Chocolate Magic Shell

The kid in us loves this simple, crispy chocolate ice cream “sauce.” A little mysterious, the warm glossy chocolate hardens on contact with frozen scoops of ice cream, leaving a thin shell that breaks into shards as the spoon takes its first swipe at the cool creamy treat below. No matter the ice cream flavor, a drizzle of homemade chocolate shell is always a welcome addition.

So what’s the secret? How does liquid chocolate turn to a brittle shell on top of ice cream? Coconut oil! That’s right, pure, extra virgin coconut oil. This delicious tropical oil remains liquid at temperatures above 76 degrees, a not uncommon temperature in a busy kitchen. But once cooled, coconut oil gets very hard. And, like chocolate, the colder the coconut fat gets, the more brittle it becomes. The result of combining them is a delightfully crunchy ice cream topper.

The flavors of coconut and chocolate compliment one another perfectly. Beyond great flavor, their high saturated fat content protects them from oxidation. That means your batch of chocolate shell will last months at room temperature if kept tightly covered. We recommend using the best dark chocolate you can afford for this recipe. If you want to make a large batch to share with others, we’re fans of Trader Joe’s PoundPlus bars of 72% dark Belgian chocolate. Besides having great flavor, it offers a big bang for the buck. If a Trader Joe’s is not in your area, use the best chocolate you can find. The coconut oil used here is a cold-pressed, organic extra virgin coconut oil from Nutiva. It has a light taste and beautiful white color. When shopping for coconut oil, just remember to look for organic options and buy only non-hydrogenated virgin oil.

The chocolate shell on the shelf of the local grocery may be easy enough to grab, but if you can warm water on the stove, you can whip up your own batch of chocolate shell in minutes. We use the recipe written by the good folks at America’s Test Kitchen here. They know how to test a recipe and we’re happy to report this one is perfect.

Chocolate Ice Cream Shell
By America’s Test Kitchen*

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder
Pinch salt
4    ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (whatever dark chocolate you prefer)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1    teaspoon cocoa

Stir vanilla, espresso powder, and salt together in small bowl until espresso dissolves. Microwave chocolate and coconut oil in medium bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 4 minutes. Whisk in vanilla mixture and cocoa until combined. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before using. Chocolate shell can be stored at room temperature in airtight container for at least 2 months; microwave, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, before using.

*We do not own a microwave (shocking, we know). Instead of nuking the ingredients here, we made a double boiler out of a sauce pan and a stainless steel bowl. It’s easy enough to melt the chocolate and coconut oil on the stove top over boiling water. It really doesn’t take much more time than a microwave. Remember, once cooled and stored, your magic shell may turn into a solid mass in the cupboard. To rewarm, loosen the lid, set the jar in a small saucepan and add enough water to come half way up the side of the jar and heat over a very low flam until the chocolate is liquid. This process takes less time than it takes your ice-cream to soften for scooping!

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Dear Summer: Why so short?

All the makings of gazpacho.

Two days in San Francisco – is that really all we can get out of you? You didn’t give us any time to prepare and enjoy the first truly summery soup and ice cream we made especially for your visit. Rude! It was all too brief, but I guess we’ll just have to enjoy our cold soup and accompanying creamy frozen concoction with our old reliable friend – Fog. It’s not that we don’t enjoy Fog, but all he does is hang around, sometimes letting a few rays of blue sky through, only to envelop the skies again in his moody grey cloak. Not that we’re complaining or anything like that. No, don’t worry about us. We’ll just sit in our little kitchen listening to the mood music on KFOG. Oh listen, it’s Annie Lenox singing “Here comes the rain…again,” while the rest of the country is dancing to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.” Yeah, well, our CA gals are in sweatshirts, not bikinis, thank you very much! (Sorry for the outburst.)

Getting ready to blend

Summer, we know you said you’d be back soon, but you’re unreliable. You show up when you want and leave without saying good-bye. How can that be any good for us? We know you’ve hosted a pool party for the rest of the country, setting high temperature records everywhere  while we have to stay in the cold comfort of San Francisco. Again, we’re not complaining. But really, Summer, couldn’t you have hung around at least one more night? Just long enough to enjoy dinner with its menu of gazpacho with grilled cheese sandwiches and bourbon peach ice cream? Is that really too much to ask? We could have drank all night and danced until the wee hours of morning, but no, you had to leave.

All along, the weather people have been telling us you’d be around at least a few weeks. And just when the bounty of this year’s tomato harvest is coming to us in our CSA box. We really thought this would last until at least the end of September, but now you’ve just upped and split on us again. That’s no way to live. So, Summer, if you’re out there: please come back for another visit. Even with all the complaining we do while you’re here, we really do enjoy you’re company at least for 3-4 days in a row. Oh, by the way Summer, since we miss your heat so much we’ve added a roasted jalapeño pepper to the gazpacho, a lingering zippy sensation to signify how we wished you had stayed around just a little longer.


Jason and Steve

The finished product with grilled cheese.

Gazpacho Soup

2 sweet peppers

½ onion

½ cup of milk (or enough to cover the onion)

4 tomatoes

2 small cucumbers

3 garlic cloves

¼ – ½ cup olive oil

small handful of basil leaves

2 slices bread

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or more to taste)

Tabasco – to taste

salt & pepper – to taste

Roast and skin the peppers. Mince onion and soak in milk for about a half an hour. Peel tomato skins and rough chop. Peel cucumber and rough chop. Chop garlic into large pieces, add to sauté pan with olive oil and let sear for a few minutes, don’t brown, allow to cool. Tear the bread and soak in water for about half an hour.

Drain the milk from the onions, add onions to a blender. Squeeze the water from the bread and the bread to the blender. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, chopped roasted peppers, basil, sherry vinegar, Tabasco, salt, pepper and olive oil to the blender. Puree until smooth. Chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours, or overnight, before serving.

Bourbon Peach Ice Cream

2 cups cream

2 cups whole milk

2 cinnamon sticks

6 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons reserved bourbon from peaches (or from the bottle)

½ – 1 cup chopped bourbon peaches (or fresh peaches)

Add the cream and milk to a medium saucepan with cinnamon sticks over medium heat to warm. Leave the milk on the back of the stove with the heat off for about 20-30 minutes. Reheat the milk and cream before continuing.

In a separate pan add the egg yolks, sugar and salt and whisk together. Slowly add the milk, about ¼ to ½ cup at a time to temper the egg yolks. After you have added about 2 cups milk pour the mixture back in the saucepan over medium low heat and cook until slightly thick. At this point you are making a light custard. You don’t want the custard to be too thick, nor do you want to scramble the eggs. Once the custard is made add the bourbon and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours or overnight. Add to your ice cream maker and process for 25-30 minutes, or according to your ice cream machine. Add the chopped bourbon peaches to the ice cream in the last 5 minutes.

Freezer for another two hours and enjoy on a hot summer day, or a cold winter one (like most July days in San Francisco).

Bourbon Peaches

We preserved some peaches in Bulliett bourbon by skinning, removing the pit, and cutting the peaches in half. Pouring enough bourbon over the peaches to cover. You can add some ginger pieces to the jar, if you wish. Refrigerate overnight or up to two months. Use the bourbon in cocktails, desert, ice cream, etc.