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 we decided to take the season's finest treat and make it even finer. We created a DIY ice cream sandwich buffet perfect for any backyard barbecue. And we quickly discovered the possibilities were mind boggling.
Ice cream sandwich ideasShortcake Sandwich
Spread 2 pieces of thinly sliced and toasted pound cake with strawberry jam, then fill with vanilla or strawberry ice cream.
Black and Red
Sandwich raspberry sorbet between chocolate wafer cookies.
Sandwich orange sherbet between vanilla sugar cookies. Add a smear of chocolate fudge sauce, if desired.
Spread marshmallow topping on 2 graham crackers, then fill with rocky road or chocolate ice cream.
Drizzle a touch of butterscotch on a soft molasses cookie, then top with lemon sorbet or sherbet, then a second molasses cookie.
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 there are all sorts of choices available at the grocer. And don't hesitate to get creative. Graham crackers, slices of cake, even 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, 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.
Some basic fixin's to have on hand include: graham crackers; pound cake, sliced and toasted; chocolate wafer cookies; oatmeal raisin cookies; chocolate chip cookies; molasses cookies; sugar cookies; Whoopie pies; and for spreads set out chocolate fudge sundae sauce; caramel sauce; butterscotch topping; fruit jams, such as raspberry or strawberry; marshmallow spread and Nutella. Use these in any combination with ice cream; sorbet; frozen yogurt; sherbet or gelato.
• Alison Ladman is a recipe developer for the AP. Follow her on Twitter @CrustAndCrumbCo