Ice cream wars! Who else had them as a kid? Chocolate or vanilla! Strawberry or chocolate, vanilla or both?! I always chose chocolate, and I got a fair amount of flack for it. But vanilla never held a candle to chocolate for me. It was boring, tasteless and way too basic.
I’m still not much of a vanilla lover. To be sure, I think it has its place. Its blank, quiet canvas works perfectly when paired with flavorful pies, crumbles and crisps. I think it’s delicious when topped with caramel, swirled with peanut butter or even chunked up with crushed pretzels and chocolate. But plain vanilla ice cream is still too, well, vanilla for me.
This ice cream, however! This ice cream is not vanilla. I mean, it is, technically. It’s got both vanilla extract and vanilla bean sugar, which speckles the ice cream with charming little black seeds. But it’s also got enough salt in it to bring out depth, egg yolks and heavy cream that make it rich and custard-y, and my secret addition: olive oil. Good olive oil is grassy, savory and a little bitter, and here, it adds an almost indiscernible note of flavor, which makes all the difference.
Sandwiched between fudgy, salted rye cookies (which come from one of my favorite cookbooks) that stay chewy even when frozen, this ice cream goes from great to perfect. The chocolate cookies add intensity and texture and these ice cream sandwiches are like the glamorous, grown-up versions of the chocolate and vanilla ones I always had as a kid.
My former vanilla misgivings have all but vanished. This is an unstoppable pair. And I’ll always say chocolate when asked what I prefer, but I’d eat this vanilla ice cream plain any day. Shhh.
Yields: 12-14 ice cream sandwiches
Cookie recipe from Tartine No.3, ice cream recipe adapted from Big Gay Ice Cream
Why I love this recipe: rye flour plays up the intensity of dark chocolate and flecks of sea salt on top of these cookies, which stay fudgy and chewy even when frozen, create a perfect salty/sweet balance between these cookies and the creamy, yolk enriched vanilla ice cream. A bit of olive oil in the ice cream adds even more richness and a slight, almost undetectable bitterness which complements the chocolate. These are classic chocolate and vanilla ice cream sandwiches, elevated.
Notes: do not use artificial vanilla sugar in the ice cream- use vanilla sugar that was made with vanilla bean and has vanilla bean seeds in it. Use a very good quality olive oil, so you really taste it. Make sure your ice cream maker bowl is frozen before you begin! The components of this recipe take time, so plan ahead before you begin.
Variation: skip the olive oil for a plain, classic vanilla ice cream. Use a vanilla bean in place of the vanilla extract.
For the salted chocolate rye cookies:
3⁄4 cup whole-grain dark rye flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1⁄2 cups light muscovado or light brown sugar
1 tablespoon. vanilla extract
]Maldon salt or fleur de sel, for sprinkling
For the vanilla olive oil ice cream:
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup vanilla sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Start by making the cookies: whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl; set aside.
- Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until melted, 10 minutes. Remove bowl from pan; set aside.
- Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment; whip until fluffy. With the motor running, slowly add sugar until eggs have nearly tripled in volume, about 10 minutes.
- Add reserved chocolate mixture and the vanilla to the eggs; mix until combined.
- With the motor running, slowly add dry ingredients until a soft, loose dough forms. Cover dough with plastic wrap; chill 30 minutes.
- Heat oven to 350°. Using 2 tablespoons for each, drop cookies onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spaced about 2” apart.
- Sprinkle cookies with Maldon salt or fleur de sel; bake until cookies are puffed, 8-10 minutes. When cool, freeze cookies until needed.
- Make the ice cream: whisk the egg yolks in a large nonreactive saucepan; set aside. Warm the milk and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often to keep the mixture from scorching, for about 5 minutes, or until it has begun to steam.
- Add the mixture to the yolks in slow, steady stream, whisking continuously.
- Set the saucepan over medium heat, add the vanilla, vanilla sugar, salt and olive oil, and stir for about 2 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved.
- Continue cooking, stirring continuously, for another 5 minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken. Do not allow to boil. Transfer the pan to an ice bath to stop the cooking and stir until the steaming stops.
- Transfer the mixture to an airtight container, cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
- Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When it’s fully churned, transfer to a 9×13 baking dish lined with baking paper. Place a second piece of wax paper on the surface of the ice cream and smooth down.
- Place in the freezer and let freeze for 3-4 hours, or until frozen solid.
- Assemble the ice cream sandwiches: match up the cookies in pairs of similar size. Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a round cookie cutter slightly smaller than the cookie, cut out circles of ice cream.
- Place the circle of ice cream on one cookie, and top with a second. Place on the prepared sheet pan, and place into the freezer. Repeat until you have run out of ice cream.
- Rest the cookie sandwiches in the freezer for an hour, or until the ice cream has re-frozen completely. Serve. Store the remaining cookie sandwiches in an airtight container.