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The Endless Possibilities of DIY Ice Cream Sandwiches

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We partnered with Talenti Gelato and our favorite ice cream tinkerer Cristina Sciarra to show you the truly endless possibilities of ice cream sandwiches.

Ice cream is kind of my thing, and list-making my raison d'être (yeah, I'm super cool), so when Food52 asked me to create a matrix of ice cream sandwich ideas using gelato and accompanying toppings, I thought, Oh sure, I'm on top of this.

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First problem (#icecreamsandwichproblems): There are eleventy million different flavors of gelato.

I marched into the study where my husband was working: "Does this printer still work?" It had come free with my laptop five years ago, but hadn't been turned on in the year and a half since we moved. I had a flash of a dire, ink-explosion situation as the reason. "I don't think so," he said, dubious. Undeterred, I started pulling at wires, falling to hands and knees to locate a plug somewhere behind a wall of filing cabinets.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Ten minutes later, I had printed—extremely faintly and in a uniform, digital-tinged blue—icons of forty different flavors, with accompanying pint icons. I pasted them onto the y-axis of a double-long sheet of paper, then used a ruler to make columns. "Sandwich Materials" became the x-axis. (I already told you how cool I am, so I'm not sure why this should surprise you.)

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(If you're wondering why I didn't just open a Google spreadsheet, which could have easily flowed to my editor at Food52, instead of as the series of iPhone photos that I actually sent, my husband queried the same: I'm a visual person who used to work with school aged children and likes to create extra work for herself, ok?)

I set my arts and crafts project on our kitchen table, and started filling in topping options. Some came easily: the saline crunch of flaky sea salt against rich dark chocolate; cinnamon sugar to warm the chocolate-vanilla punch of brownies and vanilla gelato. But after a time, I needed inspiration. This is how my husband came to find me, like a fastidious raccoon, like a niffler with an affinity for sprinkles and bee pollen, elbow deep in our pantry, when he entered the kitchen to refill his coffee.

All of this is to say, I took this ice cream sandwich assignment fairly seriously. (And ice cream sandwiches are not a new topic for me.) Plus, I'm pretty nerdy. (Nerds! An idea for next time.)

The flavors of gelato I find most multi-purpose are:
Strawberry
Darkest chocolate
Vanilla
Pistachio
Coconut
Sea salt caramel

The “cookies” I think make the best sandwiches are:
Toasted brioche
Vanilla meringue
Brownie
Confetti cookie
Chocolate shortbread
Chocolate chip cookie

Why? Because you can do things like…

Toasted brioche + strawberry gelato + whipped cream
Brownie + pistachio gelato + lemon zest
Brownie + vanilla gelato + cinnamon sugar
Chocolate chip cookie + strawberry gelato + caramelized white chocolate dip
Vanilla meringue + darkest chocolate gelato + chili powder
Chocolate shortbread + darkest chocolate gelato + crushed pink peppercorns
Vanilla meringue + pistachio gelato + mini white chocolate chips
Confetti cookie + pistachio gelato + freeze-dried raspberry powder
Toasted brioche + coconut gelato + lemon curd
Brownie + coconut gelato + bee pollen
Chocolate shortbread + coconut gelato + crushed, toasted hazelnuts
Chocolate chip cookie + sea salt caramel + crushed, toasted walnuts

These combos, and plenty others, are outlined in this mind-boggling table:

Photo by Mark Weinberg, Infographic by Tim McSweeney

If you have still more ideas, I'd love to hear about them in the comments. Otherwise, get to building. Some of these would work well as a messy, DIY-birthday party activity, while others are more delicate and refined. All were considered long and hard at my own kitchen table, and, since summer is here, should soon grace yours, too.

Ice cream, gelato, sorbet. Heck, frozen desserts in general: We adore you. We partnered with Talenti Gelato and ice cream aficianado Cristina Sciarra to share a summer of ice cream treats with you. Stay tuned for more, and see all of Talenti Gelato's flavors here.

Tags: talenti, ice cream sandwiches