Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Spiced Strawberry-Rhubarb Ice Cream Cookies Sandwiches

For the past couple of years, I've eyed that huge red celery-like vegetable called rhubarb with some skepticism at the farmers market and grocery store. How could that possibly taste good in desserts? I just didn't get it because I hadn't tasted it yet.

I tend to bring in any leftovers from my kitchen experiments to my friends and co-workers.  Lucky them, yes?  I am a thorn to the side of my friends in the office who seem to be consistently dieting. Most of the time, they watch on enviously or take a small morsel to test instead.

2012 has been the year of experimentations and trying new things. So of course I had to finally try my hand at using the rhubarb I had picked up at the farm last week. I have seen several variations with rhubarb in savory dishes as well as sweet. But I was really intrigued in using it in a dessert and particularly a compote which is basically a thinned jam-like fruit topping. Since rhubarb has a more acidic, tart taste it can usually be found paired with summer's luscious, sweet strawberries. It's still early in the season, but the ones I've picked up are already like nectar with juices dripping down the side of your mouth. Thus said, a strawberry-rhubarb compote was the natural choice! The intense red of the finished compote is gorgeous.

My original concept was to offer up these delicious, not overtly sweet, spiced strawberry-rhubarb cookies. It gets a ton of flavor from the warm spices I added to the dry ingredients. Everything you might find in apple pie like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  It makes  your house smell insanely delicious and the perfect smell to greet dinner guests.  But that original concept got revamped slightly when one of my co-workers said, "These would be great as an ice cream sandwich!"  Ding, ding, ding!  How did I miss something so obvious?

Ice cream sandwiches. When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey, this meant the mushy, rectangular-shaped Good Humour ice cream sandwiches you can buy in the freezer section of your supermarket or your neighborhood Mister Softee ice cream truck. It was always somewhat melting when you bought it from the truck and I would be frantically licking at the vanilla ice cream oozing down my fingers before it melted onto the sidewalk in the blazing summer sun. But there was something about those sticky fingers and inevitable globs of ice cream on your shirt and shorts that made the entire experience sublime. To this day, I can't hear the familiar rinky dink song heralding the arrival of the ice cream truck without wanting to run down the stairs and buy a cone or ice cream sandwich...preferably with a handful of quarters, nickels and dimes; in desperate situations, those pennies definitely made their appearance!

These days, there are so many fancy ice cream sandwiches everywhere from the delights of Coolhaus to my ultimate favorite Big Gay Ice Cream truck. I love them all. And while this might not be the ice cream sandwich of my childhood. It is the ice cream sandwich of my adulthood. I mean really.  A nutty, caramel browned butter crumble dipped alongside the edges of two strawberry-rhubarb cookie filled with creamy vanilla gelato? It's a no brainer.

This over the top spiced strawberry-rhubard ice cream cookie sandwich may not be bikini friendly with summer just around the corner. But man, is it good!

The recipe has several steps that may look a bit intimidating.  But if you make each component separately on different days and put the sandwiches together a few hours before your guests arrive, it is only a matter of minutes to put together something so special. The one thing I would change the next time I made this is to follow Chocolate and Zucchini's advice of using a large pan with good size flat surface to allow the crumble to crisp up a bit more. As you'll see in my photos below, I used a small sauce pan.

You will definitely have leftovers of the compote and crumble. Use the crumble to top some spiced fruit for a cobbler and then drizzle with the compote when serving on top of the ice cream. I like to use my compote over pancakes/waffles instead of syrup. You can also use it in a refreshing summer cooler with just some club soda or gin/vodka. Cheers to the early dog days of summer!

Makes 12 sandwiches

For Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote (makes 1 cup):
1 stalk rhubarb *
1 1/2 cup strawberries
1 tsp ground Saigon cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 fresh vanilla bean pod, seeds removed
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced
*Note that the leaves of rhubarb are toxic. Do not ingest.

For Spiced Strawberry-Rhubarb Cookies (makes 24 cookies):
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp ground Saigon cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup strawberry-rhubarb compote (recipe above)
1/4 cup candied ginger
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
Adapted from Martha Stewart

For brown butter crumble (makes 2 cups):
3/4 cup white flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 green cardamom pod, finely crushed in a mortar or 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, diced
Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini

1. For compote, add all ingredients into a medium pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 3-5 minutes until the rhubarb is softened and juices released. Remove from heat and add lemon juice at the end to brighten the flavors. This can be made a few days ahead and refrigerated.

2. For cookies, whisk all dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl.

3. In a mixer, cream sugar and butter together until fluffy yellow crumbles. Add egg and incorporate. Then add cream and vanilla extract. When fully incorporated, slowly add in dry ingredients until all mixed. Remove from stand and using a non-stick rubber spatula, fold compote through the cookie dough mixture. You can add more fruit if you'd like. Make sure to mix it all throughout.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Drop one tablespoon of dough on pre-greased baking sheet about 1 inch apart.  You should be able to fit at least 12 per sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until light golden on outside and still slightly soft in the center. Cool and put to side until ready to use.

5.  In a medium mixing bowl, add all dry ingredients for the crumble. Whisk together.

6.  In a large sauce pan, add butter over medium heat and swirl every so often.  It will bubble furiously or as Clothilde from Chocolate and Zucchini writes "sing"! Once it starts turning slightly brown, watch it carefully to make sure it doesn't burn on the bottom.  I had small little bits of caramelization on the bottom that I used up and added a nice caramel taste.  When you are able to smell the rich, deep caramel of the brown butter, you know it is done.

7.  Immediately add the dry ingredients at this point and use a rubber spatula to mix wet and dry ingredients together until it forms a crumbly texture.  Let cook for a few minutes before stirring to allow the bottom to brown and crisp up.  This will allow the flour to cook up to use for the ice cream sandwich.  Raw flour = bad. Reserve until ready to use.

8.  To form the sandwiches, take two cookies and scoop gelato on the flat surface of one cookie.  Top with the second cookie. Roll the edges in the crumble mixture.  The gelato should allow it to stick.  Place in freezer for at least a few hours until ready to serve. Defrost a few minutes before serving to allow it to soften a bit.

9.  Plate as you'd like! Get creative, wrap each one individually in parchment paper and serve in a metal bucket for your guests to grab or more elegantly as my presentation below.

10.  Lastly, always test before serving! Just to make sure it tastes good of course.  ;)   YUM.


  1. The strawberry rhubarb cookies are a very creative idea! Of course it's torture for me to be looking at this right now, as we're on day 2 of our juice fast. One more day to go!

    1. Great job! Tell me how it goes. I know everyone's delicious ice cream and cookie posts are seriously not helping!

  2. i have to discover rhubarb too. judging it from your post and from its color im sure i will love it. oh plese send some over these cuties right now. it's ridiculously hot here in STL today...

    1. Surprising that it's so warm over there when NYC has been one big cloud of rain over the past month! Will FEDEX some over ASAP to help you out! :)

  3. Oh HECK yeah! You had me at rhubarb! :D

  4. Haha. Rhubarb totally scares me too! I love these cookies - so creative.