If words could adequately describe the deliciousness you see before you, it would be summed up in the words I’ve translated from my eloquent husband while ice cream and caramel dribbled down his chin: “Uh, seriously, Mel, these are unreal.” And then he proceeded to steal my firstborn’s caramel sauce and eat five more. After the excitement had died down (and Brian gave Jackson his caramel back), he confessed that Eskimo bars would easily make it into his top five desserts of all time, which might possibly be the most epic statement to ever leave his dessert-loving lips. My kids? Well, they were wildly joyful at being able to dip the crackly-coated, ice cream-topped brownie into their very own special pot of warm caramel sauce. Their little lives were complete.
Have you heard of Eskimo Bars? Apparently a while ago on the Food Network show “Best Thing I Ever Ate” (do they even air that anymore??), Giada De Laurentiis expounded prolifically on her love for these crazy delicious bars she had in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I never saw the show, but my friend, Lisa, sent me her version of the recipe years ago (years, people!) and I just recently tried them. All I can say is, I am kicking myself for not trying them sooner. They really are unreal, just like Brian said.
Basically, you take a decadent baked brownie layer. Top it with a thick, creamy layer of good quality vanilla ice cream. Cut into rectangles and dip in a homemade magic shell mixture that hardens immediately and leaves a crisp, thin chocolate coating on the bars. Now here’s the kicker: you take the culmination of brownie, ice cream, chocolate bliss between your little fingers and dip it into luscious warm caramel sauce. It is messy. Very messy. But the absolute explosion of rich, decadent brownie sundae happening in your mouth will alleviate any worries about cleanup. Can you even stand it?
Now, listen. I know some of you (like me) hate the thought of dipping desserts. I get it. But I promise that the anxiety you are feeling is unwarranted! The chocolate shell mixture is so easy to work with that the dipping part is perhaps the easiest part of the recipe (but not the cleanest, not the cleanest at all). Don’t be like me and let years go by before you make these. Think of the rock star status you will earn when you serve these to your family and/or friends. And it will be well deserved. Keep in mind that you can make these start-to-finish several days or even weeks in advance and the process can be spread over several days.
While you contemplate those awesome facts, I will leave you alone as I go delve into the depths of my terribly narrow freezer and dig out the last three of these I hid away from humanity. Dark corner away from children, here I come. Oh my gosh. They are so good.
This recipe looks involved but it's actually quite easy - the trick is allowing time to freeze each step so that the ice cream doesn't melt while you are assembling and dipping. They can be made start to finish and stored in the freezer for up to a week (probably longer, actually!). Honestly, they are so worth the multiple steps: did I mention the comment "best dessert ever?"
- 10 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 quart good-quality vanilla ice cream (storebought or homemade)
- 3/4 cup coconut oil
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 1-2 cups good-quality storebought or homemade caramel sauce
- For the brownies, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Lightly grease with cooking spray and set aside.
- Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for one minute intervals, stirring in between, until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set the mixture aside until it cools slightly (is warm to the touch not hot). It will look gritty but it will become smooth once the other ingredients are added. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack and then chill in the refrigerator or freezer until thoroughly cold - this will help the brownies hold up well to the ice cream layer that's coming.
- For the ice cream layer, soften the ice cream to spreading consistency (leaving at room temperature for 15-20 minutes should do the trick), then spread an even layer across the chilled brownies. The ice cream layer should be about an inch thick. Put the pan in the freezer until very firm (1-2 hours).
- For the magic shell, in a microwave-safe bowl, combine the coconut oil and chocolate chips. It helps if the bowl is more tall than wide so that when you dip the bars, the chocolate mixture is deep and not super shallow. Microwave for one minute intervals at 50% power until the chocolate is melted. Stir the mixture until it is smooth. It will be fairly runny.
- Remove the pan of brownies from the freezer. Gently lift the foil handles and remove the ice cream layered brownies from the pan. Cut the browines in half. Then, working with one half at a time (you might want to return the other half to the freezer if your kitchen is overly warm), cut rectangle into long, thin bars, about 1-inch by 4-inches. You should end up with 8 or so bars per half. Repeat with the remaining half. It is best to put all the cut bars onto a tray or plate and keep them in the refrigerator while dipping so they stay as cold as possible.
- Place a baking rack over a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper or even aluminum foil (to help with cleanup). Working one-by-one, gently hold the ice cream bar at the base of the brownie and dip it quickly into the chocolate shell mixture (tilt the bowl to help deepen the chocolate for easier dipping) until completely coated and place on the baking rack. Your hands will get messy but I promise it's worth it! Repeat the dipping process with each bar. After I dipped about 5-7 bars and the chocolate shell had hardened (it sets up very quickly, especially if your ice cream and brownie is very cold), I gently removed them from the cooling rack and put them in the freezer so the ice cream didn't melt and kept dipping the other bars that were waiting in the freezer.
- Make note that the chocolate shell mixture will want to stick to the baking rack so pry the eskimo bars carefully off the baking rack so the chocolate shell doesn't crack as you separate them from where the chocolate has hardened to the rack.
- When ready to serve, remove the eskimo bars from the freezer and let them sit at room temperature for 5-7 minutes. Warm the caramel sauce until it is runny and slightly warm but not overly hot (you don't want any burned fingers).
- Dip the eskimo bars in the caramel and enjoy!
Recipe Source: inspired by the famous Eskimo Bars at Snake River Grill in Jackson Hole exclaimed by Giada De Laurentiis as the “Best Thing She’s Ever Ate” sent to me by my friend Lisa H. (thanks, Lisa!)