So, remember that dinner I mentioned in my London post, when, post-Prague, I relished in the veggie-forward fare at Scully St. James but then finished it off with a decadent miso caramel and black sesame dessert?
Yeah, me too! I can’t stop remembering it, actually. I knew as soon as I tried it in the restaurant that I wanted to recreate it at home in some way.
The more I thought about it though, the more I wasn’t sure how. The original dish was a bay leaf ice cream smoothed into a wide ramekin, topped with a layer of miso caramel and then lidded with a crispy black sesame cookie decoratively dusted with matcha and edible flowers.
So, yes, that’s delicious, but I don’t know, that felt like kind of a silly thing to make at home. I’d have to spend a lot of time and effort making either one of those or a lot of them, and 1) that’s a lot of work for one ice cream dessert, or 2) a big storage ask for my freezer if I were to make several.
But I realized the solution when I had a few friends over for dinner a few weeks ago. I knew I wanted to take the opportunity to make a batch of miso caramel (you know, with other people to help me eat it), and I thought I would just pair it with black sesame ice cream. But I didn’t have the time to make a batch of ice cream, and as it turns out, you can’t just walk into most grocery stores and find a commercially available option for that flavor. So, I simplified. I bought a pint of vanilla ice cream, and served that with the miso caramel drizzled on top and garnished with toasted black sesame seeds.
My friends loved it! The combo of the sweet, vanilla flavor with salty caramel and crunchy, nutty sesame really won everyone over, and it was a good reminder to me that sometimes, simple is better. I could have called that a win right there and stopped trying to recreate the original dessert, but I really, really wanted to get the cookie part in there too somehow.
So I thought about it more, and I decided on ice cream sandwiches! Who doesn’t love those? And, they are pretty easy, especially if you already have a batch of miso caramel hanging out in your fridge! If you don’t, the caramel is a dump and stir situation that takes no time at all, so that’s not really an obstacle.
The obstacle, as it turned out, was the cookies. Shockingly, considering the rise of black sesame in the last few years, I could not find a reputable recipe for black sesame cookies on the internet or in any of my cookbooks! There are a ton of recipes for black sesame ice cream, or black sesame cake, but no cookies. So I did what I had to, and mashed together my own version of an existing recipe. I mean, isn’t that the basis of food blogging anyway??
I settled on an idea of a brown sugar base cookie, and of studding the dough with as many toasted sesame seeds as I thought would be reasonable without overpowering everything. I wanted the sesame flavor to come through without compromising the texture of the final cookie. My first batch was delicious, but not suitable for the ice cream sandwiches I imagined. The cookies puffed into half domes in the oven, looking more like little buns than cookies, and all I could think was that adding ice cream would turn them into softball-sized sandwiches. I tried again with a base recipe from the master herself, Stella Parks, and nailed what I wanted on the first try.
I managed to stop myself from eating enough dough so that I ended up with 22 flat, rounded cookies with crisp edges, but centers soft enough not to mush the ice cream out the sides. And adding just enough sesame seeds meant that their nutty flavor comes through to play nicely when sandwiched around the vanilla ice cream and umami-rich caramel. A decadent but grown-up combination, for sure!
In the end I decided to embrace the simple approach and skip the matcha garnish, and you really don’t need it outside of the restaurant setting. Who wants to be getting powdered green tea all over their hands, anyway?
Black Sesame Cookie & Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches with Miso Caramel
These cookies are not difficult to create, despite having three separate components. Do yourself a favor and buy a couple quarts of good quality vanilla ice cream, and the miso caramel and cookies can both be made ahead, though the beauty of the cookie dough is that you do not need to make it ahead of time and chill. It can be mixed up and baked ASAP.
For the Miso Caramel: Adapted from Food & Wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tbs unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/6 cup light corn syrup
2 tbs water
1/4 cup white miso
splash of vanilla extract
For the Black Sesame Cookies: Dough base adapted from Bravetart
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 packed cup light brown sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbs vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 pinch grated nutmeg
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup black sesame seeds, toasted and cooled
For the Ice Cream Sandwiches:
1 recipe cookie dough
12 tbs miso caramel (you’ll probably have extra, not a bad thing)
2 qts vanilla ice cream
Make the miso caramel. In a small pot, combine the cream and butter over medium heat and bring to a low simmer. In another medium size pot, stir together sugar, corn syrup, and water until everything is moistened. Cook over medium-high heat, without stirring, until the sugar dissolves, and then cook about 5 minutes more, until the mixture turns a deep amber color, swirling the pan every once in a while.
When the caramel is the desired color, immediately remove from the heat (do not let it burn!) and carefully whisk in the hot cream and butter mixture. It will bubble up violently so be careful! When everything calms down and the caramel is whisked together, carefully pour into a heat-proof blender, and add the miso. Blend until miso is completely combined, then pour into a sealable container and let cool. Once cool, whisk in the vanilla. At this point, the caramel can be set aside until ready to assemble sandwiches or stored in the fridge for a couple weeks.
Make the cookies: Heat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all ingredients except the egg, flour and sesame seeds. Mix on low speed until starting to combine a bit, then increase speed to medium and mix for 5 minutes, until fluffy and light. Add in the egg and mix until fully combined, then lower speed and add in the flour a bit at a time until fully combined. Lastly, stir in the sesame seeds until well-distributed.
Measure out dough into 2 tbs size portions and form into balls. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. You will have to bake in batches depending on the size of your baking sheets; the most I could fit on one without risk of smooshing was 9 cookies. Bake until puffed up and crackled on top and deep golden around the edges, 10-12 minutes.
Cool cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Assemble the ice cream sandwiches: On a large baking sheet, pair up your cookies and transfer to the freezer to chill for 30 minutes. This will help the ice cream not immediately melt. Once chilled, separate the cookies, and spread a tablespoon of caramel on one half of the cookies, and a scoop of ice cream on the other half. Sandwich them together, then transfer back to the freezer to chill. Overnight is best to really make sure they are solid, but a couple hours should do, too. Ice cream sandwiches can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the freezer.
For soft, chewable cookies that won’t squeeze the ice cream out when you bite into them, start checking for doneness at 10 minutes. I baked the full 12 for my cookies, and they softened a bit after sitting in the freezer with the ice cream sandwiched between, but I could have baked them for less time and been happy.
I got 23 cookies from the recipe, you can probably get a full two dozen if you go a little lighter on the dough snacking than I did.