Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Ice Cream Sandwich Man Cometh - Fourth Installation

I was close. So very close. And my self-imposed deadline loomed. I had all the elements gathered in the apartment. The shipping box I found on Amazon arrived on the Friday, July 6. In fact, that was the catalyst that started this frenzied bout of creation. Once that box was in my hands, I had to get it filled and shipped as soon as possible. I'm a big believer in "production for use" (now there's an obscure reference if I've ever made one).

Before I put the sandwiches together, I needed a way to wrap them. No self respecting ice cream sandwich would be caught dead without proper dressing and I love figuring out packaging, so it wasn't too difficult for me to work this one out. Tin foil was the obvious answer to part of the problem. And wax paper was the other (along with some double-stick tape).

Wrapper workings.
A brief word about making stuff: I like to make stuff. I always have. My little sister, MonY, can attest to this fact because I made quite a few toys and games for us to play with when we were kids. I could make the Starship Enterprise, a prop plane for my Action Jackson doll, a bowling game or cars that used marbles for propulsion – or anything else I thought we needed – using nothing more than cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, glue or tape and discarded household objects. This little talent has served me well over the years. I should remind myself to tell you about the menus I made for Michele's birthday dinner (that - surprise! - became our engagement party) a couple of years ago. So, figuring out how to wrap homemade ice cream sandwiches was a snap.

Not-so-brief-as-I'd-like word ends.

I used the cutter to help define the dimensions I'd need for the wrappers. The individual foil sheets would be easier to handle and cut. The wax paper (adhered to the foil with double-stick tape) would help keep the cookies from sticking. I put together ten of these and I was ready to go!

Except I hadn't figured out how to combine the cookies and the ice cream into sandwiches. Trust me, I'd puzzled over this one since the day I decided it was time to start working on this project. Now everything was ready to go and the most important part of this whole process was still out of reach. I figured I'd solve the problem by the time I made the next batch of ice cream. I figured wrong, actually.

As I've mentioned before, the Cusinart's end product (and that of most other ice cream makers I've read about) is a kind of soft serve ice cream. You have to firm it up in the freezer. I figured I'd spread and shape the ice cream onto the cookies while it was soft, wrap them quickly and then put them in the freezer to finish. I had enough cookies from a previous test batch to give it a try. It almost worked. Almost. When I unwrapped the test, it was pretty solid but I hadn't been able to smooth the ice cream evenly between the cookies. Sandwich setback. Still, this was the test that led to altering the cookie recipe, so I have to put it in the "qualified success" column.

Clearly I needed a different plan...something that would make it easy for me to shape the ice cream and make the sandwiches. My eyes darted two and fro, taking in all the utensils, gadgets, cookware, pots and pans, trying to find anything that would work. That's when I spied it: my square, fluted tart pan with the removable bottom! Suddenly it all came together! I could see the whole process unfold in my mind's eye. It was so simple! It was kind of like this (only with a whole lot less bone shattering). Please observe:

First, make the ice cream.

Nothing like an ice bath for warm vanilla custard!
Almost ready.
Next, line the tart pan with plastic wrap, spoon in and smooth out the ice cream. Freeze it. Then remove the ice cream slab from the tart pan.

A slab o' ice cream.
Use the ultra-cool cutter to make precisely sized rectangles in the slab of ice cream.

How many can I get out of this slab?
Quickly, before it becomes a great smooshy mess, lift the rectangles out of the slab...

Easy does it.
...and place them between two cookies.

It takes a steady hand...and a certain amount of crazy.
Admiral! There be ice cream sandwiches here!
Wrap the sandwiches.

Time to get dressed for the party!
Look for the Just A Guy Who Bakes Label.
Pop them in the freezer and I'm done! See? Simple! Oh. Did I forget to mention that I got "Just A Guy Who Bakes" stickers made? Allow me to rectify that oversight. I got "Just A Guy Who Bakes" stickers made! Yay me!

The only thing to do now was ship them. I had seven sandwiches in all, which I double wrapped in plastic and foil. These I placed in the insulated box with several frozen gel packs and bubble wrap. A morning trip to the post office and they were off.

Or were they? I watched the on-line tracking do nothing but say "Received electronic notification of package ready for shipping" (or some such) for the whole day and night. Doubts crept into my mind. I hadn't packed them tight enough. I hadn't put in enough frozen gel packs. I should have gotten dry ice. Wait! I'm trying to ship ice cream sandwiches from New York to Florida in the middle of a heatwave! Am I insane?!? Visions of the box sitting on the tarmac of a blisteringly hot runway, a milky puddle rapidly evaporating underneath it, clouded my mind as I finally fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning with a crick in my neck that didn't do anything but get worse and worse as the day progressed. I'd called my father the night before to tell him to expect the package and he said he'd let me know as soon as it arrived. I didn't tell him what I was sending because I wanted it to be a surprise. Hours passed and I didn't get a call. Morning turned to noon. Still no call.

Finally, at 2:30, my phone rang and my father said: "Well, I'm in possession of the package." I asked if anything had melted and he said he put the two foil-wrapped bundles in the refrigerator. I panicked! "Put it in the freezer right now!" I could hear the amusement in his voice as he complied with my hysterical request. "I told your Auntie Lois that you probably sent me some cheesecake..." "No, Daddy, not cheesecake. Ice cream sandwiches!"

The utter joy in his surprised laughter was worth every brain cell I burned up, every neck muscle I stressed out and ever dish I had to clean up in this whole crazy process. Success! He said that there was a little melting but they were still chilly to the touch when he'd opened the box so they should be okay once they refroze. When he called later that night to tell me he sampled one, he pronounced it delicious and I could finally sleep peacefully again.

It took a week and a half for my neck to stop hurting.

Currently listening to: Rickie Lee Jones - Woody And Dutch On The Slow Train To Peking 

And thanks to Michele for taking pictures of the sandwich assembly!



  1. You are brilliant. Insane, but brilliant. My husband can make his own ice cream sandwiches, ice cream AND cookie, and then ship them to FL for his dad in a heat wave. So. What can YOUR husband do? ;)

    No, seriously. Adorable & brilliant.

    Yes, he was bouncing off the walls from the time he shipped the package until Dad opened it.

    1. Allow me to blush just a bit. Oh, and I take "insane" as a compliment.

  2. I can't believe you left out making rockets. But, with that now said, you are fabulous. Quite literally the only person I know who would try to make and ship ice cream sandwiches in the middle of a national heat wave...and succeed. Congratulations. My birthday, as a reminder, is Aug. 31.

    1. Well, the rockets didn't enter into the picture until later, darlin'. I was reaching much, much farther back into my history for those examples.

      And, yes, I know when your birthday is. We'll talk. ;)

  3. Oh my love! You are a hero in so many ways! Congratulations on the successful delivery of the impossible.

    1. Nail-biter for sure (and I've chew marks to prove it), dear Gert!

  4. Yes you are a very talented young man who is my brother. And although I wasn't on the receiving end of these sandwiches (lol) I am more than sure they were good, especially since daddy liked them because we all know that if he doesn't like something he'll let you know. But on another note had i been with daddy when he received them I would have more than likely eaten them since I consumed the rest of what was left of both cheese cakes. :-) You are the Baker in this Baker family.

    1. You know, I'm not so certain you would have gotten any, Karla. I mean, I almost lost a finger trying to get one of the ginger lemon cream cookies I gave Daddy when we were all home last month. And I made them! lol! (Welcome to the blog, by the way.)

  5. finally caught up to this one!Great story telling! Lil' Sis' Mon.Y.

    1. Thank you, little sister! I'm slowly but surely learning how to do all this. And you know I've always loved telling stories. This way I get to bake, talk about my wonderful siblings and father, delve into memories and share it all with whomever drops by.

      There's more to come!