Let Ice Cream Sandwiches Made With Actual Bread Rule Your Summer
Any bread works, from brioche to hot dog buns and everything in between.
Most people who hear the term “ice cream sandwich” automatically tend to think about softened chocolate wafers -- dotted with holes -- surrounding a rectangle of vanilla or tri-colored Neapolitan ice cream. It's an ice cream truck classic, though chocolate chip cookies are also a popular ice cream sandwich base these days.
But given the American penchant for sandwiches and ice cream treats, it surprising that actual ice cream sandwiches -- you know, the kind made with real bread -- aren't more common stateside. The carb-and-cream dessert is available around the world in different iterations that reflect the cultures they’re serving and are as delicious as they are portable.
In Southern Italy and Sicily, scoops of gelato are stuffed into buttery rolls of brioche -- a culinary celebration of Italy’s favorite frozen treat and fluffy Sicilian loaves. The result is a handheld dessert that combines the cold velvet of gelato with warm, fresh baked bread. The ensuing experience vaguely reminds me of tuna melts: the toasted, buttery bread; the melty cheese; and the cool, creamy, mayo-filled tuna salad. Cold and hot is an experience to delight in -- just ask the brownie sundae.
In Singapore, slices of rainbow-colored toast are folded around bricks of ice cream. While the ice cream can be any flavor, the bread is often lightly flavored with pandan -- a Southeast Asian plant that’s infused in ice cream, custards, and pastries -- that also gives the slices of bread their pale green hue.
The Philippines have a similar creation, but instead of using sliced bread, rounds of ice cream are gently placed in pandesal, a bread roll that can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack, alongside dinner, and of course, for dessert.
Thailand and Vietnam also have bread ice cream sandwiches, usually composed of longer rolls similar to hot dog buns. Instead of dairy-based ice creams, the traditional recipe typically calls for coconut milk-based scoops. Like an actual sandwich, Thailand’s version often has a selection of toppings to pick from: slivers of syrup-soaked jackfruit, sweet sticky rice, salty crushed peanuts, and chewy palm seeds. For extra decadence, evaporated milk or condensed milk is drizzled on top. In fact, Thais enjoy bread with their ice cream so much that even if bread isn’t the vessel carrying the sandwich, cubed up pieces are often included in sundae bowls.
It shouldn’t be too shocking to think of bread as an accompaniment to ice cream. After all, ice cream pairs well with a lot of other flour-based desserts. Take ice cream cake, for example: it’s often lauded as the ultimate celebratory cake, better than its less frozen counterparts (even though I vehemently disagree). Next to that, profiteroles -- the French choux pastry that make up the base of a cream puff -- are sometimes sliced open and filled with ice cream instead of traditional custard. Bread pudding is seldom presented without a scoop of melty ice cream, and with good reason: the warm, gooey cubes of bread play nicely with the creaminess of the frozen dessert. Even donuts -- a glorified fried bread -- have become a popular vessel to carry ice cream. In fact, eating ice cream off a waffle cone doesn’t feel entirely far removed from eating it off a slice of bread; sure, one is crispier and thinner, but the ingredients that make up the two bases aren’t too far off from one another.
Besides, eating ice cream with bread opens up a world of possibilities. Grilled banana bread ice cream sandwiches sound dreamy. A tremendous excuse for having dessert for breakfast could come in the form of a French toast ice cream sandwich. Pumpkin bread would make an excellent addition in the fall, and hell -- even sourdough might taste good if you pair it with the right ice cream. The combinations are endless; peanut butter and strawberry ice cream on white bread with sliced strawberries could easily be a new hit: the frozen PB&J. Chocolate babka with chocolate ice cream could be a chocolate fiend's paradise. The cherry on top of these ice cream sandwiches are how easy they are to make; there’s no waiting for things to bake or set or freeze. At most, you can expect a gentle toasting in the oven or a buttered pan.
If you’ve never had an ice cream sandwich yet -- and I mean a proper one, made with bread -- then why not consider it? I imagine that the only thing that can make toasted cinnamon raisin bread better is by adding a hearty scoop of ice cream between slices.