One of the best things about summer, especially if you've got kids or grandkids, is all the ice cream you get to eat to cool off, no excuses necessary. And it's relatively easy to make, even if you don't have an ice cream maker, if you go with a no-churn recipe in which whipped cream is gently folded into a sweetened condensed milk enriched with vanilla and other flavorings, like fresh fruit or spices.
My 2-year-old granddaughter Greta's current favorite is "pink" ice cream, both colored by and studded with chunks of strawberry. She also recently discovered ice cream sandwiches, and is such a fan that, on a recent visit, I watched her try to eat the paper wrapping on one after polishing off the cookie in an attempt to get every single drop of flavor possible into her mouth.
It made me decide we should try our hands at making them at home, stirring the chocolate cookie batter together in a big bowl on the kitchen counter after mixing the ingredients for the ice cream and pouring it into a loaf pan to freeze overnight.
It was a fun way to spend some one-on-one time together, and the sheer joy she expressed when we unwrapped "her" finished sandwiches the next day at her baby brother Sean's baptism party was priceless. My adult children loved them, too, as a late-night munchie.
This recipe, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, is both super easy and super satisfying. I went slightly off script by cutting the sheet pan-sized cookie into individual squares to make the individual sandwiches, which meant some of my cookies crumbled before being stuffed. (I didn't have an offset spatula to smooth the batter.) As a result, the sandwiches weren't picture perfect. (I saved the broken bits to crumble on top of ice cream as a sundae). But they were still pretty tasty, a great introduction to baking for a toddler – and a sweet start to everyone's summer vacation.
Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches
Adapted from smittenkitchen.com.
Makes about 12 ice cream sandwiches.
For the ice cream
1 pound frozen strawberries, slightly thawed
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch fine salt
2 cups heavy cream, cold
For the chocolate sandwich cookies
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold is fine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
3 tablespoons milk, any kind
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Natural Unsweetened Cocoa)
Prepare ice cream: Pulse the strawberries in a food processor until they are small chunks, the size of peas. Add the condensed milk, vanilla and salt. Pulse to combine then remove to a medium bowl and set aside.
Whip the cream with a mixer on medium-high speed until firm peaks form, about 2 minutes. Gently fold about 1 cup of the whipped cream into the strawberry mixture with a rubber spatula until combined, then fold the lightened mixture into the whipped cream until evenly blended.
Pour mixture into a chilled 9-by-5-by-3-inch metal loaf pan, and freeze, covered with foil or plastic wrap, until thick and creamy, like soft-serve, about 2 hours. Swirl in any desired mix-ins with a spoon, if using. Continue to freeze, covered, until solid and scoopable, at least hours more or overnight.
Make cookies: Heat oven to 325 degrees and line a 9-by-13-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper that extends up the two short sides of the pan. Coat the exposed sides with butter or nonstick spray. (A little extra underneath the parchment helps it stick.)
Melt butter in a large bowl halfway, then whisk it until fully melted. (This keeps it from getting too hot.) Whisk in sugar, salt and milk. Whisk in egg white and vanilla; make sure the egg white is fully mixed; it can be stubborn. Add cocoa powder and baking powder and thoroughly mix. Add flour and stir just until it disappears.
Spoon into the prepared pan in small dollops and spread – an offset spatula is great here – into a thin, even layer.
Bake for 15 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. Prick all over with tines of a fork. Let cool, then cut into squares.
Make sandwiches: Before scooping, let ice cream soften at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes.
Divide cookies in half. Scoop the ice cream in small spoonfuls over half the cookies and spread it evenly over. Press second cookie half, right-side-up, on top of each cookie. Gently press to form sandwiches, then wrap in plastic wrap or foil, and place in freezer for at least 1 hour to set. Otherwise, they'll melt.