Ice Cream Sandwiches with Molasses Cookies & Brown Sugar Cinnamon Frozen Custard

Summ, summ, summertime is here!

Summertime always evokes memories of long, salty, Beatles-records-filled days at Rincon Point for me. A legendary surf spot just south of Santa Barbara, we have family friends who own a home there and were lucky enough to go every summer. Usually, several families would pile in at once, all of us kids sleeping in a bunkroom and our parents enjoying a little privacy in the few remaining bedrooms. For my brothers and me, it was pure bliss.

It seemed like rather than being just our nuclear family, we instead became 2 tribes: the kids and the grown ups. We kids felt free to roam the beach, take out surfboards or jet-skis, and catch lizards. Our parents hung out, chatting as they sunbathed or napping in the hammock, nursing their margaritas and Mexican beer. We ate meals en masse, plopping down at several tables around the house and on the deck. All of us left behind whatever existed in LA and just blended into this carefree summer life. Rather than being the kid who struggled at school, my focus was instead that sensation of being part of something greater than myself and I cherished the love and acceptance I found from these families who collected in this house.

The food on those weekends was awesome. Our parents cooked everything from street tacos to pastas to roasted chicken and root vegetables. Someone was always in the kitchen concocting something we'd all enjoy later. Admittedly, my brother Erik and I were especially thrilled by the endless canned bean dip (our mother fed us "farm-to-table" before that was a thing. I kid you not, we had a full vegetable farm in the back yard of our tiny Los Angeles canyon cottage) and the sodas in the garage fridge. One of the best treats I recall from those weekends, in addition to the incredible feeling of being part of this great, fluctuating, mixed-genetics "family", was opening the freezer to find molasses cookies. Packaged in a long, low topless box, they were dark, sweet discs of tangy chewy-ness covered in sprinkled sugar. I died for them and snuck far more than my fair share from that freezer.
So, while others save flavors like cinnamon and molasses for fall and winter, I always crave them right around the summer solstice. It's a sense-memory thing, I guess. Although, when it gets warm, the laaast thing I want to do is turn on the oven. I tend to bake things in small batches or not at all. But a small batch of perfect molasses cookies is so worth it.

On the other hand, ice cream is a summer staple and last week I made 2 batches of it based on Shelly Kaldunski's recipes in Sweet Scoops. One was vanilla, of course, and the other incorporated brown sugar and cinnamon, flavors I thought would go well with something else I had baked. It turns out, the cinnamon frozen custard has become my new favorite flavor and, although limited by a mid-tier home ice cream making machine, I'm going to work with this recipe until I can make it as well as I assume Ms. Kaldunski can (well, close). The difference between the ice cream and frozen custard is really just that frozen custard lingers on the tongue, somewhat coating the tongue in its creamy goodness. Ice cream tends to dissolve a bit faster by my estimation.

Because I had the molasses cookie craving and because I had the frozen custard in the freezer, naturally I put the two together. Ho! Not only were these ice cream sandwiches delicious, but they reminded me of those blissful childhood days and my friends, all of whom are grown up now and most of whom have kids of their own. Most of our kids are still small, but I can't wait to get them all together at Rincon and let them run wild - or as wild as you can let your kids run in 2014 - with these ice cream sandwiches in their hands (ice cream dripping down chins, cookies covered in sand) while we "grown ups" sip our margaritas and Mexican beer.




Molasses Cookies
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
1/3 C sugar (plus more for rolling)
1/3 C dark brown sugar
1 egg, at room temp
1 t vanilla
2-1/4 C flour
1-1/2 t cinnamon
1-1/2 t ginger
1 t baking soda
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t salt
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t finely ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350.

Sift all the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, cream the butter with the sugars. Add the egg and vanilla and blend. Pour the flour & spice mixture into the creamed butter and mix until blended. 

One tablespoon at a time, roll the dough into balls and roll those in more white sugar and place 12 to a baking sheet. Bake 11-12 minutes until the cookies are set but do not overbake. These are better soft and gooey plus they make better ice cream sandwiches that way. Cool completely (you can even freeze them for 10 minutes or so) before making the sandwiches with them.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Frozen Custard
2 C heavy cream
1-1/2 C whole milk
3 cinnamon sticks
1/4 t ground cinnamon
5 large egg yolks
2/3 C packed brown sugar
1/4 t salt

In a heavy saucepan, combine the cream and spices and heat on medium until just before it simmers, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a heat proof bowl, combine the yolks, brown sugar and salt, beating until the mixture lightens in color and doubles in volume, 2-4 minutes.

Whisking constantly, slowly add one cup of the hot cream to the egg mixture and beat well. Again whisking constantly, pour the egg/cream mixture back into the hot cream and place over medium heat. Switch to stirring with a wooden spoon and heat until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Set up an ice bath (a heat proof bowl nested into a larger bowl of ice) and strain the custard into the smaller bowl. Stir periodically until cooled. Then, cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours but up to 3 days. (I chilled mine overnight.)

Pour the cold custard into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. Then, chill in your freezer at least 2 hours before scooping onto the cooled cookies.

Ice Cream Sandwiches
Scoop the chilled frozen custard onto the bottom-side of one cooled cookie. Place another cookie on top, topside up and gently press until the sandwich comes together. Freeze 30 minutes until set. Eat! MMMMM. 

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