One of my favorite summer excursions is to head to Pisgah National Forest in the mountains of North Carolina and go to Sliding Rock. You drive deep into the forest and then come to a break in the magnificent trees and rocks to a parking lot crammed with cars unloading folks who, like you, want to slide down a natural waterfall and splash into an icy cold pool of water. It is refreshing, exhilarating and loads of fun. And when you are done, wet and sun-drenched and exhausted, you head out and follow all the cars to the next obligatory stop, Dolly’s Ice Cream at the intersection of the two main roads leading out of the forest. I don’t actually know if Dolly’s has the best ice cream in the world or if it just tastes that way when you are wet and happy and have spent your last few slides down the rocks contemplating what flavor you will have. But in addition to really interesting flavors and mix-ins, the very best thing about Dolly’s in my opinion is that it offers dipped cones – an absolute favorite of mine – and…drumroll, please! – you can dip their hard ice cream too! I absolutely love a good dipped cone – you know the flavored shell that hardens into crackling goodness atop your ice cream cone – but it is usually only offered with soft-serve ice cream. I am not a huge fan of soft-serve – I like there to be a little more heft to my ice cream and I also like there to be interesting things in it (like nuts and cookies and such). So to be able to have my ice cream of choice AND my dip of choice – well, that makes the two and a half hour drive well worth it for the ice cream concoctions alone!
It never occurred to me to try to make the dip of my beloved dipped cones at home. And then the July copy of Food Network Magazine showed up and they featured a variety of shell toppings!!! I was beyond excited and had to make some immediately. And they are ridiculously easy! No complicated chemicals or procedures. It turns out coconut oil is the secret ingredient that gives the shells their luster and hardening properties.
And let me tell you, this newfound knowledge and skillset (such as it is) have been put to good use in our household. I know this would have been better to share in the summer, but I am a firm believer in year-round ice cream consumption… and once you try these shells, you will join me in being a firm believer in year-round dipped ice cream consumption.
Each recipe makes about ¾ cup. If you have any leftover, you can store it in the fridge and then just microwave it for about 30 seconds to melt it again.
Basic Chocolate Shell Topping
6 ounces semisweet, white or milk chocolate, chopped
¼ cup refined coconut oil
Pinch of fine sea salt
Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a bare simmer. Combine the chocolate, coconut oil and sea salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set over the pan (do not let the bowl touch the water). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is well combined, 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the pan and let the mixture cool at least 15 minutes before pouring on top of ice cream (or you can dip your ice cream in the mixture instead). Transfer any remaining sauce to an airtight microwave-safe container and refrigerate up to 3 months. To remelt, uncover and microwave in 10-second intervals, stirring, until pourable.
And here are a bunch of fun variations:
Use semisweet chocolate. Stir 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder into the warm sauce. Stir in ½ cup chopped chocolate covered espresso beans, then let cool.
Use white chocolate. Stir 1 tablespoon matcha powder into the warm sauce. Let cool.
Peanut Butter Shell:
Use milk chocolate. Stir 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter and ½ cup chopped salted roasted peanuts into the warm sauce. Let cool.
Use semisweet chocolate. Finely grind 1 cup freeze-dried raspberries in a food processor, then stir into the warm sauce. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, then let cool.
Use white chocolate. Finely grind 1 cup freeze-dried strawberries in a food processor, then stir into the warm sauce. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, then let cool.
Use bittersweet chocolate. Stir 1 ½ teaspoons peppermint extract into the warm sauce. Let cool.
Use white chocolate. Let the sauce cool, then stir in ½ cup rainbow sprinkles.
Use white chocolate. Finely grind 1 cup freeze-dried bananas in a food processor, then stir into the warm sauce. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, then let cool.