The rich sweetened cream spiked with the saltiness of roasted macadamia nuts is a study in contrasts, and when combined between two cookies, my Macadamia Nut Ice Cream Sandwich is a study in the art of sandwich making—ice cream-style.
Back when I was a kid, every neighborhood had its corner grocery. You know the kind I mean: the nice lady with the big smile behind the counter; the crotchety owner who shooed you away when you lingered too long; and an endless variety of sweet treats that made that pocket full of change a treasure chest. My store was the Corner Cash.
Just a short bike ride from my house, I always leaned my Schwinn against the pine tree just outside; it was my reserved parking spot. I can still hear the screeching of that taut spring-loaded screen door open and slam shut behind me. It always startled me. Even at ten years old, the wood floors creaked as I walked straight to the reach-in freezer for my obsession—an ice cream sandwich.
These weren’t your typical ice cream sandwiches; these were Red Bird ice cream sandwiches. A two-inch-thick square of vanilla ice cream encased in a chocolate brownie-like cookie crust with a cardboard band wrapped around the middle. I was an expert at busting open the paper wrapper, discarding that center band, and taking that first bite, all within seconds after plunking down my quarter. It was glorious.
The Red Bird Ice Cream Company owned by the Cutrer family sold their products everywhere and were revered by a loyal regional following. Ice cream and sherbet were their focus and they distributed to restaurants, retail, and even to local schools. But of all their products, that ice cream sandwich had a grip on me. My daddy’s restaurant sold them, and he stocked the reach-in freezer on our screened-in back porch with them. Needless to say, I had lots of friends.
Like the old Corner Cash, the Red Bird has long since disappeared. And although I’ve never tasted an ice cream sandwich that rivals that one, I’ve learned to make my own following a few basic rules.
In my travels to Maui (see story here), I discovered macadamia nuts since the islands are ground zero for macadamia mania. In fact, it is the Roselani brand of ice cream that my friend Frank Randol turned me onto that drove this obsession with macadamia nuts. It was on one of those trips while eating a bowl of the stuff along with a cookie that I thought about combining the two.
My ice cream recipe is a cinch to make. It is based on a no-churn vanilla bean ice cream recipe that I’ve been preparing for a few years now. I just love the simplicity of using sweetened condensed milk as a shortcut, and when I discovered the Milkadamia brand macadamia milk in my local supermarket, I knew right away that homemade ice cream was in my future. And the cookie recipe is dead simple as well, and the only trick is to make sure you go past the soft and chewy stage to a hardened cookie or your sandwich will not hold up.
It might not be the ice cream sandwich of my youth, but for the 10-year-old boy that still lives within me, it is sweet comfort indeed. So, give my Macadamia Nut Ice Cream Sandwich a try, and maybe you’ll become an ice cream sandwich aficionado like me.
- 1 ½ cups sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup unsweetened macadamia nut milk, such as Milkadamia brand, or whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup roasted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 2 sticks salted butter, softened at room temperature
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups roasted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped into large pieces, divided
- In a large mixing bowl, add the condensed milk and the macadamia nut milk along with the vanilla. Whisk to combine.
- With an electric hand mixer, beat the cream until it forms stiff peaks. Add the whipped cream to the milk mixture and stir in the chopped macadamia nuts, distributing evenly.
- Pour the mixture into a covered container and freeze overnight.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.
- In another bowl, add the butter and brown sugar and stir to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla, and stir to combine.
- Combine the wet and dry ingredients and add in 1 cup of the nuts. Cover and refrigerate until the dough is chilled, about 45 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
- Using a standard ice cream scoop, portion out the dough onto a greased baking tray. Separate the balls of dough so that they will have room to spread out and bake evenly. (The size of your dough ball will determine the size of your ice cream sandwich so adjust accordingly.)
- Bake until crispy golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool for 1 hour until the cookies have hardened before making the ice cream sandwiches.
- For the assembly, take the ice cream out of the freezer 20 minutes before. Pour out the remaining 2 cups of chopped nuts onto a cutting board.
- Place a cookie on the cutting board and add a heaping scoop of ice cream to the center. Place another cookie on top and gently press down until the ice cream spreads out to the edges. Place the ice cream edge of the sandwich into the chopped nuts and rotate until coated all around. Place on a tray and freeze immediately. Repeat with all the ice cream sandwiches.
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