Cooking with Teenagers: Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches


Sugar is the best way to bond with teenagers. Maybe that's my own sweet tooth talking, or my unhealthy Southern "food is love" dysfunction, but my teenagers and I have a lot of happy moments together making weird, sugary treats and then consuming them.

Considering how many other moments we have together that consist of them being mad at me for, like, existing, I am happy to indulge my sweet tooth and pass along one of my many specific food dysfunctions if it means peace and pleasant memories!

As are most of these projects, homemade ice cream sandwiches were originally Syd's idea. This kid has a sweet tooth bigger than mine, and she's far more creative than me, too. This sometimes results in some unholy, sugar-drenched concoctions, but she hit this one out of the park.

The base for these homemade ice cream sandwiches is, of course, homemade cookies. As far as we can tell, you can use any homemade cookie recipe, although soft cookies work best. Crispy cookies get messy when you bite into them with that layer of ice cream in between, and since you'll be eating them nearly frozen, thinner cookies work better than thick ones. 

Here are the cookies we've tried and like best:

You can also use any ice cream that you want for these ice cream sandwiches. For Will's birthday last year, I bought her this ice cream maker--

--and we use the snot out of it all year round!

And yes, I did buy a second bowl, because I am just that extra. And also, some of us have very different taste in ice cream (meaning they don't like chocolate?!?), and with two bowls we can make two different batches one after the other without having to wait for a bowl to re-freeze.

Our favorite part of making homemade ice cream is adding mix-ins, but you could do the same thing with store-bought ice cream by letting it soften a bit, stirring in your mix-ins by hand, and then putting it in a larger container to accommodate the additional volume.

When you assemble these ice cream sandwiches, you can also add lots of other gourmet components. We've rolled the edges in sprinkles or chocolate chips, frosted the cookies, etc. My absolute favorite combination is to bake peanut butter cookies and make chocolate ice cream with mini peanut butter cup mix-ins. Then when I assemble the sandwich, I spread peanut butter on the bottom of one cookie, jam on the bottom of the other, and put the chocolate ice cream in the middle. 

It's absurdly indulgent, and absolutely delicious! 

The project as a whole is time-consuming, but most of that time is just waiting for stuff to freeze. The process goes basically like this:
  1. Make the homemade ice cream, then put it in the freezer to harden.
  2. Bake the homemade cookies, then spread them out on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer, too.
  3. When both components are frozen, assemble the sandwiches. Take each pair of cookies out of the freezer only long enough to assemble the sandwich and wrap it in plastic wrap, and then immediately return it to the freezer. I keep an open Ziplock baggie in the freezer while I'm doing this so I can just pop the finished ice cream sandwiches into it as they're finished.
Confession time: this Mother's Day, I was feeling very bummed out. As a person whose love language is, ashamedly, Gift-Giving, I was sad and disappointed that nobody got the magical unspoken memo that it would be nice to plan out a day all about Making a Fuss Over Me. My feelings were hurt when no presents appeared, and no special activities were announced, and then to make myself feel worse I got on Facebook and looked at all the other magical Mother's Day celebrations happening out there on social media. Glad y'all are having such a great day, Everyone! I'm sitting over here eating a sandwich that I made myself and it turns out we don't even have any chips!

So there I was, sort of bumming around the house feeling bored and unloved, when out of nowhere Syd was all, "Let's make ice cream sandwiches!"

And so we did! We baked the cookies, we churned the ice cream, we assembled the sandwiches while listening to music. It took the entire day, off and on. 

I think it was while we were finishing up the ice cream, and Syd was thoughtfully polling me about my preference of mix-ins, that I realized what she was doing: she was deliberately making sure that I had an excellent time. We were making my favorite cookies and my favorite ice cream with my favorite mix-ins. We were listening to music that I liked. I was being steered towards all the fun parts of of the project, and she was the one digging out the correct measuring cups and looking through the entire pantry for the vanilla. 

A better Mother's Day present couldn't be found than getting to experience what a kind, compassionate kid I have. And maybe I have, indeed, passed down my "food is love" and "sugar heals all wounds" guiding principles, but just know that when I tell you that food is love and sugar heals all wounds, THIS is what I mean. I mean that making food together is a great way to demonstrate our love for each other, and that making and eating something sweet with your teenager is a great way to have, in fact, a magical Mother's Day.

P.S. Here are a few of the other ways that my teenagers and I bond together over food!
And here's my Craft Knife Facebook page, where you can often see the cooking with sugar happen in near-real time!