Last Sunday, we were invited to our good friend’s Ken & Nana’s home for dinner. What a beautifully warm day it turned out to be. Do you remember? After a long and miserable winter, Mother Nature seemed to get over her tantrum and sigh a deep balmy breath of over the planet. It was long overdue.
We brought a bottle of Perrier-Jouet for the occasion, only to find out upon arrival that our friends were celebrating their wedding anniversary. When we arrived, they were really surprised by the champagne because coincidentally, that was the brand of champagne they celebrated with every year, and this was the first year that they hadn’t bought a bottle for themselves. Talk about coincidence! It seemed to be just that kind of day, though, when every decision made, if only for a short period of time, seemed just right.
Rewind to the day before our gathering. I was trying to make good on my promise to bring dessert that evening, and until that very day, I had been swept away by the sheer joy of the more complex pastry selections that I had been obsessed with last summer. The lemon-iced-buttermilk-triple-berry bundt cakes, the creme anglese fruit tarts, and the dark-chocolate-beet-olive oil cake that I practically perfected over a few short warm weather months.
I don’t know where this came from, or perhaps I do deep down inside, but I suddenly realized that I had an intense desire for a simple dessert. Something that I would enjoy making and not stress out over the potential outcome. At that moment, I had an epiphany. The nickel dropped. It registered. Ice box cookies. Oh, the sheer joy!
How often is it that you’re practically guaranteed a home run, a hole in one, a goal? And all these cookies ask for is to be prepared enough in advance in order for them to work their magic and “cake-up,” as I like to say.
I bought (yes, I bought) a couple of containers of Trader Joe’s mini ginger snap cookies. Now don’t get me wrong, normally, I would have made the ginger snap cookies, especially since I’m in the process of developing a killer recipe for my own version of the ultimate ginger snap, but the entire idea behind the ice box cookie is simplicity, isn’t it? I decided to kick these cookies up an notch to something truly spectacular by making them triple layer versus double. Needless to say, the cookies were a great success, and here’s why.
The premise behind ice box cookies (or technically ice box cake, which is the true original recipe) is that they have time to settle down in the refrigerator and the whipped cream centers have a moment to infuse moisture into the cookie part, thus taking on the profile of cake after an 8- 24 hour rest in the refrig.
Try it, you’ll like it! Add some 10x (confectioner’s sugar), and some pure vanilla extract to heavy cream, and whip until the cream forms stiff peaks.
In the meantime, place several mini ginger snap cookies on a half sheet tray, top side down. Put the cream in a pastry bag or quart-size zip-lock bag.
Then cut a small hole in the corner of the bag and pipe a nickel size dollop of whipped cream on top of each cookie. Place another cookie, top side up, on top of the layer of cream, then pipe the same portion of cream and cover with a third cookie.
Press down lightly so that the cream centers distribute evenly inside the cookie. Cover (ever so lightly) with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours, or overnight. Remove the plastic wrap and let the cookies come to room temperature (or serve as is). Then sit back and enjoy the praise.
Fast-forward to the day before Easter. We’ve been invited to an annual Easter family event, and I plan to bring these cakey treats again to illustrate my point that something incredibly delicious can be incredibly easy. Since the option to use ginger snap cookies is somewhat adult, and because there will be about 10 kids at our gathering, I’ve decided to search for a very nice chocolate cookie to create a child-friendly alternative.
Personally, I love the Famous Chocolate Wafers from Nabisco found in most supermarkets these days, but I thought this chocolate version of nirvana needed a cookie base that was a bit thicker to be able to transform into that cakey texture that was so successful with the ginger snaps.
All I could find was the store-brand dutch chocolate larger cookies, which I know will be spectacular. Mind you, that as I was searching, and finally settling on the “store brand” for lack of anything more appropriate, I had a twenty-minute long conversation with the cookie-seeker next to me, and we were both perplexed as to why Archway no longer made the prized oatmeal-raisin cookie she remembered from long ago. Regardless of the fact that the cookies in question were still on the shelf, the person I was chatting with insisted that the recipe had changed and that they no longer tasted the same as they did years ago. Wholeheartedly, I agreed. “Don’t get me started,” I announced.
My heart was broken the day I learned that Nabisco stopped making Chocolate Snaps so many years ago. These would have been the perfect kid-size version of the ginger snap ice box cookie, but sadly, this will never be. That said, I do suspect that the Famous Chocolate Wafer that I mentioned earlier from the same company uses a similar recipe, sans the coconut, although it’s that hint of coconut that makes all the difference (note to self; this is the next cookie recipe to develop).
Regardless, the store bought chocolate cookies will work just fine. Since they’re not mini’s, I’ll simply make them sandwiches instead of triples.
And here they are:
I’d be happy to give you the exact recipe for the cream center if you like, just send me a request and enjoy the sheer simplicity of it all.
–The Big Tine
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