The Best Way to Make a Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich

Something about spring makes me want to throw healthy cooking to the wind. Of course there is plenty of good cooking to be done in the spring with all those temptingly fresh vegetables, but after the cold of winter I also want to luxuriate in the sunshine with something easy, quick, and decadent. Like an ice cream sandwich. A really, really good ice cream sandwich. A (dare I say it?) perfect ice cream sandwich.

OK, so "perfect" might be pushing it a little bit. But I do think that this here is the secret to really, really good ice cream sandwiches:

Hot cookie. Cold ice cream.

Often when people make ice cream sandwiches at home, they start the other way around, using firm cookies and softening their ice cream. It makes intuitive sense, right? You want good support in a cookie base and nice soft spreadable ice cream.

But we're not making peanut butter sandwiches here; this is an ice cream sandwich, and ice cream is going to melt. The real trick of an ice cream sandwich is getting that fleeting moment when the cookie and the ice cream are of nearly identical consistency, the moment when you bit into a hot, gooey cookie and find barely melted, cold ice cream that is nearly the same texture and firmness as the cookie. Then they become cookie-ice cream nirvana; they are more than the sum of their individual parts: they are no longer cookie and ice cream; it becomes ice-cream-cookie-SANDWICH. Yes, that is what we want!

• 1 You should start with hot, barely baked cookies, fresh out of the oven. I truly did cheat on this part; I was craving something sweet so bad that I picked up pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough from Trader Joe's freezer section. (It's spring, I tell you! You can see how I tore the top of the box off in the heat of my cookie-sandwich lust.) Bake the cookies for about 14 minutes or until just set. Let them cool for 3-4 minutes; they should still be quite hot but firmed up.

• 2 Then take your ice cream out of the freezer. It should still be hard. I made up for my storebought cookie dough with homemade lemon ice cream, not very sweet, and quite tangy.

• 3 Scoop or shave your ice cream in long strips — not in big round balls. You want chunky thin blocks or strips. Lay them on the cookie, top with another hot cookie and eat immediately.

• 4 Have another one.

To make a fine ice cream sandwich, suitable for eating on the front stoop in the new spring sunshine, ice cream dripping down your wrist, that's really all you need. This sort of ice cream sandwich is not nearly as good for storing, of course, or making ahead for a party, but this is the apex of cookie sandwich goodness.

If you must store them, you can wrap them individually in wax-paper bags or plastic wrap and put them in a box in the freezer. If you underbake the cookies they should stay chewy and soft even when frozen.

What's your favorite ice cream/cookie sandwich combination?

Related: Escapes: Ice Cream for Dinner

(Originally published May 8, 2009)

(Images: Faith Durand)