Summer demands lazy: Sleep in, stay up. Sandwiched around the dedicated slouch. The season honors hammock, beach blanket, and ballpark bench. Still, it’s good to have a goal, and mine is always the ice-cream sandwich.
The ready-made — readily available from truck, cart, or poolside shack — defines the state of the art: gummy hole-pocked wafers squared off against vanillin-flavored ice milk. Authentic, in its artificial way, with scant room for improvement. And yet, I always try.
Like many a student, I long attempted to emulate the master. I smoothed vanilla-bean swirl between brownie bookends and shelved the mess next to the ice cubes. Cutting down the frostbitten block called for ice pick and cleaver. The hunks held a sticky, savage, inedible appeal.
Eventually it occurred to me that summer can be summed up by neither vanilla nor chocolate. The couple — famous for formal black-and-white attire, foreign accents, and long shelf life — works the social calendar year-round.
The dedicated summer sandwich should flaunt the dedicated summer fruit. And who is more dedicated than the plum? I poached and churned, producing a deep pink ice cream that lingered in memory — and on apron — for weeks.
One sticky afternoon I was struck by inspiration. Or by the impulse to poach someone els’s inspiration: roasting.
I went scientific. I cooked down plum — along with its cousins apricot and almond — on the stovetop. The fruit melted quickly and swirled agreeably and then waited patiently in the freezer. It took control not to spoon up the control. An unauthorized taste test suggested it was good.
Then I made a batch in the oven. It took a whole hour to roast the fruit, and nothing much happened during the first 59 minutes. After the ding, I pulled out the pan and took a deep, intoxicating inhale. Even better.
I lined up four houseguests and four household regulars and handed each a spoonful of each. Everyone voted for the deeply colored, intensely flavored summer-sweet appeal of roasted.
I was finally prepared to vouch for my vacation. Though not yet ready to trade scoop for sweater.
Summer Sandwiches, revised
Start early – say 3 days before you’re in need of the cooling action of an ice-cream sandwich. This recipe isn’t hard, but it requires quite a bit of downtime. If the core of your churn needs to be cooled, stash it in the freezer 24 hours ahead.
24 ginger wafers (recipe follows)
12 sheets bakery tissue (snag from your local bakery, or sub sheets of waxed paper)
12 bricks roasted plum-apricot ice cream (recipe follows)
1. Build: Set 1 hole-pocked ginger wafer, bottom-side up, on a sheet of bakery tissue. Using an off-set spatula, center one ice-cream brick on the wafer. Top with a plain wafer, bottom-side down.
2. Store: Wrap in tissue, slide into a ziptop bag, freeze. Repeat, building all sandwiches. Freeze firm, several hours or overnight. Enjoy.
Roasted Plum-Apricot Ice Cream
Makes 12 bricks, enough to fill 12 sandwiches
1 3/4 pounds apricots and plums (about 4 plums and 6 apricots)
6 tablespoons plus ¾ cup granulated sugar
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1. Roast: Halve fruit and pull out stones. Set fruit in a 13-x-9-x-2-inch baking pan, cut sides up. Sprinkle with 6 tablespoons sugar. Cover tightly with foil. Slide into a 350-degree oven and roast until fruit has collaped in a brilliant puddle, about 1 hour. Cool a bit.
2. Swirl: Scrape fruit and juices into the food processor or blender and swirl smooth. Press through a medium-mesh sieve into a clean bowl.
3. Whip: In the spotless bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the 3 egg whites, the remaining ¾ cup sugar, the lemon juice, and salt. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk until whites reach165-degrees, about 5 minutes. Pull bowl off water, carefully wipe dry the bottom, and snap into the mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, whip to brilliant white, sturdy, cool peaks of meringue, about 5 minutes. Whip in vanilla and almond extracts.
4. Fold: Fold in fruit puree. Fold in whipped cream. Cover and chill this ice-cream base overnight.
5. Freeze: Pour base into an ice-cream churn and churn, following the habits of your machine (or contraption). Line a 9-x-9-x-2-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Scrape in ice cream. Smooth top. Cover with plastic or parchment. Freeze firm, overnight.
6. Slice: Pull frozen ice-cream block out of pan. Using a long heavy knife, trim and slice into 12 3-x-2 inch rectangles. Return bricks to freezer, covered, until ready to fill sandwiches.
Makes 24 or so (bake a few extra, just in case)
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup dark-brown sugar
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Sift: Sift together flour, ginger, salt, and baking soda.
2. Beat: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in yolk and vanilla, stopping to scrape down sides as need be, 1 minute. Slide in dry ingredients and mix on low speed until dough comes together, about 1 minute.
3. Roll: Set a sheet of parchment paper on a rimless baking sheet or the flip side of a rimmed baking sheet. Drop dough onto the parchment. Cover with a second sheet of parchment and roll dough 1/8-inch thin. If you have an adorable scallop-edged ice-cream-sandwich cutter (as I happen to) use that to punch out wafers. If not, use a long heavy knife (and perhaps a ruler) to slice dough into at least 24 2-x-3 inch rectangles. Use a chopstick to poke holes (say, about 6) into half the wafers. Cover dough again with parchment and slide the baking sheet, still holding the sliced dough, into the fridge. Chill (or freeze) at least 1 hour.
4. Bake: Once the wafers are cold and easy to handle, uncover them. Snap them apart and separate a little on their bottom parchment. Slide into a 350-degree oven and bake until just set and barely browned, about 8 minutes. Let cool.