like-crack-er ice cream brownie sandwich

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I know I know there must be a food-blogger authority staking-out behind a cyber-corner, waiting to ticket me just as soon as I violate the meter by hitting the “publish” button (just any second now…).  TWO ICE-CREAM POSTS IN A ROLL?!  BACK TO BACK!?  God I have some thick-skinned nerve occupying a parking spot on this competitive block in Blogger-hood!  Uh-hum… the official statement is that my sheer excitement after spotting a “cracker cheesecake sandwich” on Donna Hay via pinterest, has driven me to share it for the public-greater good regardless of my personal content-diversity agenda.  And we know that all official statements are largely based on truth and integrity.

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The unofficial statement that’s slightly closer to being factual?  Well… it may sound totally absurd and like an excuse but you see, there’s this market that’s largely responsible for supplying the fresh ingredients used at Lady and Pups that’s closed down for a face-lift, and subsequently leaving my fridge COMPLETELY DRIED UP for ANYTHING to cook with (it better look like Audrey-Hepburn-reincarnated afterward)(I’d reinforce this sob-story by telling you how I munched on leftover rice with preserved tofu and pickles for lunch yesterday, but as truth and integrity goes, I may have just enjoyed doing it).  So here I am, doing TWO ice cream-related posts back to back.  You wouldn’t take it the hard way would you?

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If it’s any consolation, this ISN’T just ANY ice cream sandwich recipe.  The idea that you can BAKE BETWEEN two layers of crackers opens up an entirely new frontier in the otherwise-saturated sandwich-category.  The dawn of cake-of-any-sort PLUS a layer of ice-creams-of-any-sort snuggled between something-crunchy-of-any-sort is here.  Think POSSIBILITY, people!  Think!  Not just brownie and vanilla ice cream, but potentially… NY cheesecake and cherry ice cream?  Toffee pudding with caramel ice cream?… oh I’m being naughty!  And the crackers… oh the crackers…  The crackers adheres so perfectly with the batter especially after the batter has solidified, so firmly in position that there isn’t the usual plate-tectonic-shifting mess.  The saltiness compliments anything you throw at it, plus the crunch!  Oh the CRUNCH!

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Save any doubts you’re having because all of it would be swept away once you realize how easy and naturally this whole thing comes together.  Jason certainly ate his own words along with a-few-too-many-pieces of this.  That’s the other thing… they sit so neatly wrapped and dangerously available in the freezer… and they look so petite and harmless… and you hear them calling at midnight just before you are ready for bed…  Hey, I said they are easy, versatile and completely awesome.  I didn’t say they are un-regrettable.

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* I don’t know about you but I’m a bit disagreeable with the tradition of spreading ready-made soften ice cream in most of the ice cream sandwich recipe.  The words “ice cream” and “melting” together makes my nerves unravel.  It’s a huge mess to put together and in my opinion, the ice cream never hardens back to its original consistency/texture.

This is where no-churn ice cream come in.  I wouldn’t choose no-churn ice cream if I’m just making ice cream alone, because it calls for a heavy use of cream (to be whipped), instead of my preferred whole milk.  But the idea of no-churn ice cream (the air is whipped into the cream before freezing whereas in traditional ice cream-making, it’s slowly incorporated during the churning process) in the specific case of ice cream sandwich is perfectly logical because it takes only minutes to prepare.  It layers-in smoothly as a batter which makes it very easy to spread and firms up beautifully and evenly throughout.

** As you can see from the pictures, I laid down the crackers in the pan first and poured the brownie-batter on top which resulted in some brownie-batter leaking through the holes on the cracker and a not-so-perfect-looking cracker-side.  So the instructions below is what I would do in retrospect.  This way you can have two sides of pretty cracker-layer.

Ingredients: an idea inspired by Donna Hay

  • 50 ~ 60 salted saltine/soda crackers
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter, melted for brushing
  • Brownie layer: generously adapted from Smitten Kitchen
    • 85 g of semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 1 stick (113 g) of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
    • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 tbsp of ground espresso beans
    • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
    • 2/3 cup (85 g) of all-purpose flour
    • 2 tbsp of coco powder
    • 1/2 tsp of fine sea salt
  • No-churn ice-cream layer: adapted from Martha Stewart
    • 240 g of sweeten condensed milk
    • 1 1/3 tsp of vanilla extract
    • 1 1/3 tbsp of bourbon, or dark rum (optional)
    • 1 1/3 cup (322 g) of heavy cream

Preheat the oven on 350ºF/175ºC.

With a 9″/23 cm square pan, measure out exactly how many pieces of crackers you’ll need to cover the top and bottom-layer.  In a perfect world, the crackers you purchased would fit perfectly into the pan like Cinderella and her shoe but… let’s just take a WILD guess that neither of our worlds is a real-life fairy-tale, then… it’s ok.   You can trim the crackers to fit relatively easy.  And just in case, count 5~6 crackers more for potential errors.  Melt 2 tbsp of butter in the microwave and brush the crackers on both sides.  Set aside.

Mix the brownie batter:  Combine semi-sweet chocolate and unsalted butter in a large microwave-proof bowl.  Heat until the ingredients have melted.  Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, large eggs, ground espresso beans and vanilla extract.  Whisk until it’s smooth and slightly fluffy.  Sift all-purpose flour, coco powder and fine sea salt into the bowl.  Fold the ingredients together with a spatula or whisk until smooth. Set aside.

Assemble the brownie and cracker layer:  ** Brush the pan with some oil and line it with parchment paper.  Pour the brownie batter into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula.  Arrange the crackers on top of the batter and once you get to the edges where a whole cracker no longer fit, just simply cut the cracker with a shark knife into the exact size.  Once you have fit the top with crackers, scatter the rest of the crackers on another baking sheet.  Place the brownie square-pan on the middle-rack and the crackers on the lower-rack.  Bake int the oven for 25 min.  The brownie should be SLIGHTLY UNDER-DONE.  A wooden skewer should come out moist with wet crumbs.

Remove the brownie and the crackers.  Let the brownie cool for 10 min then move the entire pan into the freezer to chill for 30 min.  The pan and brownie should be COMPLETELY COLD before you can continue the next step.

Assemble the ice cream layer:  Take the brownie out of the freezer.  Lift and peel the parchment paper to remove the brownie/cracker.  Line the pan again with parchment paper and invert the brownie and cracker back into the pan so the cracker-layer is FACING DOWN.  If you have trimmed/uneven cracker, TAKE NOTE on which sides the uneven crackers are.  You’ll have to match the top and bottom layer so you can make even cuts later.

Evenly combine sweeten condensed milk, vanilla extract and bourbon/dark drum together in a small bowl.  With a stand-mixer or handheld, whisk the heavy cream on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, approx 3 min.  I always rather under-whisk the cream than over-whisk.  I usually stop when I see a train of ripples forming after the trail of the whisk.  With a spatula, gently fold the sweeten condensed milk-mixture into the whipped cream until combined.

Pour the ice cream batter on top of the brownie and smooth the top with a spoon.  Arrange the crackers on top of the ice cream-batter, but MAKE SURE the cracker arrangement MATCHES the bottom cracker-layer (uneven crackers on the SAME SIDES of the pan).  Move the pan back into the freezer to harden, at least 8 hours to overnight.

Cut between each crackers into little sandwiches.  Wrap each with plastic wrap and keep in the freezer for anytime craving.

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15 Comments

  • I like no churn ice cream it is semi alfredo, other than that yep it is not the same. I think it has to do with the ice crystals. Anyway I say this on donna hay’s page too! I was thinking, I need to make this cheese cake but with the flakiest saltine crackers (asian pale white types). Now I have seen this I am going to have the halve my cracker stash!

  • I wouldn’t mind, it looks delicious and ice creams is something I can eat all the time.

  • Lynna says:

    LOL. You should post whatever the heck you feel like! Also, this looks and sound incredibly amazing. I want to try this NOW. :D

  • Matt says:

    this needs to happen with graham crackers.

    • Mandy L. says:

      Matt, the savory characteristic of the saltine cracker actually goes really well in this. But of course graham crackers could work, too.

  • Cheryl says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS! Will HAVE to try this soon! These will be the death of me.

  • Chris says:

    These look so amazing, and I love the fact that if you are careful with the cracker placement, you can cut them and stash in the freezer for later! What a great treat to pull out when a hot afternoon rolls around! I am wondering if the crackers lose their crunch though? I have made ice cream sandwiches in the past and the cookie softens as it sits with the ice cream.

    • Mandy L. says:

      Chris, the cracker itself has very low moisture. My batch has been sitting in the fridge for many days now and the crackers are still quite crunchy. I believe the faster the ice cream freezes (the more powerful the freezer), the crispier the crackers will remain.

  • YUM – nothing wrong with double posting… too much of a good thing is just a good thing!! The only bad thing is these are not good for me with a Wedding a Month Away – maybe I’ll whip them up for us to enjoy after Honeymoon, yum yum yum (& BEAUTIFUL)

  • Can you clarify whether the brownie batter goes on top of the cracker layer or the crackers go on top of the brownie batter? The picture seems to show batter on top of cracker but your process describes the opposite.

    • WENDI: I originally put the batter on top of the cracker to bake, but later noticed that the batter seeped through the holes on the crackers a little bit, and made that side slightly unsightly. So in the instruction, I suggested that you can pour the batter into the pan first then lay the crackers over the top. This way you will have a prettier cracker side without leaking batter. Let me know if this is clear.

  • YM says:

    I am so making this for Canada Day! Do you think this will work just as well with churned ice cream?

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