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The Best Ice Cream Sandwich Ever

September  7, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Ice Cream Sandwiches

- Merrill

The night before our wedding in Maine, we hosted a traditional lobster bake for our out-of-town guests (read: pretty much all of our guests). We lucked out with the weather, which was perfect, and the food was equally stellar. Along with lobster and drawn butter, there were mussels, corn on the cob, both a potato and a green salad, Parker House rolls, and burgers and dogs for the non-shellfish eaters. For dessert, the caterer made a huge fruit salad with lots of local berries. But the stars of the show -- by far and away -- were the Harbor Bars.

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Harbor Bars are enormous, chocolate-dipped ice cream sandwiches made with soft chocolate chip cookies. They're a Maine thing, and my sister and I grew up eating them during the summer and fantasizing about them the entire rest of the year. At one point, Harbor Bars disappeared from the local markets for about ten years, and we were heartbroken. Then a few years ago, we spotted the signature wrapper in the far corner of the freezer at the general store in town. Harbor Bars were back, and as good as ever! (Click here for the complete Harbor Bar history.)

When the time came to plan the menu for the wedding weekend, I knew we had to incorporate them somehow, and the lobster bake seemed like the perfect opportunity. And am I glad we served them. Everyone raved. Some even managed to eat two all on their own, and I was witness to a conversation among several guests from different parts of the country where Harbor Bar "franchising" was seriously discussed. (Yes, they're that good.)

Below you'll find my attempt at recreating the illustrious Harbor Bar -- using mint ice cream, which is my favorite (it comes in vanilla as well); feel free to use whatever ice cream flavor you like. I happened upon this formula for the chocolate coating, which evokes a lovely bit of nostalgia: it's essentially a homemade version of Magic Shell! (And yes, Amanda shamelessly stole my discovery last week for her post on S'mores Semifreddo.)

Don't miss the photo slideshow of the lobster bake below -- courtesy of my friend Adele and my new cousin-in-law Rachael!

Mint Chocolate Harbor Bars

Makes 4 gigantic ice cream sandwiches (serves 4 to 8, depending on how willing you are to share)

  • 16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or organic vegetable shortening
  • 1 pint mint or mint chip ice cream
  • 8 chewy chocolate chip cookies (I like this recipe from Alton Brown)
1. Put the chocolate and the oil or shortening in a deep saucepan that is not too wide (you'll be using this to dip the ice cream sandwiches, so think about that when you choose your pot). Over the lowest heat, melt the chocolate, stirring constantly to incorporate the oil and make sure the chocolate doesn't burn. As soon as it is smooth, remove the chocolate from the heat and set aside, letting it slowly come to room temperature.
2. In the meantime, soften the ice cream for a few minutes outside of the freezer. Sandwich about 1/2 cup of ice cream between two cookies, pressing firmly and smoothing the sides. Repeat with the remaining cookies and then return the sandwiches to the freezer for at least half and hour to harden.
3. When the chocolate is cool and the ice cream sandwiches have hardened, you are ready to dip! Lay a piece of wax paper on a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer. Working with one sandwich at a time (and leaving the rest in the freezer), place the sandwich on a slotted spoon or perforated skimmer (something like this works really well) and lower gently into the chocolate. Turn the sandwich over so that the entire thing is coated evenly in chocolate, and then lift out with the spoon, letting an excess chocolate dribble through the holes. Transfer to the baking sheet and quickly repeat with the remaining 3 sandwiches. Immediately return the sandwiches to the freezer until the chocolate sets, at least 15 minutes.
4. Peel off the wax paper and eat. Share if you dare.
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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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nutcakes March 29, 2011
The Harbor Bar sounds like a San Francisco It's It. They stopped making those for awhile too. Wonder if it could be the same company.
SaraO September 13, 2010
Wow, thanks for the speedy, detailed response! Plastic is just perfect. I'll let you know how it turns out!
SaraO September 13, 2010
Hi Merrill, We have a rehearsal dinner to host next month and I'm wondering where you got the great glasses with your names on them . . .
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
Congratulations! They're actually plastic cups. You can get them at Merrimade.com. They're special order, so you have to call and speak to an agent once you're on the website. Hope it works out!
pbdailey September 13, 2010

Not sure what the commercial versions of the chocolate shells use these days but they used to include coconut oil in the formula. I make it with that and the chocolate hardens instantly on contact with ice cream. It also was once essential to melt away-style candies (mint melt aways; peanut butter melt aways); it "melts" in your mouth at body temperature. I use it for that as well. Food manufacturers stopped using it because for a time it was criticized for its cholesterol content. For a few specific applications, it is a fascinating ingredient.
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
Great to know, thanks! I did come across some versions that called for coconut oil but didn't have any around. Maybe I'll buy some for next time.
Adele September 12, 2010
I'm so glad you posted this recipe !! I LOVED the ice cream sandwiches... the mint chocolate chip was amazing ! Can I request the recipe for the potato gratin/ dauphinois from your reception ?! Our table went crazy over them.
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
I'll do my best! Jonathan had a second plate, heaped with just those potatoes.
CherylS September 12, 2010
Congratulations Merrill! Wishing you and your husband lots of happiness!
Carol said everything was beautiful!

Can't wait to try this recipe, sounds delicious!

All my best,
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
Thank you, Cheryl. Hope all's well with you!
Kitchen B. September 12, 2010
Congratulations Merrill...and wonderful to see your man who loves meatloaf. He married the right person. Many years of joy, peace and love to you both
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
Meatloaf, roast chicken, steak and mashed potatoes, "pasta and sauce"...you name it! Thanks so much.
Nantucket C. September 12, 2010
So beautiful! Congratulations!
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
Amy S. September 12, 2010
I love the shoes your lobsters are wearing...down to the details. What a hoot! A great memory!
Thank you so much for sharing with us folks stuck in the middle of the country. I am so excited to try this new treat even if it is fall. Congratulations!
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
Thank you!
la M. September 9, 2010
I will have to say that I think that Mint It's-It ice cream sandwiches are the best out there. I had no idea there was an East Coast version.
mrslarkin September 8, 2010
Made the choco chip cookies this afternoon. Wow - they're awesome! Not sure if we'll get to making the sandwiches as cookie supply is rapidly dwindling... Guess I'll have to make another batch!
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
Yeah, they're great, aren't they? Proof that "science" can be a real asset in the kitchen.
Megan H. September 8, 2010
That was such an amazing night! And I can't wait to bring those Harbor Bars to the midwest. :)
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
Made even more amazing by your engagement, I might add!
Oui, C. September 8, 2010
I know of five "Oui, Chef" kitchen slaves that will be singing your praises very soon. Glad to hear your wedding was magical (and tasty), and thanks for sharing this decadent treat. - S
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
My pleasure!
mcs3000 September 7, 2010
What a gorgeous sign your friend made - set up the evening perfectly. So happy for the newlyweds. Lobster bake + harbor bars. You know how to do it right (natch). Thanks for sharing this with us, Merrill. Cheers!
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
I know, isn't it beautiful? Thanks so much for your nice comment.
spinthebottleny September 7, 2010
Beautiful pics! Love the lobster...but I want to see a pic of you in the dress. Cheers and many many happy years ahead to you two.
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
I will definitely post one once we get the photos. Thank you!
luvcookbooks September 7, 2010
Maine has such good food. Whoopie Pies, lobster, blueberries, and now the Harbor Bar.
Thanks for the recipe and sharing your wedding with us!
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
You're welcome!
Cara E. September 7, 2010
Please tell me your wedding cake was made up of several layers of enormous Harbor Bars?! Either way, congratulations Merrill!
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
Now, that would have been great.
debbiek September 7, 2010
Mazel tov, Merrill! I can't believe I spent 3 consecutive summer vacations in Maine & never stumbled upon a Harbor Bar. Must. Go. Back.
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
Thank you!
Annabambina September 7, 2010
Wow, they look so delicious. These remind me of It's-It ice cream treats from here in the Bay Area, but It's-Its use oatmeal cookies to sandwich the ice cream. Thanks for the recipe! I can't wait to try this one.
AntoniaJames September 7, 2010
These look so much better than the It's-It, which I know people rave about, but which I find a bit disappointing, because the cookies always seem stale . . . I'm making these, too!
Annabambina September 7, 2010
Yeah, I think their cookies don't stand up well to a long freeze... of course these look way better. Fresh is always better :) And these seem more generous with the ice cream, which makes me happy!
Merrill S. September 13, 2010
Now I REALLY have to check out It's-It. Thanks for the nice comments!
mrslarkin September 7, 2010
Oh my goodness. Will most definitely have to try these asap. Thanks, Merrill, for a glimpse into your wedding weekend. Looks like you guys had a blast, and ate well, too!!
Merrill S. September 7, 2010
We did indeed.