Crafting your own ice cream sandwich at home may seem easy at first glance. Take your favorite cookies, spread softened ice cream between them, then freeze until it all becomes one harmonious dessert. But it’s not as simple as it may seem — cookies can freeze into a solid puck, or the ice cream melts faster than the cookie, which leads to messy ice cream oozing out of the sides of a sad, slumping sandwich.
To avoid all these pitfalls, Senior Recipe Developer Molly Marzalek-Kelly broke down every aspect of this classic dessert and tinkered with the recipe until she achieved ice cream sandwich nirvana. Based on her extensive testing, here’s a slam-dunk recipe for perfect Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich Bars.
Keep it chewy
“To optimize your eating experience, the cookie should be on the softer side,” Molly advises. Since they’ll be frozen, soft and chewy cookies are preferred over crisp, snappy varieties, such as gingerbread or shortbread. For our Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich Bars, Molly made a few small tweaks to our original Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars recipe to make it more suitable for freezing. She reduced the sugar content and added more eggs so that the cookie dough has a softer, cakier texture that’s maintained after freezing. If you want to use another variety of cookie that's still soft and suitable for freezing, try our Fudge Brownies, Oatmeal-Raisin, or Sugar Cookies. (And yes, brownies are considered cookies in this case!)
For a softer cookie texture, use melted butter
You can also adapt a cookie recipe to make it softer. Jesse Szewczyk, author of Cookies: The New Classics, recommends using melted butter instead of softened butter to give drop cookies and bars a fudgier texture. “I omitted all the extra air that gets incorporated into the dough during creaming, and as a result, the cookies made with melted butter were significantly chewier and fudgier than those made with creamed butter,” he writes.
Bake them into thin bars, not individual cookies
Remember, you’re making a sandwich out of these cookies, not eating them on their own — so err for cookies that are on the thinner side (about 1/2”) for a balanced ratio of cookie to ice cream. Baking your cookie layers on a half sheet pan will avoid a melting pint of ice cream (and the race against the clock) to fill dozens of individual sandwiches — and it’s easy to adapt a drop cookie recipe into a bar.
After cutting a single slab of bars into two halves, you can add the ice cream filling and freeze the entire ice cream sandwich slab. Once it’s firmed up in the freezer, this batched bar (also utilized in our recipe for Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches) allows you to slice off bite-sized squares or handheld rectangles as you go. (If you still go the individual cookie route, use the bottom of a drinking glass to gently flatten still-warm, freshly baked cookies to achieve an even, thin layer.)
When it comes to chocolate, go small
Instead of standard chocolate chips, which are hard to chew when frozen, opt for mini chocolate chips so you get a little bit of chocolate in each bite. Using chopped chocolate? Molly recommends chopping it finely. Larger shards of chocolate are great for melty, gooey puddles out of the oven, but once frozen, the chocolate will become a rock-solid mass.
Don’t forget about the ice cream!
No-churn ice cream makes everything easier. Molly uses it as a filling in her ice cream sandwiches, explaining, “You don’t have to incorporate another step like making your own ice cream [with special equipment] or thawing store-bought ice cream to spread then refreeze. Instead, you simply whip up the ice cream filling in a stand mixer, sandwich between the two big cookie slabs, wrap it tightly, then freeze everything together, and you’re done.”
Ready to bake and freeze a batch of ice cream sandwiches? Start with our Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich Bars and Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches.
Cover photo (Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich Bars) by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne.