Ice cream, only better

The Associated PressJuly 17, 2013 

The beauty of ice cream in summer is you really don’t need to do anything to it to enjoy it. A big, unadorned bowl is a simple, delicious pleasure all on its own.

Still, sometimes we can’t help but tinker with perfection. So for a summer celebration, we decided to take the season’s finest treat and make it even finer. We created a do-it-yourself ice cream sandwich buffet perfect for any backyard barbecue event. And we quickly discovered the possibilities were boggling.

Start with the “bread” of the sandwiches. We’re going to assume you don’t want to bake your own cookies. That’s fine, because all sorts of choices are available at the grocer. And don’t hesitate to get creative. Graham crackers, slices of cake, cinnamon buns or doughnuts can be pressed into service. Play around with different sizes, too. Small cookies can be used for ice cream sandwich “sliders.”

And don’t forget to dress your sandwiches. Smear toppings such as fudge, caramel or peanut sauce onto the cookies (much as you would when assembling a PB&J) before adding the ice cream.

Then there are the many choices of fillings — ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, gelato or sherbet. We suggest serving them one of two ways. The easiest way is to soften the frozen treats slightly so they are easily scooped and spread on the “bread.” To soften them, you can either leave them at room temperature for 10 or so minutes, or microwave them for 10 to 20 seconds.

Alternatively, select frozen treats packed in pint-sized cardboard tubs. Use a serrated knife to carefully slice each tub crosswise into four or five rounds, then arrange the rounds on a baking sheet. Keep the rounds frozen until ready to assemble.

Just don’t let the rounds sit out at room temperature too long while people are assembling their sandwiches. The ice cream will soften quickly.

We start you off with ideas for some creative combinations, but your best bet is to wander the grocery store and explore the options.

When it comes to enjoying the buffet, encourage your guests to get a little crazy. Why sandwich just one variety of ice cream when you could combine two or more? And assure them that creating totally over-the-top treats is not just appropriate, but expected. Try sandwiching chocolate ice cream between two whoopie pies with layers of peanut sauce and marshmallow spread, for example.

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