Monday, July 23, 2012

The Ice Cream Sandwich Man Cometh - Third Installation

I have more than a couple of cook books. But that's not such a big surprise now, is it? Some of them I got from one of the plethora of book clubs that popped up in the 80s, when books were analog-only. Some I got from book giveaways when I worked as a secretary for the ad sales department of a decorating magazine in the 90s. Others were gifts from friends and, in one case, the mother of my friend Steve. And I have access to even more cook books because Michele has her own stash as well. All of the cook books, varied as they are in cuisine, style and theme, have one thing in common: none of them have a cookie recipe that I could use for my ice cream sandwiches! Holy culinary conundrum, Cakeman! How is that even possible, I wondered. The answer was actually quite simple: no one had to make their own ice cream sandwiches in the past, so why bother creating a recipe for a cook book? By now, though, enough time has passed for people to have gotten nostalgic for them, and for the gourmands out there to have latched onto the idea of gussying them up and selling them for way too much money, so that there's now a demand for cookies appropriate for ice cream sandwiches.

Not wanting to spend more money on books I'm rapidly running out of room to store, and not having the time to drop into the nearest branch of the library (I fully intend to do so in search of cook books and history about a few dishes – and I'll definitely relate that visit here), I cast my net into the Internet Sea and pulled up a trove of recipes. Unfortunately, a great many of them were of the "Hey! Take those chocolate chip cookies you love to make and slap some ice cream between a couple of them then throw them in the freezer! Wah-laa!" variety. I was double-plus not interested in any of those. Undeterred, I kept sifting through the net (Net?) until I found these likely candidates:

Uno: Flamingobear

Zwo (southern German spelling and pronunciation, by-the-by): Country Living

Trois: Yankee Magazine and

Four: Smitten Kitchen

I didn't have time to test each one individually because I was on a tight schedule, remember? I needed the best recipe now!  Trouble was, all of them sounded good on paper, so how could I pick the right one? On paper, actually.

When in doubt, chart it out!
I made a table to compare ingredients and number of cookies each recipe made. The number of cookies actually made the difference. I thought I'd have the wherewithal to test two recipes at least once each, so I picked the two that made the most: Smitten Kitchen and Country Living. Coincidentally, they also had the same number of ingredients. Each would yield twelve ice cream sandwiches – enough to send to my father and have some left over for me. Nothing like making up process as you go along, right? (By the way, I may come back to the Flamingobear recipe. I kind of like the idea of sawing off cookie rounds from a dough log. We'll see.)

Having picked my two semi-finalists, I then had to test them. Well, first I had to procure two different kinds of cocoa powder, one of which was Dutch processed. I've used Dutch processed cocoa in recipes before but not for quite some time, so I didn't have any just laying about in my cupboard. Likewise I didn't have any regular cocoa powder since our latest encounter with inside the kitchen rain destroyed not one, but three boxes of the stuff (not to mention two boxes of chocolate milk mix, several packages of paper plates and cups, and, nearly, the box that holds one of my special cake pan sets).

Inside The Kitchen Rain explanation: We live on the second floor of our building. It's a lovely building. Not much of a view out out windows but we really like living here. Every so often, though, someone upstairs does something untoward with their dishwasher and we get a little indoor rain. Unfortunately for me that rain usually ends up in the cupboard in which I store some of my baking ingredients and bakeware. This time was the absolute worst because somewhere six floors up they fixed a water pipe and caused an overflow that flowed all the way to the basement. And right through my cupboard. Again. Sigh. 

End of explanation.

Again, I didn't have a lot of time to do my normal shopping excursions for these ingredients, so I relied on the neighborhood grocery stores to get the cocoa.

Cocoa face-off!
Rademaker, a brand I've never seen before, for the Smitten Kitchen recipe and Ghiradelli's for the Country Living recipe. I'll have to say, I like both of these (and Hershey's is forever banished from my kitchen). I'm looking forward to using them for my next hot cocoa binge!

The first test was going to be winner take all, so I was as careful as I could be to get each recipe as close to perfect as possible. Smitten Kitchen came out on top by a mile. The fact that the Country Living recipe barely held its shape, after being beautifully rendered with my custom cutter, and rose too much, obliterating my hard work at decorating the cookies meant it was completely unusable. Oh, and it was so fragile that it would never have stood up to the assembly process.

The Smitten Kitchen recipe behaved itself after being cut and decorated and baked up nice and solid and seemed like it would take the ice cream very well. The only problemd I had were getting the baking time right for my oven so that the cookies didn't singe around the edges and adjusting the ingredients for taste. Isn't that always the way? I found the cookie too salty and a little too heavy on the cocoa. A little less salt. A little more sugar. Just a tad less cocoa. Decrease the baking time by three minutes and they were perfect!

The cutter did me proud!
What turned out to be the hardest part was figuring out the process of cutting and lifting the cookies onto the cookie sheet with as little loss of shape as possible. I was still figuring it out when I made the final batch. I have to remember to write it down so that I won't have to re-learn it the next time I make these!

Note to Self: write down the cookie transfer process! Signed, Self.

And speaking of processes, the most important one, how to put the ice cream in the sandwich, still eluded me. I had to figure it out because the clock was ticking.

Third Installment Ends Here

Currently listening to: Al Jarreau – We Got By



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