Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Ice Cream Sandwich Man Cometh!

A couple of weeks ago I alluded to a secret project I was working on. I am now at liberty to divulge said secret, now that my father has received his box. Personally, I can't believe the end result of this 947 mile (as the crow flies) mad dash to send seven homemade ice cream sandwiches from NYC to Florida in the middle of a heatwave. I probably should have waited for cooler weather but I wanted to send a special treat to my father. I've been on pins and needles waiting for him to call to tell me if they arrived in any kind of edible shape. Apparently they did (they're in his freezer firming up even as I type) but he'll let me know definitively tonight. That being said, I think I can go ahead and post the beginning installment of this saga.


Months ago, when we were in the depths of a winter that wasn't terribly winter-like here in NYC, my father and I got to talking on the phone about ice cream. Actually, we were talking about our memories of ice cream – about our favorite brands (we both think Blue Bell is the best) and flavors (he loves strawberry but I'm, now, a vanilla kind of guy). I remember when he'd bring home a gallon and we'd be excited until we found out it was Neapolitan. Nothing ruins ice cream faster than having your favorite flavor butted up against one, or two, you don't like. My big sister, Karla, got the worst of it because she was the vanilla lover back then and little sister, Miss Kee, and I preferred chocolate. By the time Rob came along, I think my folks had given up on the concept of Neapolitan altogether. Besides, he and our mother were staunch chocolate fans, too.

From flavor and brand preferences, the conversation veered onto the topic ice cream sandwiches – which we both absolutely love. How cool is it to learn that you and your father like the same kind of ice cream sandwiches? How much more cool is it to realize that both of you lament the current crop of ice cream sandwich purveyors? Okay, so we're kind of curmudgeons when it comes to this, but.... Excuse me.

Hey! You kids get off my lawn!

Sorry about that.

As I was saying, we both love ice cream sandwiches and remember when the ice cream part wasn't some form of "soft serve" and the cookie part wasn't mushy and tasteless. I loved the way the cookie had a satisfying crunch (and didn't immediately stick to your fingers) but wasn't so hard that it squished the ice cream out from between the layers. I know part of that was the type of ice cream, and how frozen hard it was, though. The two elements combined for a brief summer trip to Nirvana. I don't know about my father, since this what a phone call, but I was certainly drooling over the idea of an ice cream sandwich by that time. I know, I know. Why didn't I just run right out and get one? Because it wasn't Ice Cream Sandwich Season, of course!

A Word About Food Idiosyncrasies: There are a few culinary experiences which I consider to have a "season". Ice cream sandwiches, milkshakes and Slurpees (Icees, for those of Texas extraction) all fall into the summer season. I'm less picky about hot chocolate in the summer, even though its season occurs in winter. If it's very good (say, from CafĂ© Henri) then I'll make an exception when I get a craving. 

That's the word – which I'm sure I'll revisit again in a later post.

And it was at that moment that I uttered the fateful words: "I'm going to figure out a way to make my own ice cream sandwiches." I seem to utter a lot of fateful words about trying to recreate desserts from my past, don't I? To paraphrase C3-P0: "It's my lot in life." Granted, there are much worse lots to have in life. However, since it wasn't even remotely ice cream season, the idea got shoved to the back burner of my ever simmering mind.

Slow-forward to a few weeks ago when I had my first milkshake of the season. The simmering pot started boiling over and I remembered the sandwiches.

"It's time," I said to Michele.

"Time for what?" she gamely asked.

"Time to start working on the ice cream sandwiches! I need to work out the cookie bit and the figure out how to wrap them and how to ship them to Daddy, and..."

"Are you going to make your own ice cream?"

Her question stopped my mouth right in it's tracks – which caused a three-lobe pile-up in my skull. Make. My. Own. Ice Cream? Now, remember, I am someone who, when faced with the option to take a route that is more authentic versus taking an easier way out in these baking endeavors, usually chooses the more authentic route even though it's more work (please note example of said preference via the "versus"). One of the few exceptions, as noted earlier, is zesting lemons for the ginger lemon cream cookies, and even that might change in the future. Honestly, it never occurred to me to make my own ice cream for this but once Michele put the idea out there, I couldn't get it out of my head.

The only problem was that we didn't have an ice cream maker and limited space to store one. We don't have one of those television New York apartments that comes with a four-car garage, a walk-in pantry and two huge bedrooms that any "Friend" with a job at some coffee shop or as an assistant chef can afford. In short, we're short on room here. Where would I even put such a machine? And what kind of machine would I get? The old-fashioned crank style was right out right off the bat. Too labor intensive and way too messy (rock salt and ice make for a drippy combination), if memory served me well enough. I didn't have that kind of time and we surely don't have that kind of storage space.

I needed a modern solution to a traditional problem. A quick consultation with Miss Google provided me with the most likely candidate, based on reviews from several different sites: the Cuisinart ICE 21.

Fits on the counter. Low messiness factor. Fits under the shelf.
Can I keep it, honey?
Not only was it a solidly rated machine but it would also fit in the space I had available under one of our shelves. Plus, since we had a gift card for Bed, Bath & Beyond (thanks, Karla), I could get it at half-price!I love when a plan comes together.

Still, for this particular plan to come together completely, I needed a few more items. Recipes for ice cream and the cookies between which to sandwich it, wrappers and a way to ship them to my father. Oh, and I needed a new cookie cutter because I didn't have one that would work for what I was imagining. Search as I might, I couldn't come up with a rectangular cutter of the right size, because I was actually going for a slightly larger size than a "standard" sandwich.

Enter CopperGifts.com. Their site came up when I started looking for custom cutters. They claimed they could do the job at a price, and shipping time, that met my needs, so that was that. This is what arrived in my kitchen a week or so later:

An ice cream sandwich cookie cutter to call my very own!
I love it! Those folks really know what they're doing! (Plus, I have to admit that getting something made specifically for me is kind of cool. It's like having my own special rubber stamp. And since I just happen to have my own special rubber stamp, I know from whence I speak.) The cutter has already successfully gone through three different cookie tests, and the actual batch that went to make the sandwiches I sent my father, and it's been a dream to use. The handle is useful, and fun, and the whole thing is light but sturdy.

I'll tell you how the tests turned out in the next post.

Installment One Ends Here.

Currently Listening To: Andreas Vollenweider, "Schajah Saretosh" and "Sena Stanjena?" - from Caverna Magica



  1. Remember the summers when Mommy would bar-b-q and Daddy would make homemade ice cream? yum! Rand used to grill steaks and make homemade ice cream when we lived in New Braunfels. Amanda used to love that!

    1. Sounds like you guys made some lovely memories, too! If you want that homemade taste, with only a little fuss, get the Cusinart. It's amazing!

  2. Your blogs always make me smile Big Brother:)

    1. And your comments do likewise for me, Little Sister. :D