Anne Zimmerman lives in and writes from the Bay Area. She is working on a book about the food writer M.F.K. Fisher.

Sandwiches for dessert

Cookies and ice cream, stacked

September 5, 2008

I do believe in a balanced diet. I believe that people’s bodies feel and run better when they are fueled by a balance of protein, grains, dairy, and lots of fruits and veggies. But I am also a fervent believer in dessert. I have tried to temper this sweet tooth of mine, really I have. But to no avail. I love dessert. I need it. It makes me happy.

Which leads me to exercise — I exercise so that I can eat dessert. OK, that isn’t really true. I exercise because I like it. I like waking up in the morning and working up a sweat. Exercise helps me cope with the stresses and anxieties of the day; it makes me a better worker, daughter, friend, and girlfriend. It also allows me to eat chocolate every single day of my life, if that is what I choose.

For the most part, chocolate is my drug of choice. I try to stick to the dark stuff. It is moodier and more sophisticated. Plus it is supposed to be chock-full of all sorts of antioxidants that are, believe it or not, good for you. But more than occasionally I relish other treats — milk chocolate, brownies, sometimes a cupcake or two.

I like to make ice cream in the summertime, and if someone has a potluck, dessert is always asked of me. I use it as an excuse to try the recipes I could never, in good conscience, make for only me.

This is how I came to spend a Saturday night a week or two ago making ice-cream sandwiches. Why ice-cream sandwiches? Good question. It was summer and I wanted to make something that embraced the warmth and fun of this blessed season. I wanted something that would make us adults feel like kids again, a dessert that would be memorable.

Ice-cream sandwiches are so much more fun to eat than cookies and ice cream.

I thought about just making ice cream. Homemade ice cream is, after all, simply divine. But after a busy early summer, the ice-cream maker was stored away, and I needed a dessert I could start making now. I fell back on the idea of making homemade cookies to serve with store-bought ice cream. Then I hit on the idea of an ice-cream sandwich.

What could be better? What could be more fun? I couldn’t imagine anything that said “hello, summer!” better than a drippy, licky, ice-cream sandwich.

The cooking part was rather routine. I went to the store and purchased butter, sugar, chocolate, and eggs. I do wonder what the grocery-store clerks think of me, always purchasing something that could land me in the halls of gluttony. I fired up the oven and made the cookies. I was more careful than usual to make sure they were all equally sized and a perfect round shape. Once they were done, I slid them off the cookie sheet carefully, let them cool completely, and then shifted them again to a plate that I stuck in the freezer. These babies needed to be cold.

Even the construction was fun. I heaped pillows of soft vanilla ice cream onto the cold cookies and layered another cookie with a satisfying pinch. They were fat and adorable and very tasty-looking. But I wasn’t done, oh no. Next came a bowlful of melted dark chocolate. I carefully dipped one edge of each sandwich cookie into the chocolate and quickly returned the sandwich to the cold plate. The black dog-eared cookies looked like something you’d pay good money for at a snazzy ice-cream shop on a hot day. And here it was 11 o’clock at night, in my very own kitchen.

The next day I felt it was time to test one. Really, it was a necessary thing — I wouldn’t want to serve sub-par ice-cream sandwiches to hungry friends.

To be eating ice cream at home on a Sunday afternoon felt sublime. The taste was decadent, too — there’s something about an ice-cream sandwich that is much better than a bowlful of ice cream with a cookie on the side. An ice-cream sandwich is luxurious. I ate with both hands, careful to watch for drips. I licked my fingers and contemplated, just for a second, having another one. I decided against it, but only because I hadn’t been outside much yet. After a long walk in the sun and a little sweat, then maybe I’d have a second . . . and, eventually, maybe a third.

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