I have never really celebrated Valentine’s Day. It’s not the idea of doing something special with your significant other that has always rubbed me the wrong way, but the idea of commercializing it and making it the norm to appreciate your partner more on one day than the other 364.
That being said, I really love retro Valentine’s Day cards, like the little perforated cardboard ones you used to give to all of your classmates, and I love all the little hearts everywhere. So while I haven’t bought a Valentine’s Day card since primary school, all that adorableness has seeped through my bah-humbug attitude towards the holiday. I love all of that cute mushy stuff, just in very small doses.
In Shanghai, city of hyper-commercialism that it is, Valentine’s Day is a day when restaurants go prix-fixee and enjoy price gauging. This year, Valentine’s overlapped with Chinese New Year, so I was doubly disinclined to go out to celebrate. Instead, I ran to the grocery store and picked up only the basics: a bottle of wine, a big chunk of nice cheese, apples, a pint of ice cream and some chocolate. On the menu? Cheese fondue and heart shaped ice cream sandwiches.
Ice Cream Sandwiches
6 tablespoons unsalted batter
8 ounzes bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
1. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat, and add the chocolate. If the heat from the butter does not fully melt the chocolate, put the pan back over the head for ten seconds, and stir until melted. Set aside to cool.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Using a mixer with the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until the mixture thickens and becomes pale in color, and falls from the beater in a wide ribbon that folds back on itself and slowly dissolves on the surface, 4-5 minutes.
3. Using a rubber spatula, fold the cooled chocolate into the egg mixture. Add the flour and fold it in quickly but gently with the rubber spatula so that you don’t deflate the air that’s been incorporated into the eggs.
4. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and lightly flour two 9×13 inch glass baking dishes, knocking out the excess flour (if you have only one baking dish, bake the first batch, let cool, turn out the dish, wash the dish, and then bake the second batch).
5. Divide batter in half and spread each half in a prepared baking dish, smoothing the surface with an offset spatula or the back of a large spoon. Bake until the top feels set and the batter has just baked through, 7-10 minutes. For ice-cream sandwiches, you want a very moist and fudgy brownie, one that is slightly underbaked (the layers will set up and become quite firm when frozen). Let cool to room temperature in the baking dishes on wire racks, and then turn out onto the wire racks to continue cooling completely. You may need to ease out the edges with a flexible spatula.
6. To make the sandwiches, let 1.5 to 2 pints ice cream sit at room temperature just long enough to become spreadable. Line a 9×13 inch baking dish or pan with plastic wrap, allowing enough overhang to cover the top of the sandwich completely when it is assembled. Place one brownie layer, top side down in the lined dish. Scoop the ice cream out onto the brownie and spread evenly and quickly with a rubber spatula or an offset metal spatula. Top with the second brownie layer, top side up, and gently and evenly press down on the second layer. Fold the plastic wrap over the top, covering completely. Using a square plate or a book, press down with firm, even pressure to distribute the ice cream evenly. Freeze for at least three hours or overnight. Uncover the top, turn the sandwich out onto a cutting board, peel away the plastic wrap, and cut into desired sizes with a large, very sharp knife. Wrap tobether or individually until ready to serve. The sandwiches will keep, well wrapped, in the freezer for up to 2