Look, guys, you’re never going to see my living room on a design blog. As lovely as the walls in landlord-chosen sallow yellow-beige are, as handsome as this coffee table once was (before the finish chipped off the top and we decided to ignore it until it fixed itself), and as charming as the explosion of half-deflated balloons, overturned fire trucks and other toys (some not even wooden, organic, or in sync with our decorating scheme, which, by the way, doesn’t exist) might be, this is hardly the stuff of Pinners’ Envy. Our parties are equally uncoordinated. There are no Mason jar cocktails with homemade bitters, flour sack table runners, or dishes sprinkled with fresh herbs from our window box garden (which also, uh, doesn’t exist, although if you saw the grime that accumulates on our windowsills from the avenue below, you might thank us). We’ve never sent guests home with a party favor aside from a hangover and we usually forget to make coffee at brunch. Our poor toddler has been deprived of organized birthday parties thus far, as I secretly hoped to stick with family brunches and homemade cakes (of course) until he was capable of expressing even the slightest interest in a more elaborate affair. (Although this year, he’s already made his intentions clear: “Jacob turn three. With cake. And guitar. And cake.” Noted!)
But, I do have my moments of high obsessiveness, such as my longstanding affair with creating homemade versions of things you normally buy at the grocery store, be they Oreos, goldfish crackers, graham crackers, fudge popsicles, pop tarts or marshmallows. I can’t help it; the homemade versions always taste a zillion times better and contain no mystery ingredients. So, when I spied a recipe for ice cream sandwiches in a new book about parties, even I knew I’d probably never make the gold luster cookie Oscar statuettes, Walk of Fame brownie stars or glitzy gold curtains in the chapter that focuses on creating an old-fashioned Hollywood-style movie night party, there wasn’t a chance they wouldn’t be in my freezer by that very weekend.
The book is from Amy Atlas, a New York City party planner known for her stunning party spreads that execute a theme down to the tiniest details. Her book is spectacular, 15 chapters with everything from tablescapes to directions for how to do all of those pesky things (applying fondant, flooding sugar cookies with decorative frosting, doweling a cake, etc.) that seemed really intimidating before she walked you through it and you realized it could be a cinch. But lest you think the book is just pretty pictures and ambitious parties, these sandwiches will correct you in a single bite: they are perfection. If store-bought ice cream sandwiches tasted half this good, well, it would be dangerous. Fortunately, it’s impossible to keep these around long enough to cause any considerable damage — especially if you bring them to a (themed, of course) rooftop barbecue, as I did on Saturday night.
One year ago: Crispy Potato Roast and Sour Cream Cornbread with Aleppo
Two years ago: Blue Cheese Scallion Drop Biscuits and Creamed Chard and Spring Onions
Three years ago: Buttermilk Ice Cream
Four years ago: Almond Cake with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote and Cauliflower Bean and Feta Salad
Five years ago: Black Bean Confetti Salad
Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches
Adapted from Sweet Designs by Amy Atlas
Yield: 10 to 12 2-by-4-by-1-inch ice cream sandwiches (24 cookies). However, I made 10 large and 10 miniature (1-by-1.5-inch) sandwiches because while I was baking the large ones, my son toddled in from his nap and announced “Mommy making cookies! For Jacob!” and I realized he probably didn’t need a cookie nearly the size of his head. I am so very mean.
If you have a favorite cookie cutter shape you’d like to use for these sandwiches, definitely use it. You can cut the cookies and the ice cream with it. You could perhaps even make, say, star-shaped ice cream sandwiches for a 4th of July-themed cookout. You know, if you’re not me.
Re, the cocoa weight below: Just about everyone on earth besides me finds that a cup of unsweetened cocoa powder weighs 80 to 85 grams. That’s what the number below is based on. However, I consistently find that my super-fancy Valrhona Dutch cocoa weighs in a bit higher, up to 5 to 10 grams more than you see below. So, you might nudge it up if you’re using the same.
2 2/3 cups (335 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup (75 grams) extra dark or Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks or 285 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 gallon (8 cups or approximately 1050 grams, weight will vary by brand/variety) ice cream, your choice of flavor (I used cookies and cream), softened
Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift the flour and cocoa together (I am generally too lazy to sift things but cocoa is really lumpy so don’t skip this) and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy. Add the yolks and vanilla and mix until combined, then scrape down sides and mix briefly again. Add the flour mixture a little at a time then mix until combined.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces. If the dough is too soft to handle, wrap and chill it until firm enough to roll out (I recommend 30 minutes only; any longer and it becomes crumbly to roll out). Roll each batch into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle, about 10 by 8 inches. Cut into a total of
24 20 2-by-4-inch rectangles. You may have enough extra to reroll the scraps and create 4 more 2-by-4-inch rectangles, in which case, you could make two additional sandwiches.
Use an offset spatula to transfer the rectangles to the prepared sheets; you’ll only need an inch space between them. Use the tip of a thermometer (totally brilliant tip from Amy, by the way; it made far better indentations than skewers that I usually use for docking) to poke the cookies with holes (Amy recommends 14 holes but I used this as my guide and made more).
Bake the cookies for 16 to 18 minutes, or until they stay firm when tapped in the center. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough, rerolling scraps as needed.
Meanwhile, line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper, allowing it to overhang on two sides (it will act as a sling for the ice cream). Spread the softened ice cream into the pan, smooth the top and freeze until firm, about one hour (or longer if your freezer is as terrible as mine).
Run a knife along the exposed sides of the pan to loosen the ice cream. Holding onto the parchment paper, lift ice cream out of the pan and onto the work surface. Using one of the cookies as a template, cut ice cream into 10 to 12 2-by-4-inch bars (cut the number of cookie pairs your batch yielded). Strangely, I found using kitchen shears to go right through the ice cream and the paper underneath the easiest. I then flipped each piece of ice cream onto a cookie, peeled off the paper, and finished sandwiching the rectangle of ice cream with a second cookie.
(Look, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that this whole ice cream part caused a spectacular mess in my kitchen. Huge! It was an ice cream massacre! But, I was rushing and you should not. If your ice cream begins to soften, just slide it back into the freezer for a bit and it will become easy to work with again. Promise. Do as I say, not as I did, unless you like sticky floors.)
Wrap each ice cream sandwich in plastic and please, again, listen to Amy here. I was all “Oh, let me just get them cold again and I’ll wrap them later.” Which was wrong. They continue to lose their shape for a bit, runny and melting, before they freeze up and that is why my sandwiches were kind of a mess. “Sealing” them into their shape immediately with plastic is, well, the reason that Amy is a sweets stylist and my food looks, uh, “handmade.”
Freeze until just before serving.