Chocolate Chip Mint Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches

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I saw these on my favorite blog a couple weeks ago, and obviously had to make them asap (I should really start to think about unsubscribing from all of these food blogs, as they make it pretty hard to stick to my diet “healthy eating lifestyle”).  I waited until I had a summer BBQ to attend, thinking they would be the perfect thing to bring.  I bet you guys can already see the issue, right? It’s a little embarrassing that I didn’t. As it turns out, ice cream + summer weather + car transport + rush hour = disaster (car transport alone was probably enough to seal their fate, but the 90 degree heat and traffic didn’t help).  Why didn’t I think to put them in a cooler? Unclear.

But here’s the thing, they were pretty melty to begin with. I debated even posting this recipe, because (a) do we really need a recipe for ice cream sandwiches? and also (b) because mine didn’t turn out that well. At least, at first. But as the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed….try, try again.  And while I may not apply that mantra to any important areas of my life, of course I’m going to try again at brownie ice cream sandwiches.

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While a recipe for ice cream sandwiches is a little superfluous, a recipe for brownies is not. Deb’s brownies are the best – and so easy. Seven ingredients, at least six of which you probably already have in your fridge/pantry (I never seem to have baker’s chocolate, aside from the odd ounce I always have leftover from when I made these brownies the last time).  To make these ice cream sandwich-friendly, you just spread the batter into two layers, either in two 8×8 pans (ideal) or one 9×13 pan (which would also be fine). Secret option number three is to bake two batches in one 8×8 pan, if you can only find one, like me. It’s not the end of the world but next time I’ll use a 9×13, or look harder for my other brownie pan.

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The brownie part is easy (although I would note that these layers are pretty thin, so make sure to let them completely cool before handling, and even then be very careful.  I had the best luck when they were completely frozen). The tricky part is getting the ice cream to stay frozen. I considered glossing over my first attempt, but what is this blog if not an attempt to help you learn from my mistakes?

Deb says you can spread the ice cream over the first brownie layer, top it with the second brownie layer, freeze it for 30 minutes, and you’re good to go.  Perhaps she used better ice cream than me, or has a colder freezer.  But the below photos show my attempt and the sad, melty results.

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Frozen.

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Still frozen.

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Appears frozen-ish.

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Melty mess.  And this is before I had to put them in the car.

Needless to say, they arrived at the party looking less like ice cream sandwiches, and more like 32 thin brownie squares floating in a pool of mint green and vanilla swirled milk.  Tragic. But I made them again, and this time froze the ice cream all by itself in the 8×8 pan (lined with parchment) for a full 24 hours.  I cut the brownies and the ice cream separately and then put the sandwiches together and it worked perfectly. (When I cut the sandwiches the first time the ice cream oozed out – it probably would have been ok if the ice cream had been more frozen but I was afraid to try it out the second time.  Also I think if the sandwich was put together in the pan the cutting would go better as the ice cream wouldn’t have anywhere to go. If you try these at home, experiment and let me know how it goes).

Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches, from Smitten Kitchen

For the brownies:
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour

For the filling:
2 to 3 cups ice cream (one quart or two pints)

Heat your oven to 350°F. Line two 8×8-inch square baking pans with parchment paper.  Spray parchment with a nonstick cooking spray (I like to spray the bottom of the pan first so that the parchment sticks/stays in place, then spray the parchment and sides of pan generously as well).

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, heat chocolate and butter together until almost melted (you can also do this in the microwave – heat in short increments, stirring every 20-30 seconds or so). Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Stir in sugar until fully combined, then eggs, one at a time and then vanilla. Stir in salt until combined, then flour. Try not to over-mix.

Divide batter between two prepared pans and spread evenly — an offset spatula will make this easier. Bake on different racks for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating once top to bottom and front to back, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each pan comes out batter-free. Transfer hot pans directly to freezer (you can put down dish towels or a cooling rack to protect shelves). Chill until cold and firm, about 15 to 20 minutes.

<<This is where my instructions will differ from Deb’s – but I would encourage you to try it her way first if you want.  Especially if you don’t have to transport yours, or if you have the time and energy to do a trial run.  But I think my way is a little more foolproof, albeit not quite as seamless.>>

For sandwiches:
Once brownies have cooled, remove one of the brownie layers from the pan and store on a cookie sheet or cooling rack (these layers are pretty thin so they’ll break easily if they aren’t completely cooled or frozen – be careful!).  Wipe down the 8×8 pan and re-line with parchment (no spray needed this time).  Scoop your ice cream out into the pan, and use a spatula to “smoosh” it into a smooth layer. Cover with parchment and use the second brownie pan to weigh the ice cream down (if you used a 9×13 or only have one 8×8, like me, you can skip this step). Return the ice cream to the freezer and freeze as long as possible. Deb said she only needed 20 minutes – I gave mine over 24 hours and it still started to melt pretty quickly.

When you’re ready to make your sandwiches, cut both brownie layers into 16 squares.  Remove ice cream from the freezer, lift it (using the parchment sling) onto a cutting board, and quickly cut it into 16 squares as well. Make the sandwiches and return to the freezer to let them re-freeze a bit. You’ll want a cookie sheet or a 9×13 pan if you don’t have two 8×8 pans, as it would be tricky to squeeze them all back into one 8×8.

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