ice cream sandwiches

Memorial Day.  Something about the unofficial start of summer makes me feel like a kid again. Hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill.  Planting the flower beds. Popsicles.  Running through the sprinkler.  Oh, and ice cream sandwiches.

But when’s the last time you had a really good ice cream sandwich? Chocolate chip cookies flanking ice cream tend to be too tough to chew, and cut up the roof of your mouth.  That’s almost as bad as those push-up freeze-pops, and childhood-memories-be-darned, I’m too old to hurt myself for the sake of dessert.  Sure, the paper-wrapped Hood ice cream sandwiches do the job in a pinch, especially if you’re after nostalgia.  But they don’t taste like much.

These ice cream sandwiches achieve what those supermarket sandwiches only strive for: a chewy, chocolaty cookie that provides a sturdy package for the ice cream.  And they’re so easy, it’s almost ridiculous.  The only problem I had was not eating the cookies before I put the ice cream in them.

And the ice cream – well, that’s the beauty of taking the twenty minutes it takes to make the cookie shells – the ice cream, you can pick it.  I’d advise against chunky ice creams, but I don’t dig chunky ice creams as a general rule (except mint chocolate chip –  I love mint chocolate chip ice cream.)

But it’s up to you – take this where you want to take it; I used a simple mint ice cream, and it elevated the idea of chocolate-and-mint.  But you could go with good old vanilla, or coffee, or whatever you like.  You could roll the edges in nuts, or coconut, or chocolate chips, or crushed pretzels. You could also make this more of a grown-up treat, adding some instant espresso powder to the cookies and filling them with Bailey’s gelato or some such decadent thing.

What I’m saying is that this recipe is a keeper.  It started as a fun project for a summer holiday weekend, a good way to introduce The Lad and The Lass to something other than an ice cream cone; it ended up being easy, delicious, and inspiring a long list of ideas.  This may be my new bring-it for summer barbecues.  Try it.  I tell you, you’ll be happy you did.  And you may well be hiding them from any kids you might have milling about.

Ice Cream Sandwiches
(adapted from Cooks’ Illustrated, 2002.  Makes about 16 sandwiches, depending on your approach)

1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup chocolate syrup
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted

2 one-pint cartons of ice cream
(preferably smooth & dense.; I used Haagen Dazs Five’s Mint)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 350-degrees F. Lightly spray a half-sheet pan or a jelly-roll pan (you’re looking for about an 17-by-11 inch rectangle) with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper.

Sift flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda into medium bowl.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and chocolate syrup in until light brown. Add melted butter and whisk until fully incorporated.

Add dry ingredients to egg mixture. With rubber spatula, gradually incorporate dry ingredients into wet; stir until evenly moistened and no dry streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared baking sheet; spread batter evenly in pan.

Bake until cookie springs back when touched with finger, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes, then run paring knife around perimeter of baking sheet to loosen. Invert cookie onto work surface or large cutting board; carefully peel off parchment. Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Using 2 3/4- to 3-inch round biscuit cutter, (or an inverted, sturdy glass, as I did), cut 16 rounds from the baked cookie.  Alternatively, you could cut the biscuit into equal-sized bars, which would eliminate some cookie waste.  But then you wouldn’t have those delicious leftovers to nibble, so it’s really a question of trade-offs for you.

For “perfect” sandwiches, slice 3/4-inch-thick rounds from ice cream pints, and peel away any pieces of cardboard container. Then use the same cutter you used for the biscuits to cut rounds out of each ice cream slice, sandwiching a slice between two cookies.

For easier, messier sandwiches with less waste, let the ice cream soften a bit, and spread about ¾ inches of ice cream over one biscuit and top with another.

Serve immediately or place sandwiches on foil-lined baking sheet, cover tightly with second sheet foil, and freeze up to 3 hours. To store sandwiches longer, wrap individually in wax paper, then with foil; freeze for up to 7 days. Let sandwiches frozen for more than 30 minutes stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

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