Juno hit State College this past week. We got about 10 inches of snow which I loved! Except for the fact that it seems like there are only five snow plows in the entire city. Frustration.
Well when everybody else was hunkering down with soups, I had a hankering for ice cream. Call me crazy right? Maybe it’s because I work above the campus creamery, but I was really craving it. My mom would say it’s because I need Calcium. So actually, I had to make ice cream in order to respect my body’s needs! Haha…yeah right. Needless to say, ice cream happened. But when I do ice cream, I really do ice cream. I made magic shell to go on top of it! (And put a ton of sprinkles on it after I took these lovely, classy pictures for you)
You don’t remember magic shell? It’s that wonderful enigmatic topping that as soon as you squeezed it out of the bottle onto your ice cream, it hardened right away into a shell. If you love Dairy Queen, you’ll have encountered this likely many times in either chocolate or cherry.
The chocolate shell may seem like magic, but it’s science!
The key to chocolate shell is the oil. Coconut oil, the predominant oil used in the topping, has a high amount of saturated fat—about 90%. Fats are made up of chains of carbon in a zig zag shape. If each of those carbons have four bonds, it means that they are saturated with as many bonds as possible. It also means that the zig zags can pack closely together. This close packing means that the fat is solid at room temperature.
Unsaturated fats have at least one carbon that has less than four bonds. The missing bond is instead a double bond connecting to its neighboring carbon. A double bond in the chain changes the shape. It creates a kink in the zig zag so instead of a straight line, the zig zag might be more of a “V” of “L” in shape. These zig zags can no longer pack closely together. That’s why unsaturated fats, more commonly referred to as oil, are liquid at room temperature. Think canola oil.
Chocolate shell has lots of coconut oil. Below 74⁰F, the magic shell instantly hardens due to the solidification of the coconut oil. That’s why, in case your house is not that warm, the commercial magic shell bottle instructs you to warm it under hot tap water before using.
So now you know why it hardens. But why does it lose its glossiness when it hardens? The fat forms crystals as it cools down and hardens. This is called crystallization. Oil, is relatively clear as a liquid. This is easy to picture when you think of vegetable or canola oil. When the oil solidifies, or crystallizes, light is scattered due to the size of the lipid crystals. When you melt butter and let it cool, you can see this process as well. In the magic shell, the clear and shiny coconut oil cools quickly and crystallizes on the ice cream turning matte. When the chocolate shell loses its gloss, you know that it’s ready to crack open and eat!
No-Churn Bourbon Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Adapted from The Vanilla Bean Blog
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
2 tablespoons Bourbon
2 cups cold heavy cream
1 hazelnut chocolate bar, chopped (optional, for crunch and extra flavor)
1. In a medium bowl, mix the condensed milk, vanilla bean seeds, and Bourbon. Set aside.
2. With a standing mixer, beat the heavy cream on high until stiff peaks form (about 3-4 minutes)
If you ever overbeat your heavy cream, simply mix in more heavy cream to fix!
3. Gently fold the whipped cream into the condensed milk mixture. Do not over-mix because you want the air generated from the beater incorporated into your ice cream!
4. Add the chopped chocolate bar if desired. See note above.
5. Pour the mixture into a regular-sized loaf pan, cover, and freeze. Do not use until firm, about 8 hours. The ice cream will keep its desirable texture for about a month.
Magic Chocolate Shell
From Serious Eats
I love this recipe because they use coconut oil and some extra sugar. As this ice cream isn’t extraordinarily sweet, it’s a great addition. Follow it, and you will be in heaven!
Note: This recipe makes quite a bit of chocolate shell. If you don’t want a couple cups of sauce, feel free to make smaller versions. It won’t affect the result.
Note 2: I used a double boiler for everything and hit it with an immersion blender before using just to make sure everything was mixed well.
Note 3: If you don’t want to buy coconut oil, vegetable oil can be used, but it will take longer to solidify, and it won’t solidify as nicely. AKA it won’t be as “snappy” when you crack into it.