Tuesday, June 5, 2012

That's it! The ultimate ice cream sandwich.

Homemade It's-It. © Ryan Schierling

There was a time a few years ago when I did a brief stint as an ice cream sandwich trafficker. I only had one customer, and I didn't make a nickel in profit. But, then, I would have been hard-pressed to get a whole case of this sinful confection into my little freezer had I not fobbed my good fortune onto another willing party. It's a tough habit to kick when your "customer" is equally enthusiastic about getting their hands on the good stuff.

The only way to get It's-Its in Seattle was by ordering a case from the local Cash & Carry and waiting a few weeks. Had a nearby grocery store not stepped up to the plate and started distributing, well… who knows how long I would have continued dealing. 

Precious and exclusive – it's the way some food items seem determined to remain. There's always that one food that is so regional, and so perfect, that when you find yourself located outside the reach of its geographic distribution area you come to crave it terribly. Finding It's-Its outside of the San Francisco Bay Area is about as difficult as finding a Melty Bar outside of Oshkosh or a boozy kirsch cordial outside of the European Union. You either have to know people to get them, or pay a fortune to have them shipped.

The first time I had an It's-It was as a college student living in California's Napa Valley. I'd be willing to bet that almost anyone who knows what these are have either lived in California at some point, or know someone who has. They are particularly regional and decidedly delicious. No other ice cream sandwich comes close; there's just something about the cookie that makes this treat amazing. The vanilla ice cream flavor is the classic iteration of this confection and my favorite.

After three years here in the great state of Texas, the summer heat and the hankering for an It's-It finally got the better of me. When I realized that having a case shipped to Texas 'overnight' would set me back $87, I decided it was time to work out my own version.
That's where my friend Jane comes in. Jane's husband, Elliot, was the one constantly checking in to see if I had acquired new product (okay, I do exaggerate... some) and also the one to discover that Safeway had started carrying them. It was around this time that Jane came upon an ice cream sandwich maker that she decided I should have. I have never really imagined that I would find myself going to such trouble for an ice cream sandwich, but I kept it… because Jane isn't a woman to give a gift without intention and I trust that implicitly. Of course, it was perfect.

Chocolate covered ice cream sandwich in progress. © Ryan Schierling

A few words about assembly may be in order here. First, make the cookie dough and refrigerate. It will stay good for several days in the fridge. The cookies, once baked and completely cool, should be chilled even further in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before assembling the ice cream sandwich. This helps keep the ice cream from melting (as much as possible) while being handled and pressed into shape. The 3" diameter sandwich maker I used worked very well proportionally, but there are plenty of options out there to achieve the goal.

Immediately return your completed sandwich to a rack in the freezer to harden in it's new shape for at least an hour or two – but overnight works better. (A piece of waxed paper under your rack is recommended in case of drips.) The final step is dipping them in the chocolate – see recipe below for optimal temperature directions. You may use your fingers, or even a thin spatula to do this. You just want to coat them thoroughly. You may return them to the baking rack you had them on, or set them on a tray with Silpat® at this point. The coating will harden quickly, but you will still want to return the coated ice cream to the freezer for at least another hour or two to firm up before serving.

Or, once fully frozen, wrap your homemade It's-Its individually in waxed paper, put them in individual zip-close bags, and return to the freezer for enjoyment on a future hot summer day.

Rolled Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup palm shortening
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins, finely chopped (or use food processor)
2 tablespoons graham flour (or substitute all-purpose)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats, pulverized in food processor
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon

In a large bowl, cream together palm shortening and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Mix in chopped raisins. Pre-measure the dry ingredients and gradually mix/stir in the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon.
Separate batter into two portions, spreading up to 1” thick on sheet of wax paper and wrap ends over to cover. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick on smooth surface (or on waxed paper) dusted with flour. Cut into shapes with cookie cutter appropriate to the size and shape of your ice cream sandwiches. (I used an approximately 3" round.)
Place cookies 1 inch apart on (lightly greased or) parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Bake 5 to 6 minutes in preheated oven, or until just barely golden around the edges. Remove from cookie sheets to cool completely. 

Shell Coating
10 ounces dark chocolate chips
6 ounces (3/4 cup) coconut oil 
Combine ingredients in double boiler over low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature . A few minutes in the fridge can help, but too long and it can start to harden. The coating needs to be completely liquid for dipping, but cool enough not to melt the ice cream on contact.


  1. Wow.... that's a lot of work! But now I'm gonna have to stop at Safeway and see if I can find them...

  2. Laura, there are a few steps to the process, but thankfully each step is easy and can be taken in stages. Now we have a few in the freezer that can be enjoyed for the next month - or as long as we can stretch this batch before I need to make more...

  3. I've lived in the Bay Area for close to 40 years and LOVE It's Its. This recipe looks like a terrific reproduction. Thank you!

  4. Mon Cheris! that boozy cordial chocolate, loved by the most delighted of French ladies. I have some coming to me in about 12 days from my friend in Paris, she's smuggling them in her luggage-contraband!!!!

  5. Anon- You're welcome! Granted, it's been three years since we've had the real thing, but we think they taste astonishingly accurate. Do let us know if you try them.

    We considered trying the mint (our second favorite It's-It flavor), but finding unnaturally blue-green mint ice cream without chips is nearly impossible. Maybe one of these days I'll have time to experiment with a homemade version of that, too.

  6. Dawn- Oh, oh, oh... the siren song of those precious cherry cordials may be the singular thing that makes a chocolatier out of me one day.

  7. Can you elaborate on the 3-inch "sandwich maker" that you mentioned (and I assume is pictured above)? I can't really figure out where to find this. Looking forward to making these this weekend!

    1. The "sandwich maker" so kindly gifted to me is by Pampered Chef.


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