Thursday, September 6, 2012

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Miniature Ice Cream Sandwiches

Eighteenth-century lexicographer, biographer, and essayist Samuel Johnson wrote in the first edition of his pithy Dictionary of the English Language (1755) that oats are "a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people." It's a quote that still raises the ire of some Scots. Of course, Dr. Johnson could also be a bit of a prick about many things, not just English ethnocentrism. He defined a distiller, for instance, as "One who makes and sells pernicious and inflammatory spirits." That's clearly hogwash. Grains of salt — many of them — are required when reading his essays.

But Johnson was in mind on a recent trip to visit my parents when my mother picked up a small tub of tiny oatmeal cookies, each the size of a medium coin, from Trader Joe's. Opinionated as Johnson may have been, was not entirely wrong about oats. Oatmeal is fine in a mash bill for, say, dark and velvet stouts, but the grain doesn't make one of my favorite cookies because it tends to yield a dry little cake. Not horrible, just not something I'd shove others out of the way to get.

So in an offhand, joking way, I told Mom "You know, if you want to keep your granddaughter busy, you could have her make little ice cream sandwiches with those tiny cookies. Maybe a teaspoon of vanilla ice cream between two of them, then freeze them." The Midwest summer was soul-draining hot; ice cream sounded great, but the tedium of little handwork required to make them was not something seriously to be entertained. This was just idle chatter; holding an idea up to the light, as it were, and casting it aside without further thought.

When I went to get ice for my iced tea the next morning, lo and behold — a one-gallon bag of miniature ice cream sandwiches was waiting in the freezer. Mom had been busy after I'd gone to sleep. We had them that night for dessert as we sat around the big wooden dining room table, talking politics, religion, and other topics one doesn't broach with casual acquaintances.

Some ideas, it seems, should not be cast aside so lightly. 

Goes well with:
  • No need to restrict yourself to vanilla ice cream (or oatmeal cookies). We've made these with goat cheese ice cream (or, rather Glace au Fromage-blanc de Chèvre) that turned out quite good as did the Dutch cocoa ice "cream" made with thick coconut milk rather than cream. Lemon ice cream sandwiched between Belgian speculoos cookies are winners, too. Take this as a template and run with it. Hell, you can dip them in chocolate if you like. 
  • Agnes B. Marshall was a bit of a maverick in her (Victorian) day. in 1901, she advocated mixing liquid oxygen with ice cream ingredients tableside to make ice cream, getting a jump on modernist cooks by almost a century. See Mrs. Marshall's Liquid Air Ice Cream.
  • In her book Paletas, Fany Gerson gives a recipe for granizado de michelada, a granita-like frozen treat based on that Mexican spiked beer stalwart, the michelada. Here is the recipe.
  • About this time last year, San Diego lost power for a day. Rum-lashed mango sorbet inspired by David Lebovitz helped get us through the dark, sultry night. Lebovitz called for dark rum, but I swapped it out with maraschino, then used rum over the top of the finished sorbet. You try it.

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