Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Sandwiches

Cool down with freshly churned vanilla bean ice cream between two homemade chocolate cookies.

Photos by Michelle Norris

Old-fashioned ice cream sandwiches. The uniform pattern of holes. The chocolate cookie remnants stuck to your fingers. Ice cream oozing out between the cookies. The plain paper wrapper. They’re as iconic as the milk man. (Incidentally, we actually did have a milk man when I was young. There was a metal bin outside the door and everything!)

The classic ice cream sandwich wasn’t always the first thing on my wish list when the ice cream truck came jingling and jangling down the street – there were so many other flashy options, like the push-up, the drumstick, and the firecracker popsicle! Kids are drawn to bells and whistles, no doubt.

However, the ice cream truck wasn’t always an option. What was always an option, though, was anything and everything in my grandma’s freezer. She kept a steady supply of ice cream sandwiches and Klondike bars for when we needed a quick frozen fix. Now that I’m older, two amazingly rich and chocolatey cookies sandwiching vanilla ice cream sounds about as good as it gets. You know what’s even better? Homemade chocolate cookies and freshly churned vanilla bean ice cream. These are 100-percent homemade, and a perfect imitation of the classic ice cream sandwich, only a million times better.

For the past couple of summers, I have gone absolutely hog-wild churning up batch after batch of homemade ice cream. From classics like vanilla and chocolate, to fun flavors like salted caramel, tin roof, and Guinness-milk chocolate, I’ve run the gamut. I’m still planning on making my fair share (and then some) of ice cream this summer, but I’m also planning to try my hand at recreating some of my favorite frozen treats. Ice cream is great, but there are a whole host of other frozen desserts that we’ve all enjoyed as kids (and adults!) that could use a homemade makeover. I kicked off my endeavor earlier this spring when I made homemade fudge pops. I couldn’t believe the difference in flavor – they were so much richer and more flavorful than their store-bought counterparts. I knew then that I had a mission this summer.

These ice cream sandwiches are not at all difficult to make, but do require a little planning ahead. It’s important that everything be as cold as possible before you begin assembling them and that you work quickly. As I mentioned, I used homemade vanilla ice cream here, but you could just as easily use your favorite store-bought brand. Once you take a bite of these, you won’t ever want to reach for one from a box again!

What are some of your favorite frozen treats?

 Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Sandwiches

Yield: 8 to 10 ice cream sandwiches
Prep Time: 12 hours | Bake Time: 7 to 8 minutes

For the Filling:

  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream (homemade or store-bought)

For the Cookies:

  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1¼ cups light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with foil, allowing excess to hang over the edges.

2. If you’re using homemade ice cream, immediately after churning, spread the ice cream into the prepared pan. If using store-bought ice cream, soften it slightly and then spread it into the prepared pan. Freeze overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the shortening and the brown sugar with an electric mixer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, espresso powder and vanilla. Mix until incorporated. Mix in 1 cup of the flour, followed by 2 tablespoons of water, and then add the remaining 1 cup flour and another 2 tablespoons of water, mixing well until no dry ingredients remain (give it some time, up to 5 minutes of mixing). The dough should be soft and pliable but not sticky; if necessary, add more water, a teaspoon at a time, until the dough comes together.

5. Turn out half the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll to an even 1/8-inch to ¼-inch thickness. Cut the dough into 2×4-inch rectangles (you could also cut into squares, or use a cookie cutter to make circles).

6. Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a skewer (or the tip of a thermometer – works awesome!), poke a pattern of holes on each cookie’s surface. Roll out, cut, and poke remaining dough, rerolling the scraps as you work. Place the sheets of cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking.

7. Bake 7 to 8 minutes, or until the cookies are just set. Do not overbake.

8. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool 2 to 3 minutes on a baking sheet. Transfer to cooling racks and cool to room temperature. Freeze cookies for at least 1 hour before assembling the sandwiches.

9. To assemble the sandwiches, have everything ready and work quickly! Match up cookies of the same size and have them laid out and ready for the ice cream. Use the edges of the foil to lift the block of firm ice cream from the baking pan and place it on a cutting board. Working quickly, cut the ice cream into 2×4-inch rectangles (you’ll have a little ice cream left over). Using a narrow stainless steel spatula, place a rectangle between two chilled cookies and press the cookies lightly to adhere. (I found it easiest to do this one at a time. Cut one or two rectangles, assemble those cookies and place on a tray, then do one or two more, etc. until you’re finished.) Return the sandwiches to the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container or zip-top plastic bag in the freezer.

(Cookie recipe adapted from The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook)