Our well-proportioned sandwiches feature relatively small, thin cookies and precise scoops of ice cream that give each bite the perfect combination of textures and flavors. We added water to the dough to prevent the cookies from turning rock-hard in the freezer, as well as plenty of browned butter, dark brown sugar, vanilla, and salt to compensate for the flavor-dulling effect of the freezer. Mini chocolate chips provided bursts of chocolate flavor and delicately crunchy texture.
These sandwiches should be made at least 8 hours before serving. For the best results, weigh the flour and sugar for the cookies. We prefer the deeper flavor of dark brown sugar here, but light brown sugar will also work. Use your favorite ice cream. If using a premium ice cream such as Ben & Jerry's or Häagen-Dazs, which is likely to be harder than a less-premium brand when frozen, let the ice cream soften slightly in the refrigerator before scooping. If you have it, a #16 scoop works well for portioning the ice cream. We like these sandwiches with chocolate chips pressed into the sides, but the garnish is optional.
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Melt butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring and scraping skillet constantly with rubber spatula, until milk solids are dark golden brown and butter has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Immediately transfer to heatproof large bowl. Whisk in sugar and salt until fully incorporated and let mixture cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Stir flour and baking soda together in second bowl; set aside.
2. Add egg, water, and vanilla to browned butter mixture and whisk until smooth, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, stir in flour mixture until combined. Stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips. (Dough will be very soft.)
3. Using #60 scoop or 1-tablespoon measure, evenly space 12 mounds of dough on each prepared sheet. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until puffed and golden brown, 9 to 12 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool completely, about 45 minutes. Place 1 sheet, still lined with parchment, in freezer.
4. Place 4 cookies upside down on counter. Quickly deposit 2-inch-tall, 2-inch-wide scoop of ice cream in center of each cookie. Place 1 cookie from wire rack right side up on top of each scoop. Gently press and twist each sandwich between your hands until ice cream spreads to edges of cookies (this doesn't have to be perfect; ice cream can be neatened after chilling). Transfer sandwiches to sheet in freezer. Repeat with remaining cookies and remaining ice cream. Place 1 cup chocolate chips, if using, in shallow bowl or pie plate.
5. Remove first 4 sandwiches from freezer. Working with 1 sandwich at a time, hold sandwiches over bowl of chocolate chips and gently press chocolate chips into sides of sandwiches with your other hand, neatening ice cream if necessary. Return garnished sandwiches to freezer and repeat with remaining 8 sandwiches in 2 batches. Freeze sandwiches for at least 8 hours before serving. (Sandwiches can be individually wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, transferred to zipper-lock bag, and frozen for up to 2 months.)
Boosting Flavor in the Cold
Cold temperatures are known for dulling flavor. They diminish the responsiveness of our tastebuds' receptor proteins, hindering our ability to taste, and they slow the movement of aromatic compounds, preventing our noses from detecting them. To compensate for the flavor-zapping effect of freezing our ice cream sandwiches, we use brown sugar instead of white and up the amounts of browned butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. This not only boosts the complex flavors we taste on our tongues but also increases the number of aromatic compounds we smell, resulting in better-tasting cookies.
Filling Cookies Evenly
After placing the ice cream in the center of the overturned cookie and topping it with the second cookie, gently press and twist the sandwiches until the ice cream spreads to the edges.
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