We could spend a lot of time fussing about who invented the ice-cream sandwich and when. Or we could get on with it and make some. For the Fourth of July — and the rest of the summer.
You could use your ice-cream maker to make the cool stuff at home, with coaching from Tessa Arias' book "Cookies & Cream: Hundreds of Ways to Make the Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich" (Running Press, $18). Maybe her recipe for strawberry cream cheese or caramel chocolate swirl. Or a cookie from her dozens of recipes — maybe salted macadamia nut or bacon chocolate chip.
Don't have an ice-cream maker? No problem. Just sub premium ice cream for the homemade, as Donna Egan does in "Ice Cream Sandwiches: 65 Recipes for Incredibly Cool Treats" (Ten Speed Press, $16.99). Her book offers lots of ice-cream recipes but also ideas for doctoring purchased ice cream, such as swirling butterscotch sauce into vanilla for smooshing between snickerdoodles.
So get creative. Mix and match cookies with ice creams. Maybe customize plain ice cream with mix-ins. Scoop ice cream on a cookie. Top with another. Enjoy. We've got a cookie recipe to get you started, plus plenty of ice-cream-sandwich-making tips.
Choose a premium ice cream or gelato (Haagen-Dazs Limoncello, Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Peppermint Crunch — you get the idea).
Choose a flavor that complements the cookie. A few ideas: coffee-flavored ice cream with cinnamon cookies; lemon with shortbread cookies.
Use two small scoops of different, but complementary flavors of ice cream, says Arias.
Choose a plain premium ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, coffee). Then soften 1 quart in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. Turn into a bowl, then use a knife to swirl in about 1/2 cup of mix-ins. Maybe coffee ice cream plus caramel sauce and mini-chocolate chips. Or vanilla ice cream with seedless raspberry preserves and chopped toasted almonds.
Choose one or two mix-ins from these categories:
Sauces: Caramel, fudge, seedless fruit preserves
Crunch: Toasted nuts (pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, walnuts)
Sweet: Chocolate chips, coconut, coarsely chopped candies
Or pick one of the variations in the photos above.
Dip edge of finished sandwiches in melted chocolate. Roll in decorating sprinkles, crushed candies, tiny chips (chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter), coconut, chopped nuts. Arias suggests: crushed pretzels, crumbled bacon.
Wrap frozen sandwiches in cooking parchment or food-safe decorative paper, says Arias, and tie with raffia or ribbon.
Freeze prepared sandwiches an hour or two to firm.
For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap. Store up to a week.
To serve, let stand at room temperature 5 to 10 minutes to soften slightly.