Every now and then, my little mind is blown by something food related over here. Things that we just don't have in New Zealand. Strawberry shortcake, s'mores (we sometimes make something similar ish, but it's just not the same), and most recently, ice-cream sandwiches. I had never eaten an ice cream sandwich until I moved to America. The closest we have is two pink wafers, surrounding a slab of pre-wrapped ice cream. Totally pales in comparison to what an ice-cream sandwich over here is. The weird thing is, it's not like they are tricky to make, or require ingredients you can't get hold of in New Zealand, they just aren't a thing. That goes both ways though - there are so many New Zealand foods that haven't caught on here, things like our version of shortcake, tan square, louise cake, and savoury pies. More on the pies later - I have spent the last few days fine-tuning an epic steak and mushroom filling for pies which I will share very soon. In a classic me move, I have decided to do this right in the middle of summer, which of course involves the oven on for hours at a time. Not the most ideal, but it's going to be SO worth it, because meat pies are the best, and everyone needs them in their lives. I promise. Your hangovers will never be as bad again, because meat pies are the magic cure.
More on ice cream sandwiches - specifically, these chocolate and earl grey ice cream sandwiches. These are something special. My theory is, that if you take two things that are amazing on their own and combine them, you've hit a winner. Here we take a chocolate sugar cookie. The sugar cookies are everything you ever want in a cookie - crispy on the edges, chewy on the inside, and perfectly flat. We pair them with perfect circles of earl grey ice cream - ice cream that isn't too sweet, and has a lovely subtle hit of the bergamot flavour of earl grey, and the slightly bitter tannins of tea. I have been obsessively buying the Van Leeuwen Earl Grey ice cream for a few months now (it's a great choice because Rich doesn't like it, so it's all mine!), and I can safely say, that as an earl grey enthusiast, this tastes just like it. Sandwiched between two chewy chocolate cookies, the earl grey flavour bounces off the cookies in the most amazing way. This is the dessert you didn't know you needed.
A few wee notes:
The Chocolate sugar cookie recipe I used here is from the amazing Sarah Kieffer's book, the Vanilla bean baking book. I have made these maybe 10 times already - they never last longer than a day because they are so amazing, so when it came to finding a cookie to pair with earl grey, I knew these would be perfect. If you want a book filled with solid, reliable no fail baking recipes, pick a copy up. It's THE BEST.
If you don't like earl grey / don't want to make your own ice cream / can't be bothered with any of that carry on, you can absolutely use store bought ice cream. Simply allow it to soften (you will need 1 to 1 1/2 quarts, or about a litre), spread it into a 9x13 pan lined with wax paper, and freeze until hard before you cut out using a cookie cutter. Alternatively, scoops of ice cream between cookies would also work perfectly. Don't like ice cream? Make the cookies anyway. They are epic.
I used a mixture of black cocoa and regular cocoa to amp up the chocolate flavour in the cookies. Using only plain cocoa is perfect too.
The cookie recipe makes about 24 cookies, if you use a 2 Tbsp scoop. The ice cream makes about enough for 9 circles, so you will have a few cookies left over. There will be some left over - store in a freezer safe container for scooping later.
The Ice cream base needs at least 2 hours to chill completely before churning, and then an additional 3-4 hours to solidify in the pan, so allow time for this! Don't forget to freeze your ice cream bowl!
Chocolate earl grey ice cream sandwiches
- Makes 9-10 sandwiches -
Cookie recipe slightly adapted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book
Earl Grey Ice Cream
1 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)
Pinch of salt
2 1/4 cups (540ml) whole milk, plus a little more to top up after tea has steeped
6 Tbsp loose leaf earl grey tea
2 1/4 cup (540ml) heavy cream
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
1 3/4 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (25g) cocoa powder
1/4 cup (25g) black cocoa powder (optional - alternatively use 1/4 cup regular cocoa powder)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cup (350g) sugar, plus 1 cup (200g) for rolling
1 large egg
1 tsp Vanilla extract
- PROCESS -
EARL GREY ICE CREAM
In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean paste. Whisk well until pale. Set aside.
In a large pot over medium heat, heat the milk Warm until bubbles begin to form around the outer edge of the pot. Add the tea, stir well to combine, and steep for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing down hard on the tea to get as much liquid out as possible. Measure the infused milk. Top up to 2 1/4 cups if needed. Return to the pot, and heat until bubbles form around the edges. Remove from the heat.
Pour half of the milk into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Whisk briskly until combined. This will temper the egg yolks and stop them from scrambling.
Pour the milk and yolk mixture back into the pot, and return to a low heat. Whisk constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon, and registers at 170˚f / 75˚c on a thermometer.
Strain though a fine mesh strainer. Stir in the cream. Transfer to an airtight container and chill for at least two hours, or overnight.
Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a quarter sheet pan or 9 x 13 baking dish lined with wax paper. Place a second piece of wax paper on the surface of the ice cream and smooth down. Place in the freezer in a flat place for 3-4 hours, or until frozen solid.
CHOCOLATE SUGAR COOKIES
Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Line three baking trays with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using an electric mixer, beat the butter until pale. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture, and beat on low until just incorporated.
Using a cookie scoop, scoop 2 tbsp worth of mixture at a time. Roll into a ball using your hands, then roll generously sugar. Place on the baking tray, leaving plenty of room to spread (I had 8 cookies per baking tray).
Bake one tray at a time for 11-12 minutes, until the cookies have puffed up and are beginning to crack on the tops, and the edges are set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Place in a ziploc bag and store in the freezer until you are ready to assemble the sandwiches (this helps reduce melting).
Match up the cookies in pairs of similar size. Line a quarter sheet pan or large freezer safe plate with parchment paper. Using a round cookie cutter slightly smaller than the cookie, cut out circles of ice cream. It may help to mark where you are going to cut first, so you can get as many cut-outs as possible. Place the circle of ice cream on one cookie, and top with a second. Place on the prepared sheet pan, and place into the freezer. Repeat until you have run out of ice cream.
Serve immediately, Rest the cookie sandwiches in the freezer for an hour, or until the ice cream has re-frozen completely. Store the remaining cookie sandwiches in an airtight container or ziploc bag.