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
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!