BraveTart

Food and Wine Best Pastry Chef winner Stella Parks recreates and re-imagines childhood favorites into sophisticated modern desserts.

BraveTart: Everybody Loves a Clown (Cone)

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[Photographs: Sarah Jane Sanders]

With Fauxreos still powering the flux capacitor, spin up your ice cream maker. We'll use its ice cold power to achieve escape velocity, break free from 1981, and launch straight into the year Oreos took American ice cream parlors by storm. In 1983, Cookies 'n Cream dethroned Strawberry from the Neapolitan Triumvirate, ascending to its rightful place within ice cream royalty and reigned as one of America's top ice cream flavors.

Moments after the first Oreos came off the production line, right minded men and women began smashing them into ice cream on hot summer days. So why did it take seventy one years for Cookies 'n Cream to gain official recognition?

Because during the years since its inception, Oreo and ice cream mixin' folks had to do so under the cover of darkness, only consuming it in dimly lit ice cream Speakeasies. At that time, Oreo lived in bondage; a trademarked brand name that paid lip service only to Nabisco. But in 1978, the ice cream gods saw that this was not good, and so whispered into Nabisco's ear.

They said, "Ah! Nabisco, look out on this world. Know this: only two kinds of people toil under the sun. First, those who love vanilla. Hard working men and women, lovers of tradition, who admire purity of flavor. And next, those who love chocolate. Bold folk, fiery with passion and progressive hearts. If only the world would never divide into matters more complex, we should never have war, for vanilla strengthens chocolate, and chocolate enlivens vanilla. Alas! This world does indeed have more to consider, for these two people will now split into factions: those who love crunchy and those who love creamy. Now you must see also the inevitability of war and conflict. That hate and persecution must go hand in hand with love and compassion. But all is not lost! Take heart, Nabisco. For in a world so ravaged by difference of opinion, you alone may unify humanity. Use your power to unleash, at long last, the great instrument of peace."

Nabisco woke from that dream, shaken and hurried to pass a law allowing third parties to make official use of Oreos. Before the ink had dried from the paper, a carton of Cookies 'n Cream sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus. Or so the story goes.

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Modern ice cream manufacturers have forgotten the great gift Nabisco granted them. Petty American companies now mire themselves in debate, arguing over who first invented Cookies 'n Cream. Ignore all such crass posturing. Asking "Who invented Cookies 'n Cream?" is as absurd as asking, "who invented peace?" No one can invent that which is divine. Cookies 'n Cream is the desirable outcome toward which we should all strive. The compromise that satisfies all parties while disappointing none. The end to hunger. The end to war.

Which may sound overly dramatic, but the politics of ice cream are nothing if not partisan. 31 Flavors notwithstanding, the real argument always comes down to Chocolate or Vanilla. In that black and white world, Strawberry says, "Neither!" while Cookies 'n Cream urges, "Both."

And for kids in 1983, there was no more enlightened way to partake of Cookies 'n Cream than with a Clown Cone.

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Looking at the unmitigated monstrosity of the Clown Cone makes it difficult to articulate my childhood obsession with it. Baskin-Robbins itself muses, "Who knew an ice cream cone turned upside down could be so much fun?"

Somebody familiar with the bedrock American value "more is more," that's who. Clown Cones delivered everything a scoop of ice cream could but with icing, a cookie, and neon colors. Oh, the neon colors.

Love for Clown Cones related to their rarity. Like diamonds, they existed in abundance, but tightfisted parents controlled the market. Their unwillingness to shell out four times the cost of a single scoop turned the Clown Cone (in all frankness a cheap conglomeration of icing squiggles and horror) into the most desirable of treats.

If melty ice cream cones mark the high points of childhood summers, Clown Cones stood upon the ultimate peaks. Birthdays. Holidays. The last day of school. And the Clown Cone King? Cookies 'n Cream.

To achieve Cookies 'n Cream at home, know this: stirring Oreos into vanilla ice cream won't cut it. There are no shortcuts for traveling through space and time. As the name suggests, the flavor of cream must dominate. We don't want a traditional vanilla base, loaded with eggs and custard-y flavor. Cutting back on yolks means replacing lost fat by tweaking the cream to milk ratio, boosting cream and reducing milk.

Next, the cookies. Consider Cookies 'n Cream closely and you'll see intelligent design. The Oreos' presence divides into three categories: crumbs, pieces, and chunks. Each serves an important purpose, existing together in a delicate, frozen ecosystem.

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Crumbs provide a rich, greyish hue that translates into subtle Oreo flavor in every lick. Pieces are found in relative abundance, not so many they become distracting, but not so few you feel you're eating something whipped up by Scrooge McDuck. Finally, chunks. Each batch must contain a few so large their disruptive presence interferes with scooping.

But, we must exercise restraint. We all wished for more, but as consummate Oreo eater Josh Baskin learned in Big, be careful what you wish for. The joyous sense of, "Jackpot!" when we unearth a huge cookie chunk is what makes Cookies 'n Cream so immensely pleasurable. If overpopulated with cookie chunks, we lose that experience, and have no emotion with which to power our Flux Capacitor.

The final step, assembling the Clown Cone, takes less effort than you might imagine. Remember: high school kids working part time at Baskin Robbins for minimum wage made 'em. So you needn't worry about technique. And, well, you needn't worry about recipes either.

I did extensive testing to find the perfect icing. As it turns out, all icing from French or Swiss buttercream to powdered sugar shortening taste identical when they've absorbed random odors from the freezer and hit your tongue stone cold. That freezer-burned quality itself is what Clown Cone icing is all about.

So arm yourself with homemade Cookies 'n Cream, an icing of your choice, and a boat load of food coloring. Get creative. Your childhood memories are at hand.

Get the Recipe

Cookies 'n Cream Ice Cream »

With the temperature of the Culinary Time Machine cooling down, we have just enough mojo left for one more stop on this Oreo Adventure.

Dairy Queen, 1985. According to my records, we should expect a Blizzard.

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