Join the Clever Cookstr and Natasha Case, co-founder of the Coolhaus ice cream sandwich brand, to learn how to make the perfect ice cream sandwich just in time for the heart of summer!
Welcome to the Clever Cookstr, your ultimate window into the kitchens of the world’s best cooks. I’m Kara Rota.
Our guest today is Natasha Case, co-founder of the Coolhaus ice cream sandwich brand and co-author of the Coolhaus Ice Cream Book. She’s joining us today to give us some tips and tricks for making the best ice cream sandwiches all summer long.
CC: First, let’s start with the part of the ice cream sandwich that always seems to be an afterthought – the cookie! What tricks do you have for baking cookies that are perfect for ice cream sandwiches?
NC: Make sure the cookie is chewy and pliable, but also soft. This way, when you bite into the ice cream sandwich, the cookie can bend to your bite but hold onto the ice cream in the center---but it’s also soft enough that you can bite through and have that perfect textural experience. You also want something that will freeze well: it’s a best-of-both-worlds type of cookie.
We don’t like to make them overly sweet, because in an ice cream sandwich you’ve already got a second cookie and a delicious scoop of ice cream in the middle. It’s definitely a mouthful! Don't bake the cookie too thick, and smoosh down the top cookie when the sandwich is complete - you literally need to be able to get your mouth around your creation, so make sure it's humanly possible.
CC: What size and shape are you looking for?
NC: We generally like between a 3-inch and 3.5-inch diameter. That fits a 4-ounce scoop of ice cream, which is the typical, slightly big standard scoop in the middle.
We like to use a lot of brown sugar in our recipes. That makes our cookies really chewy and caramel-y. In fact, our chocolate chip cookie is brown sugar only. We don’t use any white granulated sugar.
CC: And what about the ice cream? Do you always use homemade? Are there store-bought brands you like?
NC: Obviously besides my number 1 choice, Coolhaus, I think there are a lot of great ice creams out there these days. In the non-dairy category, I really like Coconut Bliss. I think they do an excellent job with the coconut base. Speaking of, Steve’s has a really nice coconut-milk-based ice cream as well, and I think the Steve’s brand is excellent quality. We’re fans of Jeni’s -- really unique flavors, and very well-crafted. McConnell’s is another Southern California brand that I like, and we’re big fans of the Three Twins, coming out of San Francisco.
CC: I just bought the Three Twins mint chocolate! My boyfriend, who has a horrible habit of being able to eat one bite of ice cream and then putting it back in the freezer, which I don’t understand, actually ate the whole pint.
So, do you want to let the ice cream soften before you put it on the cookie, or what’s the best structural way to get it in there?
NC: If you’re scooping an ice cream sandwich, you really do want the ice cream to be quite frozen. As you’re consuming it, it’s melting, and it’s always better to err on the side of frozen than melting. Once you get to melting, you can never really go back. You can even scoop the ice cream between the two cookies and then put the whole thing back in the freezer.
CC: So if you’re making them ahead for a party, you might want to make them ahead and put them in the freezer on wax paper? Parchment paper?
NC: Yeah, you could definitely do it that way. Or even in something airtight if it’s going to be in there a little bit longer, like a Tupperware container.
CC: How did Coolhaus get started? What’s the origin story of the brand?
NC: There’s sort of a play on architecture in the name, being named after the band Bauhaus and the architect Rem Koolhaas. My background is actually in architecture -- I went through it for seven years. I felt like after seven years of school, we were kind of in this bubble of our own self-referential language about architecture and design. I really had this dream of bringing architecture to the people, so I started doing different projects around that, mostly involving food, because food is such a great way to send a message to people, and to connect, and to feel comfortable, and to create memories.
So Coolhaus was one of the first projects under that umbrella of food and architecture, which I call “farchitecture.” Baking cookies and making ice cream for friends at work, mainly, kind of as a joke on the side, and people really liked it. It became more and more of a serious endeavor. I met my business partner, Freya, who’s the other founder, at that time, too, and she brought a lot of the operational and financial side to things. She helped complete the picture out of just a creative concept.
Really, the only way we could get it to market was a food truck, that’s all we could really afford, was a tiny postal van. We thought Coachella music festival would be the perfect place to hit the biggest audience possible. So that’s how it started!
CC: So let’s talk about flavors! Coolhaus is known for really fun and unique flavors, like the Lucky Charms & whiskey ice cream sandwich. What are some combinations that you suggest people might try at home?
NC: Definitely play around with cereal! It’s okay if the cereal is older -- it will get moisture in it when it’s in the ice cream anyway. We do love spiked cereal ice creams because it’s sort of like an adult breakfast. I think with fruits, anything you have that’s kind of on its way out will have the most sugar content. So you could experiment with whatever fruit you haven’t gotten to, as far as what’s in season. I throw that into the ice cream machine with our sorbet base, which is essentially simple syrup, and you can also spike that with some herbs, or booze if you want.
We like salty things: pretzels, snack foods, chips. I definitely recommend with some of the starchy inclusions that you dip them in chocolate. It will help keep them from getting soggy. Anything sweet and savory can be fun. We play around with fried chicken, bacon, Peking duck – the meat flavors. There’s more you could do there with prosciutto or even sweet Chinese sausage.
CC: Where do you think the ice cream renaissance in the last few years has come from, all that demand for new and interesting flavors?
NC: I think it’s a combination of people’s palates evolving away from sweet-on-sweet-on-sweet, and people wanting to seek out more adventurous ice creams, and awareness that they’re out there. Also, people have gotten more interested in how things are made and where they come from. There’s more of a focus on the quality and the sourcing and what goes on behind the scenes. Lastly, food was such a great outlet for creative energy post-recession, and I think a lot of people redirected their vision from many different fields into the food industry. We just saw an influx of so many different backgrounds into the ice cream business, which made it very unique.
Thank you so much for joining us today! And don’t forget to check out the Coolhaus Ice Cream Book. Join us next time on the Clever Cookstr for more Quick and Dirty Tips from the World’s Best Cooks.
Images provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.