Sunday, August 1, 2010

IT'S-IT! The San Francisco Treat...

We're not talking about Rice-a-Roni here, people.

The IT'S-IT is a frozen treat that made its debut at San Francisco's Playland-at-the-Beach in 1928. Not just your regular ice cream sandwich, it combines vanilla or mint chip ice cream, soft oatmeal cookies, and an oh-so-thin chocolate coating that satisfactorily snaps in two at the first bite.

IT'S-ITs are melty and messy and make you go Mmmmmm. In short, when it comes to frozen ice cream treats, an IT'S-IT is it.

I make this bold statement as an expert on the IT'S-IT. You see, every day - every single day - of seventh grade, my good friend E and I shared a mint chip IT'S-IT. As the end of the lunch period drew closer and closer, our strength against temptation grew weaker and weaker, and with 5 or 4 or 3 minutes left before the bell, I'd run to the cafeteria, grab an IT'S-IT, and devour my half as fast as I could. I still have a mad tolerance for brain freeze.

For my friend E and I - two of the neatest, nicest, shyest kids at school - the daily IT'S-IT was our chance to get messy, be spontaneous, and share a sneaky smile. Plus, seventh grade is traumatic. I think all seventh graders deserve daily ice cream.

Alas, IT'S-ITs aren't sold on the east coast. Oh, the agony! So to celebrate National Ice Cream Sandwich Day on Monday, August 2, Katie and I decided to try our hand at creating a homemade IT'S-IT. None of the recipes we found on various blogs and food sites accurately replicated the original (you want me to dip only half the sandwich?!), so we pieced together our own.

What you'll need:
(These ingredients can be homemade or store-bought. Homemade recipes below.)
- plain oatmeal cookies
- ice cream, slightly softened
- "Magic Shell" chocolate for dipping

To assemble:

Line a baking dish with plastic wrap. Spread ice cream in the pan and let harden in the freezer. We used a 9-inch cake pan and about 1 quart of vanilla ice cream to get the desired thickness.

Get your cookies ready - match them up in pairs by size, or if you want to be really precise, use a cookie cutter to trim them into circles. We tried both and ended up liking the "rustic" look better, but if you're looking to replicate real IT'S-ITs, using a cookie cutter will produce a cleaner-looking sandwich.

When ice cream is hardened, use a cookie cutter to make circles of ice cream and place them between two cookies. Work quickly or you'll have a goopy mess!

Put the sandwiches in a baking dish and throw 'em back in the freezer to firm up.

Except maybe for this one.  This one you should eat.

When the sandwiches are firm and cold, dip them, roll them, do whatever you have to do to get them covered in chocolate.

Whatever you do, do it fast, or the ice cream will start to squish out the sides as it melts like it did in this one. Yes, that's my finger in the upper left - you try taking photos with hands covered in chocolate! Also, pay no attention to that mostly-dead basil plant in the background. I have a love-hate relationship with basil plants.

Place the sandwiches in the freezer so the chocolate hardens up completely. When you're ready to eat, make sure you have plenty of napkins! It's not a bad idea to have a bottle of stain remover handy, too.


Ultimate Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from
Makes about 3 dozen cookies


    •    2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
    •    1 cup packed dark brown sugar
    •    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    •    2 large eggs
    •    3/4 tsp fine salt
    •    1/2 tsp baking soda
    •    1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
    •    1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
    •    3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    •    3/4 cup whole wheat flour
    •    2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until fluffy, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until incorporated, scraping the bowl as necessary.
  3. Add the salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and vanilla and mix at medium speed until blended. Add the flours and mix at low speed until smooth.
  4. With a strong rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the oats. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least one hour, or overnight.
  5. Roll dough into golf-sized balls and place three inches apart on one of the prepared sheets. (We fit only four cookies on a standard size cookie sheet - they spread quite a bit.) Flatten balls to 1/2-inch discs using a flat-bottomed glass or the palm of your hand.
  6. Bake for 14-15 minutes, rotating cookie sheet halfway through, until the cookies are nearly set and golden brown. Let cool on the sheet for one minute, and then use a metal spatula to transfer to a rack to cool completely. Keep dough in the refrigerator between batches. The more chilled it is, the easier it is to roll.
Vanilla Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop
Makes about one quart


1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Pour one cup of the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over the top.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. In a large bowl, prepare an ice bath.
  3. Warm the milk, sugar, one cup of the cream, and salt in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. When warm, slowly pour about one third of the milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly (this tempers - i.e. slowly warms the eggs so they don't cook too quickly). Pour the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk mixture.
  4. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula , scraping at the bottom and sides, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula.
  5. Pour the custard through the strainer into the cream. Add vanilla extract, place bowl in ice bath, and stir until mixture is cool. Chill in refrigerator at least three hours or overnight.
  6. Churn ice cream in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.
For Mint Chip Ice Cream (Becky's fav), click here!

Homemade "Magic Shell" Chocolate Coating
From AlphaMom
Makes about 1 1/4 cups


1/2 cup coconut oil (measured when solid)
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Place ingredients in heatproof bowl (tupperware works well) and microwave for one minute.
  2. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, allowing hot oil to melt chocolate chips.
  3. Stir with heatproof spatula until smooth. It will be runny.
Store in refrigerator (will thicken), or in summertime, at room temperature (will remain liquid). To liquefy, heat in microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring in between.

Note: This chocolate coating is great for dipping IT'S-ITs because it is thin and hardens quickly. However, it does have a noticeable (and yummy) coconut flavor that the original IT'S-ITs do not. Next time, we'll try substituting butter or another type of oil for part of the coconut oil to achieve a more accurate version of the original!


  1. They have IT'S-ITs at Pacific Standard on 4th ave in Brooklyn! I bet this recipe totally holds true to the originals.

  2. Thanks Annoymous - good to know!

    BTW to everyone - these are even better after a couple days in the fridge. Yum Yum.