I was lucky enough to spend the summer of 2020 (which should have been an awful summer by all accounts) making ice-cream sandwiches and having the best time with Terri Mercieca at Happy Endings London. Our styles are very different but our approaches are firmly aligned. Terri puts extraordinary care into thinking about how her ice-cream sandwiches will be eaten, how each bite will taste and feel. They will be the perfect texture all the way through, even eaten straight from the deep freeze. This ice-cream sandwich is an ode to her.
When you’re building an ice-cream sandwich, think about what the biscuit or cookie you use will be like to bite through when it’s frozen. A chewy cookie is delicious served slightly warm but when it’s frozen it can be like taffy. You want something that you can chomp straight through that is also sturdy enough not to crumble halfway through eating it.
Makes: 25 cookies, 850g jam, enough semifreddo for 6
Time: 1.5 hours + overnight chilling
Photography: Kim Lightbody
For the raspberry jam
300g caster sugar
50ml lemon juice
For the semifreddo
flavourless oil, for greasing
40g egg whites, from 1–2 eggs
160g caster sugar
40g egg yolks, from 2–3 eggs
250ml double cream
For the hazelnut cookies
50g ground hazelnuts
180g blanched hazelnuts
140g unsalted butter, softened
3g (½ tsp) salt
140g light brown soft sugar
110g caster sugar
2 vanilla pods, finely chopped
200g plain flour
4g (¾ tsp) bicarbonate of soda
3g (generous ½ tsp) baking powder
For each sandwich
2 vanilla and hazelnut cookies
1 x 8cm disc raspberry semifreddo
2 tsp raspberry jam
To make the semifreddo, blend the raspberries to a purée. Sieve the purée to remove the seeds and set to one side. Lightly oil a shallow tray (about 4cm) and line smoothly with a double layer of cling film.
Pour the egg whites into the bowl of a mixer with a whisk attachment. Put 80g of the sugar into a small saucepan along with 50ml of water. Place over a high heat. When the syrup reaches 110°C, turn the mixer to medium speed to start whisking the egg whites. When the syrup reaches 120°C, turn off the heat and turn up the mixer. Carefully pour the hot syrup onto the egg whites in a steady stream. Once all the syrup has been added, reduce to a medium speed and carry on whisking until the meringue base has cooled completely.
Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining sugar in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of
simmering water (bain-marie) to make a sabayon. Whisk the yolks and sugar over a gentle heat until they are light and pale; when you lift the whisk out, it should leave a ribbon trail that holds on the surface of the mixture before melting back in. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
Whisk the cream until it just holds soft peaks. Add the reserved berry purée and sabayon to the cream and gently fold through until just combined. Add the whisked meringue in two stages. Fold gently but firmly to ensure you maintain all of the volume you have worked hard to create but also to make sure you don’t have any pockets of meringue or cream.
Pour the semifreddo into the prepared tray, give it a gentle tap to make sure there are no air pockets, then freeze overnight.
To make the cookies, toast the ground and blanched hazelnuts in the oven at 180°C for 10–15 minutes until deeply golden with an intense aroma. Leave to cool. Mix the butter, salt and sugars together until just combined. Add the vanilla pods to the butter and sugar along with the egg and mix well. Roughly chop the cooled nuts so you have a mix of large and small chunks. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder then stir in the hazelnuts. Add to the wet ingredients and mix well. Use an ice-cream scoop to form balls of cookie dough or weigh out 35g per cookie and roll into balls. Chill the shaped cookies overnight or freeze for later use.
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Space the cookies out on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and bake for 12–15 minutes. You can bake these straight from the freezer.
Once the semifreddo is completely frozen, use an 8cm (3in) round cutter to quickly stamp out discs. Dip the cutter into warm water between each use to get a clean, neat finish. Return the discs of semifreddo to the freezer to firm up. Any leftovers can be packed into a tub and stored in the freezer to enjoy another time.
Combine the ingredients for the jam in a large heavy-based saucepan and mix well. Leave to macerate for about 30 minutes. The sugar will start to dissolve, shortening the cooking time and giving you a fresher-tasting jam. Place the pan over a high heat and bring to the boil, then stir occasionally as it cooks. I find raspberry jam is particularly prone to spitting everywhere so be careful when you stir it.
Cook the jam to 108°C. You can also test the setting point by using the wrinkle test. Place a small plate in the freezer when you start to cook the jam. To test, drop a small amount of jam onto the frozen plate. It should immediately thicken and set and the surface should wrinkle when pushed with your finger. If it is still quite liquid, cook the jam for another 3–5 minutes before testing again. Pour into a container and store in the fridge.
Once you have prepared all the elements, you can assemble the ice cream sandwiches. Match your cookies into evenly-sized pairs then spread the underside of each one with a thin layer of raspberry jam. Once the semifreddo is firm again, sandwich a disc between each pair of cookies and gently press together to make sure it is well sealed. The semifreddo and cookie dough will last well in the freezer for up to 2 weeks but it is best to construct the sandwiches shortly before you eat them.
Going from Gramercy Tavern in New York to Lyle’s, Flor and The River Café in London, Anna is undoubtedly one of the most exciting pastry chefs in today’s British food scene. The Last Bite is her first cookbook, filled with all the technical pastry methods and tricks she has picked up along the way. Anna The Last Bite: A whole new approach to making desserts through the year by Anna Higham. Published by DK, 5 May. £22. Recipe Photography credit: Kim Lightbody.