

2. Ice Cream Sculpture

"I was in fourth or fifth grade when I made this. I remember thinking at the time that it'd be fun to work in an ice cream shop, but clearly I had no clue how far things would go! This cone has followed me from my childhood home to a place of honor on my desk."

3. Spices and Powders

"These are great for coloring ice cream without artificial stuff. Turmeric turns our Savannah Buttermint yellow; beet powder gives our Orchid Vanilla macaroon sandwiches (above) a purple tint. But despite our inventive varieties, I will never fall out of love with our humblest flavor: Lemon Frozen Yogurt."

4. Goat's Milk Soap

"My hands get really dry from washing them so often, so I keep bars of this by the sinks in the test kitchen and at home. It's gentler on the skin."

5. Shipbuilder's Books

"I've come to refer to my company as a ship: The team is the crew, and we work to make our boat seaworthy—even in storms, like when we're blasted with orders. I use the metaphor so much that I now collect books related to the ocean."

6. Vintage Scoop

"A lot of old-fashioned gadgets look cool but don't actually work well. I found this metal scoop at an antiques mall in Ohio, and it's magical. It glides through ice cream and releases it perfectly without too much melting."

7. Gourmet Magazines

"When a hip grocery store opened in Columbus, they used old Gourmets for wallpaper and asked if I wanted the leftover issues, which date back to the '60s! I find them endlessly useful. They're full of character: history, travel and true food journalism."


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