Interview & Giveaway with Tessa Arias, Author of Cookies & Cream

It’s no surprise Tessa Arias is a total ice cream expert. This college student turned chef blogger comes to us from a few of the sunniest places on Earth: Phoenix, Arizona, by way of California and Australia. Tessa got her start by writing her fantastically successful blog, Handle the Heat, went on to be featured on Glamour.com, Gourmet Live, The Huffington Post, and in Produce Business Magazine, among others. Her amazing new cookbook Cookies & Cream just hit shelves, and we were lucky enough to chat with Tessa about the book, ice cream sandwiches, her creative inspirations, her kickass work ethic, and more. And make sure you make it all the way to the bottom of the post because we’re sharing one of her recipes from the book and GIVING AWAY a copy of the book so you can go ice cream sandwich crazy at home yourself!

Tell us a little about Cookies & Cream. What inspired you to write the book?

Cookies & Cream is all about ice cream sandwiches. The book includes 50 sandwiches, each featuring homemade recipes for cookies and ice creams. I have a humungous sweet tooth and I love both cookies and ice cream so it seemed only natural to write a whole book about pairing the two treats together. There are lots of fabulous cookbooks about cookies and about ice cream but not many that combine the two. The fact that there are virtually endless ice cream and cookie flavor combinations was also a huge inspiration for me.

How did you get started as a blogger? How did you transition from blogger to cookbook author?

I actually started blogging right as I was entering college. I realized I needed a way to channel my newfound passion for cooking and baking so blogging became a wonderfully fun and inspirational creative outlet. It’s given me so many amazing opportunities, like getting the chance to write a cookbook. English class was always my favorite in school and I’ve always enjoyed writing. Transitioning from blogger to cookbook author was interesting. Let’s just say it’s nice to have someone else professionally edit your writing!

What was is like writing and publishing a cookbook? Were there any steps in the process that came as a surprise to you?

Since I was earning both my bachelor’s and culinary degrees while writing Cookies & Cream, I looked at it like a mega class project which helped me to organize my time and work. Writing a cookbook is more work than I can even describe but it’s definitely a labor of love. I think what surprised me the most was how long things take in the publishing world. I was first contacted by my agent about writing a cookbook at the end of 2011 and it wasn’t until May 2013 that the book finally released. It’s not at all like blogging where you can write, make, photograph, and publish a recipe all in the same day! 

We know the test kitchen can be a fun place. Do you have any interesting or funny stories that came from testing your recipes?

My kitchen became an ice cream sandwich factory while writing Cookies & Cream. I pretty much was at the grocery store every single day. I even had to buy a freestanding freezer to store everything! There were many batches of cookies and ice cream that did not work out and ended up in the trash, unfortunately. There may even have been a few tears and some screaming, born of frustration or happiness depending on the day. Beyond the test kitchen there is a funny story, although I didn’t find it funny at the time. The photographer shot the ice cream sandwich photos at my house in Phoenix, Arizona and my air conditioning decided to break on the second day of shooting. It was 90°F inside my house within hours. I still have flashbacks to that terrible day but somehow we managed to get all the photos done except one or two.

Which recipe in the book is your favorite and why?

Trying to pick my favorite recipe is like picking a favorite child. I put so much work into all of them and declared so many favorites while taste testing. I’m a serious chocoholic so anything in the Chocolate chapter makes me happy, especially my Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Sandwich. I also love the traditional flavors like Classic Ice Cream Sandwich and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich but Strawberry Cheesecake and Red Velvet are certainly crowd pleasers. I also wrote a whole chapter on Boozy sandwiches…

What are your top three tips for making the perfect ice cream sandwich at home?

  1. To make even and pretty ice cream sandwiches, place a sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface then place a scoop of slightly softened ice cream on the sheet. Cover the scoop with the plastic and use a measuring cup or the bottom of a glass to press down on the ice cream until it is a disk that matches the diameter of your cookies. Now you have perfectly shaped ice cream for sandwiching!
  2. Make sure to freeze your assembled sandwiches until they are firm so you can enjoy each bite without making a soupy mess.
  3. Start with best quality ingredients you can access – it really does make a difference in the end result.

Do you see yourself writing any more cookbooks in the near future?

Possibly! It has been so exciting and rewarding that I don’t think I could stop at just one cookbook.

Other than ice cream sandwiches, what food are you obsessed with right now?

Beyond ice cream sandwiches I’ve been kind of obsessed with seafood lately (which couldn’t be more opposite) and anything summery – sangria, burgers, fresh salads, s’mores.

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us Tessa! Just in case you’re skipping to the freezer and can’t wait another minute to get your hands on a copy of Cookies & Cream, Tessa is sharing one of the recipes from her book, just in time for all of those fresh summer berries! We give you the Lemon Blueberry Ice Cream Sandwich.

Lemon Blueberry Ice Cream Sandwich from Cookies & Cream Cookbook

Lemon-Blueberry Ice Cream Sandwich

MAKES ABOUT 10 ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

The combination of fresh Blueberry Ice Cream with sweet and tart Lemon Cookies tastes like a beautiful summer day with every bite. Not only does this sandwich taste wonderful, but it also looks just as great. The ice cream is a brilliant violet color and you can actually see flecks of yellow lemon  zest in the cookies. Make these for your next summer cookout—they’re sure to be a hit.

Blueberry Ice Cream

MAKES ABOUT 1 ½ QUARTS

  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vodka

To make blueberry puree, place the blueberries, lemon juice, and ¾ cup sugar in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the sugar is dissolved and the berries are soft, about 7 minutes. Let cool slightly, then carefully puree the mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer to remove seeds and skins. Blueberry puree can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If using right away, set aside.

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice cubes and 1 to 2 cups of water. Place a medium bowl fitted with a fine strainer inside the ice bath.

In a clean medium saucepan, combine the blueberry puree, milk, cream, salt, and vanilla. Set over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is warm and begins to steam, about 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining ¼ cup sugar. Carefully whisk half of  the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, one ladleful at a time, until the egg mixture  is warmed. Whisk the egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and registers around 175°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 to 7 minutes. Be careful not to boil the mixture.

Immediately strain the mixture through the fine strainer into the prepared ice bath. Cool the custard in the ice bath, stirring often. Press plastic wrap against the surface of the custard and refrigerate until chilled, about 4 hours or up to 1 day.

Pour the custard into an ice cream maker. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. During the last minute of freezing, add the vodka. Transfer to an airtight container, press plastic wrap against the ice cream, and freeze until it is firm, at least 2 hours.

Lemon Cookies

MAKES ABOUT 20 COOKIES

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at
  • room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest and juice from 2 large lemons
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice, beating until combined. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and beat until combined.

Scoop the dough into 2 tablespoon–sized balls and place on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies are set and begin to brown at the edges. Let the cookies cool completely. Freeze the cookies until frozen, at least 1 hour. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers in the freezer for up to 1 month.

TO ASSEMBLE, top one cookie with a scoop of ice cream. Place another cookie on top of the ice cream and gently press down to form a sandwich. Repeat for remaining cookies. Freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.

Recipe reprinted with permission from COOKIES & CREAM © 2013 by Tessa Arias, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

Now, onto the giveaway!

For one lucky winner, you’ll get the chance to own your very own copy of Cookies & Cream! Just enter using widget below before 11:59pm on Friday June 14, 2013 and we’ll notify the winner via email when the contest is over.
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