Ten years ago, Cook's Illustrated published a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that we consider perfect: crisp, deeply caramelized edges; chewy centers; gooey pockets of dark chocolate; and complex, toffee‑like flavor that’s not too sweet. Trust me when I say that a glass of milk will never know a better companion.
So when I decided to make chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches, I figured I had the cookie part all figured out. I baked off a batch, sandwiched two around a scoop of my favorite premium ice cream, and froze the sandwich until solid.
Then I tried to take a bite. The cookies were so hard my teeth couldn’t get through them, and all that force caused the ice cream to squish out the sides. When I finally did bite through the cookies, I found that the cold temperature had completely dulled their exceptional butterscotch flavor.
Obviously, these chocolate chip cookies weren’t perfect for ice cream sandwiches, but I hoped they’d be a good jumping‑off point for calibrating a great sandwich cookie. To compensate for the freezer’s flavor-dulling effect, I wanted even more deep toffee flavor packed into a cookie that would be thin and tender enough to bite through when cold but still firm enough to house a generous layer of ice cream.
I figured out that 2 parts ice cream to 1 part cookies was the ideal ratio. The cookies I’d been using were each about 1/2 inch thick; once I’d added a 2-inch‑thick layer of ice cream, it was all too much of a mouthful—the frozen-dessert equivalent of a New York deli sandwich. Quarter‑inch-thick cookies surrounding a 1-inch-thick ice cream center would make for a more edible package.
Fortunately, it was easy to make thinner cookies: I again made the dough for our chocolate chip cookies, but instead of baking the cookies at 375 degrees, I dropped the temperature to 325 degrees so that the dough had more time to spread before it set.
These cookies were not only thinner but also flatter and more uniform in texture from edge to edge, since the lower baking temperature had allowed the edges and centers to bake at nearly the same rate. But once frozen, the cookies were still hard and brittle.
One small fix was to swap out the regular chocolate chips for mini morsels. The mini chips were easier to bite through; in fact, I enjoyed their delicate crunch so much that I pressed more into the ice cream around the rim of the sandwich for a dose of Chipwich nostalgia.
But then I made a fortuitous discovery. Until now, I’d been freezing the sandwiches for just a few hours. When I happened to leave a batch in the freezer for nearly 24 hours, I noticed that the cookies were much softer than before, clearly having absorbed more moisture from the ice cream over time. It made me wonder if I should be making a moister cookie from the start.
To find out, I went straight to the source, adding various amounts of water to the dough along with the egg and vanilla. Ultimately, I settled on 2 tablespoons, which, combined with a good 8 hours in the freezer, made for cookies sturdy enough to sandwich the ice cream but tender enough to bite through with just a hint of snap. (For a full explanation, see “How More Water Makes Softer Frozen Cookies.”)
I also replaced the granulated sugar with more dark brown sugar, since the molasses in brown sugar is a source of simple sugars (glucose and fructose) that are hygroscopic—that is, very effective at attracting water.
Brown sugar also boosted that prized deep toffee flavor, though not quite enough, so I also browned all the butter, which maximized the amounts of browned flecks and aromatic compounds that make the flavor of browned butter rich and round. I also upped the amounts of vanilla and salt, all of which added up to cookies that boasted big toffee‑like, hazelnutty richness even after spending hours in the freezer.
Now that the cookies were squared away, I focused on instituting some best practices for making tidy, professional-looking ice cream sandwiches. Making sure to center the scoops of ice cream on the cookies translated into neater results. Paying attention to the ice cream itself mattered, too: Premium products with lower overrun—the amount of air that gets added during churning to make ice cream light and fluffy rather than dense—were harder to scoop straight from the freezer, so when I used those, I briefly tempered, or softened, the ice cream in the refrigerator to make scooping easier.
If you love the deep toffee flavor and crisp-tender texture of our Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (May/June 2009), you’ll appreciate this ice cream sandwich version, too. And if you were raised on Chipwiches, consider this a nostalgic upgrade.