Chill out with do-it-yourself ice cream sandwiches
Making your own ice cream sandwiches is worth the effort, because you can choose your own filling, they taste better — and you can say, "I made these myself."
We know. Ice cream sandwiches are right there in your grocer's freezer case. Why would you fuss and make your own?
Well, for the reasons that anyone bakes: The wafers are fresher. The fillings can be customized to your taste. Mostly, though, there's an undeniable satisfaction in baking from scratch. It shows you care and, in the case of ice cream sandwiches, that you're literally cool.
The trick is getting the ice cream between the wafers without becoming a melty mess. A tour of the Internet reveals various strategies — cutting and filling, filling and freezing, stacking and cutting, glopping and dripping. Thanks to a series of experiments (you're welcome), we think we have the process down cold.
The key is planning ahead.
The first step is transferring a carton (1.5 quarts) of your choice of ice cream into a 9- by 9-inch pan lined with parchment paper, spreading it into an even layer, then letting the ice cream freeze solid once again. Give it 24 hours. Premium ice creams freeze harder than other ice creams.
Now, a word about the chocolate wafers themselves: We're purists here; no using actual cookies and squishing them around a scoop of ice cream. The chocolate wafer — like a thin brownie — is integral to this treat. It must be firm enough to handle, yet soft enough that it yields to a bite without oozing ice cream.
We made two large wafer squares, then made a sort of giant ice cream sandwich that we then cut into shapes. We made nine (3-inch) Klondike-like sandwiches, but you also can cut rectangular, or even triangular, shapes.
Whatever you do, immediately wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for another couple of hours before serving. This melds the sandwich together and lets the wafer soften just a bit.
The moment of assembly is a good excuse for enlisting a helper: One cuts, one wraps. (Don't worry; you can do this solo. Just don't answer the phone.)
Consider these a grab-and-go dessert. You can doll them up by dipping the edges in sprinkles, toasted coconut, candied ginger, chopped peanuts — you get the idea. Or just enjoy them as the perfect handheld combo of ice cream and chocolate.
Having a supply of customized treats in your freezer is … pretty cool.
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Ice Cream Sandwiches
Ice cream needs to be prepared a day in advance.
1.5 quarts (1 carton) premium ice cream, your choice of flavor
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional (but deepens chocolate flavor)
¼ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
A day before you plan to bake, line a 9- by 9-inch pan with a 9-inch wide strip of parchment paper, leaving ends long enough to grab onto. Using slightly softened ice cream (or cut off the carton and slice into slices), spread the ice cream in an even layer, making sure to get into the corners. Cover and freeze for 24 hours or until firm.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven.
On 2 sheets of parchment paper, using a pencil and ruler, draw a 9-inch square.
In a saucepan, warm the butter and oil over medium heat until just melted, then set aside to cool a bit. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, espresso powder (if using) and salt.
Into the butter mixture, whisk the sugar, then the beaten egg, combining thoroughly. Using a spatula, stir in the flour mixture, then the vanilla, mixing until smooth.
Divide the batter between the parchment paper squares; there will be slightly more than ¾ cup of batter for each. With a rolling pin, roll the batter to fill the penciled outline, taking care to reach the corners. It will be quite thin. (You can also pat out the batter with your fingers.) Use the ruler to square off the edges. (Batter will not spread while baking.)
Slide 1 parchment onto a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes, or until just firm. When first wafer is done, slide the wafer, paper and all, onto a counter, then repeat with the second wafer. If necessary, trim the edges along the pencil line with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. (The slim shards are the cook's treat.) Repeat this with the second wafer, then let both cool completely, still on the parchment paper.
To assemble the sandwiches: Carefully turn one wafer upside-down on a cutting surface and peel off the parchment. Lift the ice cream slab from the pan using the paper "handles," invert onto the wafer, then peel off the paper. Carefully remove the remaining wafer from its paper, then place right-side up on the ice cream, pressing gently.
Using a serrated knife, immediately cut into the desired shapes and wrap each in plastic wrap. Return to the freezer for several hours or overnight before serving. Makes 9 (3-inch) sandwiches.
Variations: Embellish the edges of the ice cream sandwiches with mini-chocolate chips, sprinkles, candied ginger, chopped peanuts, toasted coconut or ground toasted nuts (toasting always makes the nuts more flavorful). Or even spread a layer of melted chocolate or caramel atop the inside of the top layer of the wafer.
Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart Living