BraveTart

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

BraveTart: Ice Cream Truck Ambassador

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[Photographs: Sarah Jane Sanders]

Our sense of taste is not the only way in which we can travel through time. Little wormholes float on the breeze, tangled up in the scent of honeysuckle and apple pie. We inhale them, crossing their tiny event horizons, and find ourselves at another place in time. Sound waves can also warp the fabric of space and time, temporarily and temporally displacing anyone in their wake. In summer, when the barrier between past and present is at its thinnest, this sort of accidental time travel is commonplace; we've all experienced it.

While sitting on our sofa at home, going about our day at work, or walking down the street, we hear the clang, clang of the ice cream truck. Our pulse quickens, we scramble for a quarter and then, just as suddenly, the sound has passed and so has the experience. We find ourselves having jumped to our feet, or halfway to the door, with a hand thrust into a pocket to fish out change. We smile and think, "Oh, for a second I felt like a kid again."

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Cynics call this a Pavlovian response, but they have fancy degrees that make them yearn to connect superficial dots like the presence of a bell and salivation. I think that for a second you were a kid again. The sound of the ice cream truck sliced through the ages, depositing your heart and soul into a body you outgrew twenty-odd years before. In that instant you relived everything you once felt, exactly as you felt it.

Me? I'm bookin' down the sidewalk. My Generra Hypercolor t-shirt maxed out in the summer heat and a fistful of quarters clutched in my sweaty palm. The ice cream truck seems impossibly far away...And then it's over. I'm back.

Olfactory and sonic time travel are fickle modes of transport; we never know when they will strike and each visit lasts only seconds. That's why I rely on culinary time travel. So long as you've got the taste on your tongue, your passport is valid for travel.

Before summer draws to a close, I want to run out to the ice cream truck, one last time. I wish I could recreate every frozen confection from the (retrospectively super creepy) ice cream trucks of the 1980s, from Bubble Play to Bomb Pops. But since I can only choose one Ice Cream Truck Ambassador, I have to pick my beloved, the Giant Vanilla.

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It was like an Oreo made anew by some Arctic Fairy Godmother. She transformed its icing into ice cream, softened crispy cookies into supple black velvet, blinged it up with a shiny silver wrapper, placed it in a carriage, and sent it off to the ball. Or uh. My stomach. A happy ending for me, at any rate...

Most homemade ice cream sandwich recipes don't even try. Ice Cream Sandwiches in name only. It's a Squares and Rectangles issue. All ice cream sandwiches are sandwiches of ice cream, but not all sandwiches of ice cream are ice cream sandwiches. Think about it.

A real ice cream sandwich always had a particular sort of anemic vanilla ice cream, molded into a slab with delightfully square corners. It came sandwiched between super dark, ultra chocolatey, sticky as hell...thingies. Supple wafers that gave way at the mere suggestion of teeth. Most importantly, regardless of brand or origin, ice cream sandwiches always came wrapped wrapped up like a Christmas present.

20110824quartersammy.jpgTypical homemade recipes use the wrong kinds of sandwich material: random cookies, slivers of cake, or thin sheets of brownies. Do they even think about the logistics? You'd have to unhinge your jaw to wrap your mouth around most of 'em. Even if you could, the very act of having to chomp your way through a frozen cookie or brownie would cause the ice cream to squirt out in all directions, which would never happen with a real ice cream sandwich. And they're never wrapped.

You can't just leave ice cream sandwiches naked in the freezer, piled into a Tupperware like some sort of mass grave. What are we, animals?

If you have a brownie pan and a freezer, you can turn ice cream into a perfect slab. If you have an oven, you can bake sticky chocolate sandwich cookies. If you have a knife, you can cut perfectly rectangular sandwiches. If you have tinfoil and parchment paper, you can make shiny wrappers.

Chasing some stranger in a truck down the street? Optional.

Get the Recipe

Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches »

About the Author: Stella Parks suffers from an unhealthy obsession with recreating the mass produced snacks of her childhood, but ironically is employed by a Frenchman to make the high brow desserts of his childhood. She blogs that dichotomy at bravetart.com.

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