Chocolate Cookie & Strawberry Gelato Sandwiches

I was born in a small town in Ohio and we lived there through the end of my kindergarten year.  Despite spending all those years there I have only a handful of memories.  I remember the kid down the street who was my age and he liked to eat, what I deemed, “crazy sandwiches”. These usually consisted of ingredients I would never imagine putting together: peanut butter and mayonnaise, peanut butter and bologna, and peanut butter, pickles and ketchup... all of them on Wonder brand white bread.  I have the distinct recollection of sitting at his house (watching cartoons I assume, as is the norm for children of that age) when he offered me an “ice cream” sandwich.  With his crazy concoctions in my head I politely declined knowing in the long run I would be better off not partaking.  I mean, could you imagine ice cream served between two slices of Wonder bread? It would be soggy before he even left the kitchen! When he returned with a chocolaty ice cream treat, I was absolutely taken aback.  How did I not know this delicious looking item even existed?  The answer didn't come to me for years, but it was actually very simple – we obviously didn't have enough money to buy such extravagant treats.  This is just a guess on my part but it seems reasonable. We were not a wealthy family. However, I do remember my parents purchasing, via mail order (probably), a cardboard lemonade stand. It arrived in a very large tube and they set it up at the end of the lawn, near the gravel road.  This was straight out of the Peanuts cartoons and looked exactly like Lucy’s “the doctor is in” booth, only mine said something like “fresh lemonade: 5 cents”. I remember the tube arriving and my parents working diligently, folding and connecting cardboard until it was all assembled. There are pictures of me sitting (apparently for hours on end) behind the cut out waiting for customers.  How could we not have enough money for ice cream treats with such a grand spectacle of a storefront staffed by an exceptionally adorable child? How could there not have been vast amounts of income raked in by the selling of lemon flavored Kool-Aid?  It remains a mystery.

As I think back to those years in Ohio, there are faint memories of sledding down the lawn in winter. It seemed I traveled for miles, though it could only have been measured in yards. I remember my dad would make “ice cream” out of the first snow, but it was really only snow with maple syrup on it or some other topping like that.  I remember that during the school year there was a crossing guard at the intersection near the school I attended, and I remember the school fire escape we had to scamper down when there was a drill.  The kindergarten class was at the top floor of the building and there must have been a million stairs to get there from the ground floor. On the last day of the school year (I would have only witnessed this once but apparently it was a tradition) the first grade teacher would take all the marbles she had confiscated from her students and from the top of the main staircase she would pour them out. The marbles would bounce haphazardly down those countless stairs to the eager kids at the bottom, who would run and jump, trying to catch the glass orbs. Pandemonium ensuing as kids trip over each other while small, hard eye-poking shrapnel came ricocheting down the stairs. I can only imagine the lawsuits that would be filed if any teacher tried this today!  OSHA: line one!

This school was also where I first encountered popsicles. One hot day the crossing guard stood at the bottom of the fire escape and loudly called up to the kindergarten class saying she had brought ice-cold treats.  All the kids, single file, marched down the escape stairs and once we reached the bottom, each of us was handed a Popsicle.  I was told later in life, that I actually asked that crossing guard to wait for me and I would marry her.  Clearly that never came to fruition, but I have had a soft spot in my heart for popsicles ever since.  In any case at the end of my kindergarten year my family packed up and moved to California.

Let’s skip ahead a bit to when I was in the sixth grade. This is where I really got my desire to cook. The teachers had instituted a revolving program of activities to take place on alternating Fridays.  Students would be grouped and would attend a particular “activity class” and would learn about whatever that activity was. For the first round our teacher asked us to hold up our hands when we wanted to be assigned to an activity.  The first offering was cooking class and no one but a few girls held up their hands, second was needle crafting, again only a few girls held up their hands, the third was Audio/Video equipment and even though I already learned how to operate all of the schools A/V equipment I held my hand up and was assigned to that group.  There were several other activities and when all the students were assigned we broke into our groups.  Everyone laughed at the girls that had to take cooking as they marched off toward the cafeteria. At the end of the day, to everyone’s surprise, the girls came back carrying paper plates with pizza and styrofoam cups filled with homemade ice cream. 

When the next Friday came around and the teacher called out who wants to be in the cooking class, every hand went up!  I was lucky enough to get picked for that round and was excited to learn we too would be making pizza and hand cranked ice cream.  I remember thinking to myself that I really needed to take a chance with things more often.  When would I learn not to dismiss something because it sounded strange to me?  How many times do I need to learn this lesson? On the next round of activities, when they announced needlework class, I put my hand up right away. I remember learning the basic needle point process and creating a geometric flower out of a piece of canvas and several colored pieces of thread. But that's a whole different post.  For now let's stick with cookie ice cream sandwiches.

As you probably noticed these look just like any regular cookie ice cream sandwich... just two cookies with some ice cream in the middle of them. Who needs a recipe for that? Well, truth be told you don't. You can go to the store, buy any cookies you want, slap some ice cream in between two of them and call it a day. But here's where that method falls apart. If your cookie is too hard it crumbles into pieces or before you can bite through it, the ice cream squishes out the sides.  Too soft of a cookie and it can be a mushy mess on top of the ice cream making the whole thing hard to hold, and the cookie doesn't add to the party as it just becomes part of the ice cream. Either way that's not good, and we want good. Right?

I came across this recipe in Bon Appetit magazine (yes, I know a lot of my recipes come from that magazine… it was a good magazine) and simply because it said gelato in the title I cut it out. This is one of those recipes that I have not altered at all. You can check out the original recipe here.

First off, let me say that these ice cream sandwiches marry two flavors that go together like no other, chocolate and strawberries. And although you can simply buy strawberry ice cream, if you have an ice cream maker, I implore you to make your own from the recipe shown. Now I need to be honest with you and let you know that I don’t really like strawberry ice cream, in fact it would most likely be my last pick at an ice cream store… BUT (did you see that was all caps), BUT, (I say again) this ice cream is fantastic.  It could be the fact that the strawberries are fresh, it could be that little addition of pomegranate juice that is added, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the combination of the ice cream and the cookie… all I know is that it’s super yummy, and even though I can make any flavor ice cream for these cookies that I want, I always make this one.  Secondly, well come on, who needs a secondly?

Now I can tell some of you are already passing on making these because you don't have an ice cream maker, or they seem a little boring. To those of you I say...  If you've read my posts you'll come to realize that a lot of the recipes can be altered. You can put your own twist on many of the recipes I've featured by adding different spices, or changing out ingredients. I like to think of these recipes as starting points. Sometimes we just need a nudge to get us going and seeing a recipe like this might just give you that nudge to create something similar.  If you're thinking that this is simply ice cream and cookies and there's nothing new about that, well, you’re right. But handing one of these to a friend or loved one on a nice warm day and taking fifteen minutes to enjoy each others company, suddenly it's not about eating ice cream and cookies anymore. If you have kids, surprise them with one after school and give them a fond memory to look back on when they are older. Food isn't only about what it tastes like; it's about what we do with it. My blog isn’t about coming up with some new, never before tried method of cooking, nor is it about finding the newest food craze. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that one of the best things about food is that it can be simple. That’s what these ice cream cookie sandwiches are… simple. Take a moment with one of these and uncomplicate your life for just a few minutes.

For those of you without ice cream makers, maybe it's time to reconsider?  You can buy a good ice cream maker these days for about $60.00 (you can email me for my suggestion on which one to buy) and it will be worth every penny. If you like ice cream at all, you'll like it more when you make it at home. If buying a machine is out of your comfort zone, rest assured you can make these with your favorite store bought ice cream so don't fret.  And I am going to be posting a second version of ice cream sandwiches at some point that won't need an ice cream maker... stay tuned...

For now the recipe is listed at the bottom of the post along with a link to download or print it. You can also see the original recipe here.

There isn't anything complicated about these at all. 

However, I will note for you a few things I learned from making these.

The recipe says it makes about 12 sandwiches. I have never understood that, in my book it either makes 12 or not.  What I do is weigh my dough when it’s all together then portion out 24 cookies that way I know I will have the exact same cookie size for each sandwich… and guess what, I’ll be guaranteed 12 sandwiches.  Same with the gelato, it says it makes about 4 cups, but that’s not the important part for me, if for some reason it makes a little less, then adjust the portion in each cookie so that they all get the same amount.  Again a scale makes this so easy.  When I bake the cookies I usually bake six cookies per sheet pan. Don't try to bake twelve per pan or they will touch while baking and stick together.  You can, if you wish, use all vanilla extract in your cookies but I recommend not skipping the almond extract. It gives them a bit of "body" if that makes sense. Also be sure to not overbake your cookies.

 If you’re making the gelato be sure to keep stirring your milk and sugar mix as it cooks and keep going until it is slightly thick and you see little bubbles appearing in the mix.  It should NOT be a boil folks, it’s not even a simmer I would say, it’s just that point when you look at the milk and you see it start bubbling.  If your milk was cold to begin with, this might take a little more than 5 minutes. I usually buy two baskets of strawberries and I will use about a basket and a half of them to make the ice cream. Also you should get the best tasting ones you can find. The better they are... the better flavor you'll end up with. Finally, when you are putting them together be sure to wrap each cookie tightly and when you stash them in the freezer, hide two of them under some frozen peas or something and tell everybody you only made ten.  Hey, the cook deserves a little something extra, am I right?

Special equipment needed

  • Stand mixer with paddle attachment or electric mixer

  • Food Processor or Blender (if you’re making your own ice cream)

  • Ice cream maker (if you’re making your own ice cream)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

  • ½ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

  • ½ cup granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • ½ teaspoon almond extract

  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

  • 4 cups Strawberry Gelato, slightly softened (see recipe below) or your favorite store bought ice cream

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375ºF with racks in upper and lower thirds of oven.

Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or use silicon mats.

In a bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, & salt, set aside

Using a stand mixer beat butter until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Beat in brown sugar and granulated sugar.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in vanilla and almond extract, and scrape down sides of bowl.

Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop batter in heaping tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 to 3 inches apart. (See my note below)

Using moistened fingers flatten cookie mounds to ¾ thickness. Do not skip this step.

Bake cookies for 5 minutes.

Reverse sheets in oven top to bottom and front to back.

Bake until cookies are puffed and dry looking, but soft to the touch, about 5 minutes more.

Cool Completely

Freeze on sheets for 15 minutes

Spoon ⅓ cup gelato onto flat side of 1 cookie, top with second cookie flat side down and press together.

Wrap each sandwich individually in plastic wrap and freeze until gelato is firm, 3 - 4 hours.

Notes

When dividing your cookie dough you’ll want to make 24 even sized cookies, using a scale can really help. Wrap sandwiches tightly for freezing.

 

Strawberry Gelato

Yield about 4 cups

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • ¾ cup heavy cream

  • 2¼ cups sliced, hulled strawberries (see note below)

  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice

Instructions

Stir sugar and cornstarch in medium heavy saucepan.

Whisk in milk and heavy cream.

Whisk over medium heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 5 minutes.

Pour into medium sized bowl.

Cool over ice, stirring occasionally.

Puree strawberries in food processor or blender.

Using a mesh strainer, strain into gelato base.

Stir in pomegranate juice.

Chill gelato base 3 hours.

Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer to container for freezing, cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours.

Notes

I use about 1½ pints of strawberries, but that will depend on their size.  It may take a bit longer than 5 minutes for your milk to get a little thick and start bubbling if your milk was cold to begin with.