BAKES/ SWEETS

IT’S IT® – San Francisco’s Ice Cream Sandwich

Hello and welcome! I am so excited to share today’s recipe: San Francisco’s iconic IT’S IT® Ice Cream Sandwich. A thick disc of ice cream sandwiched between chewy oatmeal cookies and dipped in chocolate. My take is a little different, I only dipped half the sandwich in chocolate. But I will say, of all my favorite foods I have tried to replicate, this one is the closest I have gotten to the original. Let’s get to it!

Origin of the IT’S IT®

The IT’S IT® was invented in 1928, in San Francisco. George and Leo Whitney (Whitney Brothers) managed an assortment of concessions that they later transformed into a 10-acre amusement park they called Playland-at-the-Beach. The park was across from Ocean Beach, in the Richmond District of San Francisco. It was at the This Is It concession stand that George Whitney created the iconic treat. The sweet savoriness of ice cream sandwich was a hit, everyone declared the confection to be “IT!” And that’s how the chocolate-dipped ice cream sandwich got its name. Below is an image of the This Is It concession stand selling the Original IT’S IT® at Whitney’s Playland-at-the-Beach, San Francisco, CA. ~1960s.

Start with the Oatmeal Cookie

The cookie part of the equation is important. It has to have a chewy texture and hold up well to being frozen. The cookies have to be thin, but not too thin. Lastly, we need the oatmeal raisin flavor without having bits of flat, flaky oatmeal and chunky raisins. I found the perfect recipe by Cook’s Country from their recipe for Oatmeal Creme Pies.

Cook’s Country recommends weighing the ingredients so we can get the ratios just right. We have everything you’d expect for an oatmeal cookie dough: old-fashioned rolled oats, flour, white sugar, salt, baking soda, melted butter, molasses, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, eggs, oil and raisins (I am using a blend of regular and golden raisins and craisins. Not traditional, but it’s what I have).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, adjust oven rack to the center position. Line two large sheet trays with parchment.

The big difference here will be that we are going to grind the oats and the raisins in the food processor to create a more homogeneous dough. This will give us a chewy, uniform texture with great oatmeal raisin flavor. Process the oats and raisins in the food processor until finely ground, about 1 minute. Set aside.

Oatmeal Cookie Dough

Whisk the flour, salt and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, melted butter, molasses, and cinnamon until smooth.

Whisk in the egg and yolk, and the vanilla. Mix until smooth. Add the flour mixture and switch to a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to mix until smooth and no dry bits of flour remain.

Once smooth, add the ground oats and raisin mixture to the batter and mix until the dough is uniformly mixed and no dry bits of oats remain. The dough will be pretty stiff.

Portion, Shape and Bake

Use a 1.5 tablespoon cookie scoop to portion cookies onto the sheet trays. We should get 24, 1.5 tablespoon portions.

Once portioned, use your hands to roll each cookie into a smooth uniform ball. Now we will flatten the cookies to 1/2-inch thickness. You can use the bottom of a measuring cup or glass; I like to use my meat pounder because its heaviness helps give a uniform flattening. Plus its circumference is just about right as a guide for flattening a cookie that will measure a 1/2-inch thick.

Bake the cookies one sheet tray at a time on the center rack until tops begin to crack, 5 to 7 minutes. The cookies will look underbaked but they will continue baking for five minutes as they rest. This is important for maintaining a chewy, tender oatmeal cookie.

Repeat with the second sheet tray. Let both batches of cookies cool completely before making the ice cream sandwiches.

Building the IT’S IT®

Up until 2014, IT’S IT® ice cream flavors were vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, cappuccino and mint. In 2014 they introduced pumpkin ice cream, and I recently read they now have a green tea flavor. We are sticking with a classic today, and my favorite, mint. My mint version is missing the iconic green hue of the original ice cream, but I think we will survive.

I am only making 6 sandwiches, so I will have cookies leftover. If you want to make 12 sandwiches you will need two 1.5 quart containers of ice cream. Be sure your ice cream is frozen hard. We are going to use a serrated knife to cut through the package to create our slices of ice cream. Let’s set up our Ice Cream Sandwich Station.

Ice Cream Sandwich Station Set Up

Large rimmed sheet trays are the best work surface for this kind of messy work. All the mess will be contained within the sheet tray. I have my cooled cookies on a wire rack set over the top half of my sheet tray. The bottom portion of the sheet tray will be for cutting the ice cream. Then set a smaller sheet tray to the left side to assemble the sandwiches. Grab a freezer safe container to save the ice cream scraps.

Choose a round biscuit or cookie cutter that most closely fits the size of the cookies. Use a marking pen to mark 5 lines, starting 1/2 to 3/4-inch from the top, spaced about 1/2 to 3/4 inches apart on the side of the ice cream container to use as guides. This will give us 6 round slabs of ice cream, one for each sandwich.

Assembling the IT’S IT®

Slicing one slab at a time, use a serrated knife to saw through the package and ice cream. Then use the cookie cutter to cut a disc of ice cream out of the center of the slab. Place one cookie, bottom side up on the smaller sheet tray to the left.

Position the ice cream disc on the upturned cookie and gently press the ice cream out of the cutter onto the cookie. Top with a second cookie and gently press together.

Repeat with remaining cookies and ice cream. Gather the ice cream scraps as you go and collect them in the freezer safe container to save for another time. Here is what my IT’S IT® Station looks like:

Once you have made six sandwiches cover them and place them in the freezer. I left these overnight and dipped them in homemade Magic Shell the next day. But if you want to do this in the same day, freeze the sandwiches for at least 1 hour before dipping in chocolate.

Homemade Magic Shell

Magic Shell, the chocolate topping that magically goes from liquid to solid right before your eyes when it’s drizzled on your ice cream can easily be made (in dippable quantity) at home with only two ingredients. Coconut oil and chocolate chips.

It’s coconut oil’s ability to quickly solidify in cold temperatures that makes the magic happen. Place 2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips and 1/4 cup refined coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each increment until chocolate chips are melted and smooth. About 1 to 1.5 minutes total. Stir to fully emulsify the oil into the chocolate and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Dipping the IT’S IT®s

Once my chocolate Magic Shell is cooled to room temperature, I got my ice cream sandwiches out of the freezer and set up a dipping station. Set a wire rack inside a rimmed sheet tray. Set it alongside the bowl of chocolate to minimize mess, and set the tray of sandwiches right above or to the right.

Take one sandwich at a time and dip it into the chocolate. I opted to only half dip because the chocolate is pretty thick and I didn’t want to overwhelm the sandwich with the chocolate. Let the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl and then place the dipped sandwich on the wire rack to set. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches.

You can see the coconut oil already beginning to harden and set. Since the chocolate is thicker than a drizzle of Magic Shell, I put these dipped sandwiches (just as they are on the wire rack in the sheet tray) in the freezer for about 20 minutes to let the chocolate fully set and harden.

IT’S IT® – My San Francisco Treat

Just out of the freezer after 20 minutes, the Magic Shell is fully set and hardened. It’s time to plate these treats and taste our success!

As I mentioned at the top, while there are some small differences between the original IT’S IT® and my version, the flavor and texture is spot on. I could not be more happy with this recipe!

If you want t a fun project, this is a great recipe to make, especially if you have kids to help. It’s easy to make this recipe in stages over a couple, or a few, days. The cookies keep really well uncovered at room temperature. Wrap leftover, dipped sandwiches individually in plastic wrap and keep in the freezer for at least a couple weeks, I bet they won’t last that long!

If you’re a fan of ice cream sandwiches, you will love the IT’S IT® and you should also try Pistachio Gelato Brownie Sandwiches, for a super decadent dessert. Take care and be well! xo Kelly

Key Equipment

IT'S IT - San Francisco's Ice Cream Sandwich

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Dessert American
By Kelly Djalali with help from Cook's Country Serves: Makes 6 Sandwiches, with leftover cookies
Prep Time: ~1 Hour, plus at least 1 hour 20 minutes freezing time Cooking Time: 12-14 Minutes Total Time: ~3 Hours, up to overnight

My take on the iconic San Francisco treat, a thick disc of mint ice cream sandwiched between chewy oatmeal cookies and dipped in chocolate.

Ingredients

  • Oatmeal Cookies
  • 1 cup (5 oz.) All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 3/4 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 3 cups (9 oz.) Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 1/2 cup (3 oz.) Raisins
  • 3/4 cup packed (5¼ oz.) Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup (3½ oz.) Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 4 tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 2 tsp. Molasses
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Large Egg, plus 1 Large Yolk
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • IT'S IT® Ice Cream Sandwiches
  • 1 (1.5) quart Container of Your Favorite Ice Cream
  • 2 cups Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4 cup Unrefined Coconut Oil

Instructions

Oatmeal Cookies

1

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, adjust oven rack to the center position. Line two large sheet trays with parchment.

2

Process the oats and raisins in the food processor until finely ground, about 1 minute. Set aside.

3

Whisk the flour, salt and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.

4

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, melted butter, molasses, and cinnamon until smooth.

5

Whisk in the egg and yolk, and the vanilla. Mix until smooth. Add the flour mixture and switch to a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to mix until smooth and no dry bits of flour remain.

6

Once smooth, add the ground oats and raisin mixture to the batter and mix until the dough is uniformly mixed and no dry bits of oats remain. The dough will be pretty stiff.

7

Use a 1.5 tablespoon cookie scoop to portion cookies onto the sheet trays. We should get 24, 1.5 tablespoon portions.

8

Once portioned, use your hands to roll each cookie into a smooth uniform ball. Now we will flatten the cookies to 1/2-inch thickness.

9

Bake the cookies one sheet tray at a time on the center rack until tops begin to crack, 5 to 7 minutes. The cookies will look underbaked but they will continue baking for five minutes as they rest. This is important for maintaining a chewy, tender oatmeal cookie.

10

Repeat with the second sheet tray. Let both batches of cookies cool completely before making the ice cream sandwiches.

Assembling the IT'S IT®

11

Set up an assembly station with a large sheet tray as the work surface.

12

Place the cooled cookies on a wire rack set over the top half of the sheet tray. The bottom portion of the sheet tray will be for cutting the ice cream. Then set a smaller sheet tray to the left side to assemble the sandwiches. Grab a freezer safe container to save the ice cream scraps.

13

Choose a round biscuit or cookie cutter that most closely fits the size of the cookies.

14

Use a marking pen to mark 5 lines, starting 1/2 to 3/4-inch from the top, spaced about 1/2 to 3/4-inch apart on the side of the ice cream container to use as guides. This will give us 6 round slabs of ice cream, one for each sandwich.

15

Slicing one slab at a time, use a serrated knife to saw through the package and ice cream. Then use the cookie cutter to cut a disc of ice cream out of the center of the slab. Place one cookie, bottom side up on the smaller sheet tray to the left.

16

Position the ice cream disc on the upturned cookie and gently press the ice cream out of the cutter onto the cookie. Top with a second cookie and gently press together.

17

Repeat with remaining cookies and ice cream. Gather the ice cream scraps as you go and collect them in the freezer safe container to save for another time.

18

Once you have made six sandwiches cover them and place them in the freezer.

19

Freeze the sandwiches for at least 1 hour, or overnight before dipping in chocolate.

Dipping the Ica Cream Sandwiches

20

Place 2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips and 1/4 cup refined coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each increment until chocolate chips are melted and smooth. About 1 to 1.5 minutes total. Stir to fully emulsify the oil into the chocolate and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

21

Set a wire rack inside a rimmed sheet tray to catch the dipped sandwiches.

22

Take one sandwich at a time and dip it into the chocolate to cover half or 3/4 of the sandwich.

23

Let the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl and then place the dipped sandwich on the wire rack to set. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches.

24

Put the dipped sandwiches (just as they are on the wire rack in the sheet tray) in the freezer for about 20 minutes to let the chocolate fully set and harden.

25

Wrap leftover, dipped sandwiches individually in plastic wrap and keep in the freezer for at least a couple weeks. Any leftover un-sandwiched cookies will keep very well uncovered, at room temperature for 3-4 days.

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Terry
    September 15, 2022 at 10:41 am

    This is great you took me right back to the late 50’s early 60’s we used to hang out at play land at the beach all the time. I couldn’t possibly Tell you how many time we ate IT’s IT they were the best ice cream sandwich so so good.. I will definitely make these and thank you for the flash back I will keep you posted ❤️🤗 mom

    • Reply
      Kelly Djalali
      September 15, 2022 at 12:13 pm

      I thought you’d especially love this one, Mom! Also, you can buy IT’S ITs on their website, overnight delivery. I will likely do this at some point, but I will say this was such a fun and rewarding baking project. I am sure you will enjoy the process. xo Kelly

  • Reply
    Mari
    September 15, 2022 at 11:01 am

    What a great find this is! My kids love oatmeal cookies and sadly, we had never heard of IT’S IT until today. This will be a nice change of the ubiquitous chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches. I’m sure the kids and grandbabies will absolutely love these. San Francisco has some great food ideas and products, ad this is one of the best. I need to buy raisins because I only ever buy the snack sized boxes. I use what I need for recipes, and the rest become snacks. Large boxes get kind of manky as it were, because I forget I have them. We don’t use raisins a lot in baking, or cooking, so the rest become afternoon snacks, or a light meal when I’m not very hungry. Speaking of babies, my little conure, Dana, has some new words. One of the words is new, the other is an old one. We put the feathered fiends away when we are having supper, because they tend to be food pests. She was really cross at being locked up, and upset. She started out with her regular bird noises and the yelled, “Miss Baby!”, because we always call her that when we talk to her. I almost wish we called her Green Fiend because I’d love to hear her take on that.. Happy almost Thunderous Thursdays to te Djalalis, Terry, and te three charming cutes. ☔️⛅️⚡️

    • Reply
      Kelly Djalali
      September 15, 2022 at 12:17 pm

      Hi Mari, This will be such a fun baking project for you! Feel free to swap the raisins for craisins if you like – no sense in buying something you won’t use much. Do make these and let me know how they come out, and how your family likes them. IT’S ITs have been a part of growing up in San Francisco for generations. So cute that Dana has a new word. I bet it’s really a crack up when she expresses her frustrations! Have a great day! xo Kelly

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