This is the traditional sandwich that comes to mind when most people think about ice cream sandwiches. Unlike the typically bland and soggy sandwiches you buy at the store, this recipe creates a rich and flavorful vanilla ice cream with a chewy and fudge like chocolate wafer cookie that is sure to delight any sweet tooth.
Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice cubes and 1 to 2 cups of water. Place a medium bowl fitted with a fine strainer inside the ice bath.
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, cream, ½ cup sugar, salt, and the seeds and pod from the vanilla bean. Set over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is warm and begins to steam, about 5 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining ¼ cup sugar. Carefully whisk 1/2 of the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, 1 ladleful at a time, until the egg mixture is warmed. Whisk the egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and registers around 175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 to 7 minutes. Be careful not to boil the mixture.
Immediately strain the mixture through the fine strainer into the prepared ice bath. Discard the vanilla bean pod. Cool the custard in the ice bath until it reaches room temperature, stirring often. Press plastic wrap against the surface of the custard and refrigerate until chilled, about 4 hours or up to 1 day.
Pour the chilled mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer the ice cream to a large rimmed baking sheet or other flat container, spreading evenly. Cover the ice cream surface with plastic wrap and freeze until the ice cream is firm, at least 2 hours.
Tip: Don’t toss the leftover bean pod. Mix it in with 2 cups of sugar in an airtight container and let it sit for 1 to 2 weeks — and you’ve got vanilla sugar. Use it when making pancakes, waffles, muffins, cocoa, coffee, or give it as a gift to your friends and family.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth and well combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Add the vanilla extract and milk. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and beat until thoroughly combined.
Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic. Chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour or up to 2 days.
Line large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Place the chilled dough in between 2 large pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap on a work surface. Roll the dough out to a ¼-inch thickness, using the parchment paper to prevent sticking. If the dough is too firm, let it sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before rolling. Use a 3-inch square cookie cutter to cut out squares from the dough and place on prepared baking sheets, spreading at least a ½ inch apart. Reroll remaining scraps of dough to a ¼-inch thickness, cut out more squares, and place on prepared baking sheets.
Chill the baking sheets in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or until the dough squares are firm.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the baking sheets from the refrigerator and prick the dough squares all over with the probe of an instant-read thermometer or the blunt end of a skewer or chopstick. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes, or until the cookies are set. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Freeze the cookies until frozen, at least 1 hour. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers in the freezer for up to 1 month.
To assemble, remove the ice cream sheet from the freezer. Using the same cookie cutter, cut out a square of ice cream and sandwich it between two cookies. Repeat for the remaining cookies, working quickly. If the ice cream begins to melt, return it to the freezer until It is firm again. Freeze the sandwiches until firm, at least 1 hour, before serving.
Tip: The probe of an instant-read thermometer or the blunt end of a skewer works best to create those big, round holes in the cookies that look just like the ice cream sandwiches you provably grew up eating. If you don’t have either of these, you can also use a fork or toothpick.