Chocolate, candy and caramel ice cream sandwiches to keep you cool

Summer means ice cream, but a plain old bowl of chocolate or vanilla can get a little boring after awhile. Homemade ice cream sandwiches might take a little bit more work than simply picking up a box of those chocolate cakey, store-bought sandwiches, but they're way more delicious and definitely more of a showstopper. 

Most of the time involved in making your own ice cream sandwiches at home has to do with waiting around and letting things freeze, so if you can plan ahead and make them over the course of several days, I definitely recommend that. Oozy caramel sauce and creamy vanilla ice cream studded with candy, and sandwiched between two homemade chocolate cookie layers takes whatever you're picturing in your head when you hear "ice cream sandwich" to the next level. With temperatures climbing and long, lazy days spent outside in the sunshine, you'll definitely be ready for a frozen, creamy, sweet treat — and this version pushes the limits just enough.

Here's what you need

It might seem like a lot of ingredients for an ice cream sandwich, but this is no ordinary, run-of-the-mill ice cream sandwich. There are a lot of components involved. The cookie is relatively straightforward, but homemade. The caramel sauce can be a bit finicky, so if the idea of making your own makes you a little nervous, it's 100 percent OK to use a store-bought version. I give you permission — no one needs to know. Store-bought candy and ice cream round it all out. Feel free to make these ice cream sammies with homemade ice cream if you please, but there's no need to feel pressured to do so. A delicious store-bought vanilla (or chocolate or salted caramel — why not?) will work just fine.

Prep the ice cream

Let the ice cream sit out on your counter for a bit to soften. It should still be solid, but also soft enough to spread after you scoop it out. Line an 8-inch by 8-inch pan with parchment paper. Scoop the ice cream and drop it into the lined pan, one scoop next to another. Spread the ice cream into an even, smooth layer, and pop it into the freezer to firm it up. You can't add anything to the ice cream until it's frozen solid once again.

Make the cookie layers

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cream the melted butter and sugars together. Add two eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. Make sure it all gets incorporated well. The sugars tend to stick to the sides of the bowl even more than normal with this recipe, so grab that rubber spatula and scrape down the sides whenever you think you may need to. In a small, separate bowl, mix the remainder of the ingredients together. Give it a whisk to try to get any lumps out of the cocoa and to make sure everything is evenly distributed. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer carefully, and mix until it's all combined, then you're done. 

Spread the batter into a sheet pan lined with parchment paper — you want these layers to be relatively thin and baking them in a sheet pan will help with that. Put the pan in the oven and bake for roughly 15 minutes, or until a toothpick (or knife) inserted into the center comes out clean. Take it out of the oven and let it cool entirely. 

Make the caramel sauce

Making caramel can be fun, but it can also be really, really frustrating if it doesn't work out just right. Pour the granulated sugar for the caramel into a clean, dry saucepan. Cook it over medium-low heat until it's completely caramelized. Swirl the pan to stir rather than poking at it with a spoon. Take it off the heat, and swirl in the butter piece by piece, then do the same with the cream and salt. Let it cool. All the way. Seriously, all the way. The first time I made these, I didn't let the caramel cool enough and disaster struck — it melted the ice cream. If you need to let it take a sit in the fridge for a bit, that's just fine.

Layer the caramel and candy

Take the ice cream layer out of the freezer. Pour the completely cooled caramel sauce over the top (or use the store-bought kind). Place Milky Way bars (or Snickers — yum) over the top and press them into the caramel. I used Milky Way to double-up on the caramel and chocolate, but, beyond Snickers, let your creativity take over a bit and use whatever candy is your favorite. Work quickly so that the ice cream doesn't melt too much.

Freeze it again

This second trip to the freezer is super important, because it makes sure your stuffed ice cream layer is fully frozen before you try to put it all together. It needs to be in the freezer for at least two full hours, but longer is better, especially in the summer, when, as soon as you take it out of your freezer, it'll all start to melt. If you're worried about it, freeze that stuffed ice cream layer overnight, just to be safe.

Assemble the ice cream sandwich

Pull the ice cream layer out of the freezer and lift it out of the pan. Put a new piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, and then, using the bottom of the pan to measure, trim the cookie/cake into two pieces. Put one on top of the parchment in the bottom of the pan. Using two spatulas if need be (I needed both of them), lift the ice cream layer and peel off the old parchment. Put it in the pan on top of the cookie. Top it all off with the other cookie layer and press down gently on the top.

One more freeze

You're almost there! The final freeze makes the ice cream sandwiches into a cohesive unit. It doesn't have to be quite as long as some of the other trips to the freezer, but it's just as important because if it doesn't freeze enough, you'll end up with an ice cream layer that spills out the sides of the cookie and be left with only candy between the cookie bars. Still delicious, but not what we're going for. Freeze for at least one full hour, but several hours is best.

Finally, cut it into squares and serve. Yum!

Directions

Prep time: 20-30 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves: 9

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 quarts vanilla ice cream
  • 1, 10-ounce bag of Milky Way bars, unwrapped

(for the caramel sauce)

  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I used Kosher again)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Directions:

1. Let the vanilla ice cream soften, then scoop it into an 8x8 pan lined with parchment paper. Spread the ice cream smooth and put it in the freezer to freeze solid, at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Cream the butter and sugars together until they're light and fluffy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and mix again. In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, flour, cocoa, and baking soda until evenly combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to your wet mixture and mix until just combined. Don't over-mix.

4. Spread the batter into a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

5. Pour the sugar into a dry, clean saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until fully caramelized. It'll get a bit dark. Swirl to stir. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter, a little at a time and swirl to combine. Add the cream and salt. Give it another swirl. Set it aside to fully cool. Feel free to pop it into the fridge or even freezer (once it's already cooled some) if need be.

6. Take the ice cream layer out of the freezer. Pour the caramel over the top and top with candy. Press down on the candy slightly. Put it back into the freezer to again freeze solid, at least 2-3 hours, but preferably overnight.

7. Take the ice cream, caramel, and candy layer out of the freezer and lift (by the overhanging parchment paper) out of the pan. Use the bottom of the pan to measure and trim the cookie layers so they're the same size. Put a fresh piece of parchment in the pan and place one of the cookie pieces on top of that.

8. Peel the parchment layer off of the ice cream. Place the ice cream, caramel, and candy layer in the pan on top of the bottom cookie. Add the remaining cookie layer and press down gently.

9. Put the giant ice cream sandwich back into the freezer to freeze solid, at least 1 full hour, but preferably longer.

10. Take it out of the freezer, lift it out of the pan (using your best friend, the overhanging parchment paper), and, using a sharp knife, cut into individual ice cream sandwiches. Share them with everyone you know or keep them all for yourself, I won't tell.