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The sweet and savoury magic of an ice cream burger recipe

What's the tastiest way to keep cool? Make a dessert burger with ice cream and butter

Garnishes like chunks of fruit as a “relish” or a chocolate, caramel, or berry sauce that might happen to look like barbecue sauce or ketchup are up to you. (Ishan @seefromthesky, Unsplash)

Ice cream is working overtime this summer. Following a week of record-breaking heat, sales of the frosty treat are on the rise, from Las Vegas to New York.

Tipsy Scoop, the New York-based shop that specializes in booze-infused flavors, saw triple the number of inquiries for catering and events during the past week, when a heat wave hit the city, compared to the week before. “At our Brooklyn location, we’ve had people coming to the door for ice cream two-plus hours before opening,” says Tipsy Scoop’s director of marketing, Rachel Chitwood.

At Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream which has branches on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and in Greenwich Village, sales were up about 30%, according to owner and chef Nick Morgenstern. “We’re doing a pre-pandemic level of business. Lines out the door every day,” he says.

Morgenstern’s is known in the ice cream world for its exquisite flavors and painstaking ingredient sourcing, with flavors like Raw Milk, made without eggs, and Mascarpone Salted Hazelnut. There are never less than five different vanilla flavors and five chocolate ones.

In early June, Morgenstern pioneered a product called the Ice Cream Burger. It’s a sweet part of a new, savory-focused menu that features burgers, fries, and pies.

The concept of combining bread and ice cream isn’t revolutionary. Italians make a habit of filling brioche rolls with gelato. In Japan, Shibuya Toast is a popular snack of an extra-thick bread slice filled with vanilla ice cream and garnished with all manner of sweet things. Morgenstern has served a version of that treat called the New God Flow, consisting of Japanese milk bread caramelized with honey and topped with raw milk ice cream since he opened his first store in 2014.

“Bread is smart because it absorbs the ice cream as it melts,” says Morgenstern.

That’s one reason his dessert burger is so well suited to this hot summer. It’s especially good for the July 4th holiday, when there will be no shortage of burger buns in most households. 

Morgenstern makes his own buns but says any soft squishy ones work great. He maintains that even Wonder Bread will get the job done, folded over into a taco-style snack.

Making ice cream burgers is almost too easy. First, the buns are lightly buttered and quickly toasted. (You can use a grill that’s already on to cook more conventional burgers, although make sure it’s clean and not slicked with grilled meat, seafood, or vegetable remnants.) Then ice cream is scooped inside the bun. That’s it. It’s scrumptious, super fun, and a guaranteed chill out experience. Any additional garnishes—chunks of fruit as a “relish” or a chocolate, caramel, or berry sauce that might happen to look like barbecue sauce or ketchup—are up to you. 

Ice cream flavors are at the discretion of the cook, too, but I’d recommend two or three different contrasting ones, both for taste and aesthetic purposes. Fruity flavors are especially excellent in a summery way. I went with peach, in addition to chocolate and vanilla. Next time I make it—this weekend—I might substitute a caramel-ribboned flavor for the chocolate. Morgenstern says a sorbet or a milk-based sherbet will make it even more refreshing.  

And it helps for the caramelized bun to still be slightly warm when you add the ice cream, so it starts softening into the bread, in the way that the best ice cream sandwiches come together in a bite that melts in your mouth in progressive creamy waves of texture. 

Have a lot of napkins on hand. If you do it right, it’s not a tidy dish.

Ice Cream Burgers

Makes 4

4 soft hamburger buns, split in half

About 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

2 or 3 different ice cream flavors

Heat a skillet. Spread the cut sides of the buns with the softened butter. Toast them in the skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, until they’re light golden and crisp. Fill each bun while it’s still warm with scoops of the contrasting ice cream flavors and eat immediately.


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