“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” -Virginia Woolf (The Waves)
Five years ago to this day, in my childhood bedroom on Fredericktown hill, I sat down at my desk and started this blog. At the time it all seemed like such an inconsequential act–a stab in the dark, a chance to start something new outside of the microcosm of Slavic literary studies. On the surface, starting a food blog appeared to be relatively simple: find something to cook, make it, snap a few photos and then write about it. How little I knew! These things represent only a fraction of the process, which is why, when I look back now I realize how I well and truly had absolutely no clue what I was doing.
But, if nothing else, a blog gives you a reason to learn. Because of this space, I learned the art of breakfast: the trick of adding a splash of vinegar to the swirling water when poaching an egg, and how to whip up batches of waffles
that shatter when your fork cuts through them (the secret is simple: all-purpose flour is a waffle’s truest ally). I learned to confront my irrational fear of unmolding precariously jiggly panna cotta
, of kneading my way to crackly, honey-colored loaves, of whipping egg whites into glossy, Pavlova-ready peaks. On some weeknights I’ve eaten meals fit for an Ottoman sultan
, and on others I’ve embraced the rustic simplicity of the Mediterranean diet. I’ve followed the recipes of my grandma, of perfect (yet somehow knowable and kindred spirit) strangers, of trusted sources that would never lead me astray and even of those who would inadvertently have me do things that, as experience has shown me, would never work in a million years. I’ve found that to have a food blog is not only to be continuously experimenting–with other people’s ideas and my own–but also to be wary of the potential pitfalls that threaten the home cook.
And let’s not even talk about the trial and error of taking photos of food, especially when you have a tiny and irremediable astigmatism that fools you into thinking there is a focus when there is, in actuality, the slightest of blurs. One would think food’s immobility would work in favor of the photographer, but the light must be just so and the food artfully arranged. I often imagine the act of photographing a beautifully prepared dish is not so different from what a photographer of Annie Leibovitz
‘s stature faces when she photographs a Vogue cover girl: the food must look seductive, yet accessible–moody and “effortlessly” (that is, with the absolute maximum effort allowed) mussed. It’s strange to think how a thing so ubiquitous and inherently practical has become a sex symbol for the modern age, but all evidence points in that direction: rock stars
now introduce chefs at events, dining out can resemble a food marathon
and leafy greens
formerly deemed fit only for animal feed have become a coveted restaurant-menu item. At times, this fuss can be overwhelming; at other, it’s an amazing spectacle to behold and take part in.
In short, though I have my misgivings about both blogging and food culture, I for some reason persist. This blog, weirdly enough, has become a part of my identity and routine. While five years is but a droplet of time, it’s also not an insignificant amount of time, either. It existed before the Greek, before Elektra, before the end of the dissertation, before I cemented some friendships and, due to circumstances, let go of others. It has outlasted a lot of change and I can’t imagine moving to Delaware and taking the next steps without it–even if sometimes, as with any routine, I feel saddled by it, neglectful.
It’s crazy to think that there are moments when I’m struck by an absolute need to blog (sadly, these moments usually strike when I’m walking either to or from work and can do nothing about them), but I feel like there are always flavors, smells and experiences that I want to savor and share. Here, in this space.
The recipe for these ice cream sandwiches constitutes one of the moments worth sharing. It’s true that I’ve been selfishly keeping them from you since early April, but given the graduation, the trip and the current virtual hunt for a house in Delaware (please feel free to remind me in the comments that, though I may fantasize about colonial farmhouses with chicken coops and dairy farms and four
fireplaces, I would have no idea what to do with 10 acres of land, my very own cow and all of the rodents that would most likely await me.), there has been so little time
. And, truth be told, I’ve really been keeping them from you (and myself) since fall of 2012 when I first received The Sprouted Kitchen
cookbook, saw them and immediately wanted to devote my life making and eating them. If this doesn’t demonstrate my eternal battle with fleeting time, I don’t know what will.
To put it simply, from flavor to texture, this is everything you could ever want in an ice cream sandwich. Bolstered by a combination of peanut butter, honey and sugar and oat flour (for the gluten intolerant, these ice cream sandwiches are for you!), the cookies are soft and delicate, but not crumbly; they hold up to the noble task of sandwiching vanilla ice cream nicely. The flavor, too, benefits from these same ingredients, resulting in a nutty and toothsome cookie that is made only better by the shards of chopped dark chocolate that decorate it. From start to finish, it may be a bit of a project to make them, but the ingredients alone should tell us that this is a superior ice cream sandwich. What cements it for me is the way the cookie exterior, like that of the best ice cream sandwiches, starts to turn sticky and melt against the heat of your hand as you eat it. This, my friends, is the mark of a keeper and as good a reason as any to celebrate the ice cream sandwich.
Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
Adapted slightly from Sara Forte’s The Sprouted Kitchen
Yields 15 sandwiches
Before launching into the recipe, I just want to say that I adore both of Sara Forte’s cookbooks and cook from them often. Something about them just says California to me and I find Sara’s voice to be both humble and inspiring. When I cook from her books, I usually follow her kitchen wisdom completely (really, I trust anybody who learned to cook using the bounty of San Luis Obispo, aka paradise on earth), although her recipes easily allow for substitutions and shortcuts.
Making these sandwiches, I made a few minor substitutions, using turbinado (sugar in the raw) instead of dark muscavado and using kosher instead of sea salt. There’s really no need to mess with perfection.
One more note since this recipe calls for oat flour: rather than buying a whole bag at the store, you could just as easily make your own using a food processor. To get the amount required for this recipe, pulse 1 1/4 cups rolled (old-fashioned) oats. Also, if you intend to serve these to the gluten intolerant, it’s best to buy a bag of gluten-free oats just to be on the safe side and to prevent issues of contamination.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup creamy natural peanut butter
1 1/3 cups oat flour (see note above)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, coarsely chopped
2 quarts vanilla (French, vanilla bean or whichever vanilla you prefer)
-In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the oat flour, baking soda, salt and chopped chocolate chips. Set aside.
-Then, using an electric or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg, honey and peanut butter and mix on medium speed until well combined. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
-About 15 minutes before you are going to remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 350 F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
-Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, using a spoon or ice cream scoop to measure it out, form the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place them on a baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. You should have roughly 30 cookie balls; use the second cookie sheet as necessary.
-Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes (NB: Sara’s cookies were done in 8-10, but mine took longer. Given this discrepancy, you may want to start checking them sooner rather than later), rotating the cookie sheets halfway through. The cookies will be ready when their edges are golden and crisp.
-Once ready, remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack and let cool. Once cooled to room temperature, transfer the cookies to the freezer using 1 to 2 cookie sheets (it may be a tight fit, but this is the easiest way forward). Let chill for at least half an hour.
-A few minutes before taking the cookies out of the freezer, remove the ice cream and let it soften. When it’s ready, remove the cookies from the freezer. Using an ice cream scoop, place a heaping scoop of ice cream on the bottom of one cookie and gently smoosh the ice cream down with the bottom of another cookie until it reaches the sandwich’s outer edges. Repeat until you have filled all of the cookies and then put the sandwiches in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes before wrapping them in plastic wrap (NB: It was warm the day I made these and I found it easier to make a few (2-3) sandwiches at a time and place them in the freezer as they were ready. It slowed the process down a little, but it prevented the sandwiches from melting).
-The sandwiches will keep for about a month and a half.