Ice cream sandwiches are as much a part of summer as rain is to spring and bicycles to childhood.
These classic hot-weather treats remind me of drinking from the hose, piles of bikes discarded in front yards, sitting on the front porch, and licking the sticky, sweet chocolate cake from my fingertips, while creamy vanilla ice cream melts down my wrist.
Ice cream sandwiches are an easy-to-make quintessential summer treat. Be the hero of your neighborhood block party, and bring them out to enjoy while the kids chase fireflies and the adults revel in nostalgia.
WHAT IS AN ICE CREAM SANDWICH?
There’s no denying this is a simple dessert: a block of vanilla ice cream, sandwiched between two layers of soft, chocolatey cake.
For this recipe, I made a thin brownie base to use as the chocolate cake layers, and stayed with traditional vanilla ice cream, but feel free to mix it up. Strawberry ice cream, mint chip, caramel, or almost any flavor in between would be delicious. What doesn’t pair well with a brownie?
Once frozen, the brownie remains soft enough to bite through without the ice cream squishing out on the sides—this is an ice cream sandwich requirement in my book. If you want the sandwich even softer, let it sit out for about a minute. Of course, if you’re hitting triple digits outside, 30 seconds might be enough.
HOW TO MAKE THE BROWNIES
I wanted this to be pretty simple and straightforward. Use a jelly roll pan (a baking sheet with sides) lined with parchment paper. Spread a thin layer of brownie batter over the parchment, and bake! When the brownies cool, trim and cut them to size.
WHAT’S THE BEST ICE CREAM FOR ICE CREAM SANDWICHES?
A lot of recipes call for softening the ice cream, spreading it over an uncut cookie base, and topping it with another cookie—after which, you freeze and cut it into individual sandwiches.
If you’re using homemade ice cream for this sandwich recipe, I would go the aforementioned route. The edges aren’t as clean, but it’s an ice cream sandwich. No one really cares.
If you’re using store-bought ice cream, which is used for this version, I would keep a few things in mind.
- Look for rectangular packages. It’s easiest if you can find a true rectangle carton of ice cream (with 90-degree angles) that folds together. You just unwrap the box from around the ice cream, slice it into slabs, and set it on the individually cut brownies. Wrap it, freeze it, and you’re done!
- Can’t find rectangular packages? If your store-bought ice cream comes in a container you can’t easily unwrap, remove the lid, use a sharp knife to cut the container like a “T” on one of the longer sides, and unwrap the ice cream.
- High-end ice cream melts faster than its less expensive counterparts. It has fewer commercial stabilizers in it. If you go with a top-notch brand, you may want to slice your slabs, pop them in the freezer, and work with one slab at a time.
WHAT’S THE BEST PAN SIZE TO USE?
Okay! If there’s one part that may be a bit tricky, it’s probably pan size. Jelly roll pans come in various shapes and sizes. I used a 16×11-inch pan. It worked great.
Your pan might be slightly larger or smaller. An 15×11-inch pan would be perfect. If your pan is much smaller, I would divide the batter in half among two pans, or do it in batches. If your pan is much larger, I would make a fake side by folding aluminum foil and placing it in the pan so the inside of the pan measures 16×11 or 15×11. Don’t worry about a fraction of an inch here or there. We don’t have to be too precious about this.
I did try baking these in a 9×13-inch cake pan, but the brownie was just too thick. Stick with the jelly roll pan.
JAZZ UP YOUR ICE CREAM SANDWICHES
If the basic chocolate and vanilla combo isn’t spectacular enough for your freak flag side, or you’re looking for a way to include the kids, break out some sprinkles, sanding sugar, mini chocolate chips, and nuts. Press the sides of the ice cream into any of the above, wrap, and freeze.
TRY THESE ICE CREAM RECIPES
Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches Recipe
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream in a paper, rectangle container
- Half-sheet Jelly Roll Pan Sheet Pan, roughly 15x11-inch
- Offset spatula
- Parchment paper
1 Prepare the oven and pan: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom of the jelly roll pan, then line it with parchment, leaving enough to hang over the sides. The butter will help the parchment stick to the pan when you spread the batter. The jelly roll pan should be about 15x11, give or take a little on either side.
2 Combine dry ingredients: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
3 Make the chocolate sauce: In a medium sauce pan set over low heat, slowly melt the butter, chocolate, vanilla, and salt together, stirring constantly. Once melted, remove from heat.
4 Finish the batter: Stir the brown and white sugar into the chocolate mixture. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until well combined. Fold in the flour mixture.
5 Spread the batter in the pan: Using an offset spatula or standard spatula, spread the batter into a thin, even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. When finished, the brownie should have puffed up just a little, and the top should look dry.
6 Cool and cut the cookies: Let cool completely. Once cool, use the parchment sides to lift the cookie out of the pan. Transfer to a large cutting board.
Use a ruler to trim about 1/4 of an inch off each side so you have smooth even edges. Measure the trimmed cookie. Then use the ruler to measure—and a long knife to cut—6 long strips the same width. Each strip should be about 2 to 2 1/2 inches wide. Measure the long strips to find the halfway point, and cut them across the center. Once cut, you should have 12 thin, rectangular brownies.
Use an offset spatula or knife and run it between one of the rectangular brownies and the parchment. Put one brownie on top of the next just to make sure the tops are the same size as the bottoms. Trim if necessary. Take the top brownie off, and put it back where it was. Lift up the parchment and slide the cookies to the side.
7 Assemble the ice cream sandwiches: Get a piece of plastic wrap ready. Take the half-gallon of ice cream out of the freezer. Remove the cardboard container either by unfolding it or removing the lid. Cut it down the middle like a T, and then around the bottom, and set the block of ice cream on a cutting board.
Slice it longways into 1-inch thick slabs. Do this one slab at a time. Place your slab on a cutting board. Your slabs will be larger than the brownie. Place one brownie on top of the ice cream slab. Cut the ice cream to size.
Lift the ice cream and brownie up; place it brownie down on the plastic wrap; put the other brownie on top of the ice cream. Then, wrap the ice cream sandwich in plastic wrap. Repeat this until all the sandwiches are made and wrapped. Freeze until you’re ready to enjoy.
You probably won’t use all the ice cream. Scoop what remains into a Tupperware container and freeze for another day.
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