In my personal hierarchy of frozen treats, fudge pops beat fruit pops, and fruit pops beat Italian ices. But nothing, and I mean nothing, beats ice cream sandwiches! To me, they're the epitome of everything a summer dessert should be—cold, sweet, creamy, and just messy enough to get your hands a bit sticky without ruining a white tee-shirt. My mild addiction to the architectural treats from Coolhaus ice cream truck ruined store bought sandwiches for me last summer, and has morphed into a new summer obsession with making my own. It started off simple enough (cookies + ice cream = ice cream sandwich, right?) but, now I've found all sorts of secrets to creating the perfect eat-by-the-pool (or eat-standing-alone-in-your-hot-apartment) summer treat. Read on for my top three tricks (including one that involves a slice of bread)...
Bake the right cookies. The key is making sure they're nice and soft and slightly chewy, but not so chewy that they'll get soggy when you fill them with ice cream and pop them in the freezer. Using a small, springloaded cookie scoop guarantees evenly-sized cookies and, though size-sameness is negotiable when baking a basic batch, it is essential when making sandwiches. Also, I love chocolate chip cookies as much as the next girl, but I find that chunky cookies are generally a no-go for ice cream sandwiches: The chocolate gets too hard in the freezer for my liking. I'm partial to the chocolate cookies from Martha's Cream-Filled Chocolate Sandwiches, but a chewy ginger or peanut-butter cookie would be great, too!
Store them smartly. Here's my real secret: Bake your cookies a day or two ahead (easy to remember if you're thinking about ice cream sandwiches 98% of the time, like I am) then store them in a container with a slice or two of bread. This sounds wacky, but it's a trick I learned from my mom, who used to soften those hard-as-rock low-fat diet cookies this way. Trust me, it works! The cookies absorb the moisture from the bread and become nice and chewy.
Just add ice cream. Ice cream selection is key. For a recent party (pictured above) we chose Talenti's Mediterranean Mint gelato (yum), Steve's Salty Caramel (yummier) and Steve's Mexican Chili Chocolate (yummiest). Let a pint of ice cream sit at room temp until it's soft enough to scoop. (In the heat wave that is July on the East Coast, 15 minutes or so should do the trick!) Then get to work: You'll have about 10 minutes of perfectly pliable ice cream. Any longer and it will get too soft and runny, putting you at risk for thin, under-filled ice cream sandwiches. Follow the three S's - scoop, sandwich, and scrape. First, scoop ice cream onto the center of one cookie (use more ice cream than you think you'll need - this is not the time to skimp, people!). Then, sandwich another cookie right on top and press down. Next, scrape the straight edge of a knife around the edge of the sandwich, which will get rid of any protruding ice cream and fill in any gaps. Have your assistant wrap each one tightly in plastic and pop it in the freezer.
I could tell you that most homemade ice cream sandwiches will stay good for about a week in the freezer but, to be honest, they've never lasted that long in my house. Enjoy!