In just a few minutes, and with just a few ingredients, you can make your own Chocolate Hard Shell Ice Cream Topping.
What is chocolate hard shell ice cream topping?
It’s that chocolate syrup that hardens “magically” into a solid shell when it is spooned over ice cream. In its most simple form, you melt chocolate and add some type of fat like coconut oil or olive oil.
Today, I’m going to boost the chocolate flavor with one more ingredient: black cocoa.
I love, love, love using black cocoa! Black cocoa is what you use to get rich dark chocolate cakes and cookies. I particularly love it in my Black Cocoa Brownies.
How to Make Chocolate Hard Shell
Basically you need to melt chocolate with some oil. I use my microwave to do that. You can also use a double boiler on the stove top or place a heat proof bowl over a boiling pot of water. (Remember not to let the bowl touch the water or it will be too hot for the chocolate!)
But, why would I bother with that when I can quickly melt the chocolate in the microwave? So, this recipe call for using that method.
How to Melt Chocolate Successfully in the Microwave
- The secret to successfully melting chocolate in the microwave is to do it in time increments. Don’t put the bowl of chocolate pieces into the microwave, hit 5 minutes and walk away. You need to distribute the heat so that your chocolate doesn’t burn.
- Speaking of chocolate pieces, if you are cutting up a chocolate bar, try to cut it into similar sized pieces. This will help it melt evenly.
- I usually stir every 30 seconds or so at the beginning and then at 10 or 15 seconds at the end. This will depend on the wattage of your microwave, how much chocolate you are melting, the type of bowl you use and how small the pieces of chocolate are. In other words, your time may vary.
- When the chocolate mixture is warm, but not fully melted, I remove it from the microwave.
- Then, I allow the residual heat from the melted chocolate to help melt the pieces that are still not melted. In other words, if the chocolate is basically melted, but I still have a few pieces floating around that need to melt, I’ll stir the mixture for a bit to see if they will melt without putting the mixture back into the microwave to add even more heat. Of course, if it needs more heat, I’ll give it a few more seconds. Always err on the side of less heat to get the job done.
I like to add the oil in at the beginning so it just heats up with the chocolate. Then, when it’s done, I go ahead and add my extra flavorings.
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Now, I have to be honest, I was never a huge fan of the stuff when I was a kid. When my friends lined up for a dipped cone at our neighborhood Dairy Queen, I never lined up with them. Nope, I was all about the crunch coat topping, you know, that sweet, nutty, crunchy topping with rainbow sprinkles. Do you remember it? I remember it fondly.
Later, I had a roommate who became very fond of Dove bars, which again, were ice cream bars coated in a hard shell of chocolate. They were delicious, but they would not have been at the top of my ice cream novelty list.
I think it’s a texture thing. I would rather have some Chewy Hot Fudge Sauce than Chocolate Hard Shell Ice Cream Topping. You know, ooey gooey instead of hard..
That being said, those rules get thrown out when it comes to frozen chocolate covered bananas. Then, the hard shell of the chocolate is better balanced with the hard frozen banana. Roll that baby in some chopped nuts and I’m all yours!
So…after all this hardshell bashing, why do a post about chocolate hard shell? Because I have kids now and because it’s FUN! Oh, and because I can control what that hard shell is made of and what it tastes like. You know me. I like control ;)
And when you have control, you can make a chocolate hard shell ice cream topping that you love.
Let’s start with the most important ingredient, the chocolate.
Types of Chocolate You Can Use to Make Hard Shell
- First and foremost, use chocolate that tastes good to you. The better the chocolate, the better the flavor in the end result.
- Unless I’m splurging with a fancier version of this, I generally use Trader Joe’s pound plus bars if I’m making ganache or need to melt chocolate for almost any reason. For me, it has good flavor at a good value. If I want to splurge, I’ll go for Sharffenberger or Valrhona.
- If I use a bar of chocolate, that means I’ll have to chop it up into pieces so that it can melt evenly. I don’t love chopping chocolate, but I prefer the result, so I endure.
- You can use chocolate bars or good quality chocolate chips. I do not recommend using candy melts or almond bark.
- I had dark chocolate and milk chocolate on hand, so I used a mixture. You can use a mixture or stick with one. It’s your choice.
Types of Oils You Can Use to Make Chocolate Hard Shell
- Typically, coconut oil is used. Since I had some on hand and I only needed a Tablespoon for my recipe, I went with that.
- I used refined coconut oil. This is the kind of coconut oil that doesn’t have that strong coconut flavor. In fact, I don’t detect the coconut flavor at all. Of course, if you want a bit of coconut flavor, use unrefined coconut oil.
- You can also use the oil I use for most things, olive oil! I love using it in cakes, and muffins….Use a mild one if you don’t want to taste it. But, if you’d like the fruity or peppery flavor as part of you overall end result, then by all means, this is a great option.
- There are also plenty of neutral tasting oils out there like vegetable oils, avocado oil, grapeseed oil and sunflower oil that are also fine to use.
- I have not personally experimented with using butter, and it wouldn’t be my first choice to use, but I imagine it would also work. The only issue is that butter also has water in it, where the other fats are pretty much all fat. You might need to use extra to achieve a similar effect. You are also adding the flavor of butter, which some might not want. And finally, butter makes it more perishable, so I would definitely store any leftovers in the refrigerator and use promptly. For these reasons, I never use butter to make hard shell.
How Much Oil to Use to Make Chocolate Hard Shell
- I used a slightly mounded Tablespoon of coconut oil for 4 ounces of chocolate. The more fat you use, the thinner your mixture, the more you dilute the chocolate flavor. For me, this ratio protected my chocolate flavor and gave me a coating that was thick enough to really coat the ice cream and give me a good bite of chocolate, yet thin enough to drizzle and coat my ice cream.
- The oil essentially thins what would otherwise be a thicker melted chocolate. It gives the mixture more fluidity to pour and spread over a surface so that you don’t end up with thick chunks of solidified chocolate.
- If you’d like a thinner coating, feel free to add more oil. I would start with an additional teaspoon or two and see how you like it before adding more.
Now, let’s talk about the added flavor that makes this chocolate hard shell taste richer and more flavorful than your average hard shell…black cocoa!
Types of Cocoa to Use to Add Flavor to Chocolate Hard Shell
- I talked about it in the beginning of the post…I love black cocoa! I have it in my pantry and use it whenever I want that deep dark color and flavor. Black cocoa is what makes Oreo cookies black. It’s an unsweetened, Dutch processed cocoa. (Dutch cocoa is alkalized which reduces the acidity of the cocoa.)
- When I was making this hard shell, I experimented with it plain, with Hershey’s regular unsweetened cocoa (this is not dutch processed) and with the black cocoa. We decided that we like the flavor of the black cocoa the best.
- One of my favorite cocoas to use is King Arthur’s Double Dutch Dark Cocoa. The reason I love that cocoa is that is has black cocoa already mixed into it. The flavor is wonderful! (I talk all about the cocoas I love in my King Arthur Flour Favorites post. Head on over if you want to learn more. Links to all my favorite KAF products are on that post.)
- But don’t go run out and buy black cocoa if it’s something you don’t normally use or won’t use in the future. (If you are a brownie fanatic, however, I would urge you to try different cocoas as they can be life changing to your favorite brownie recipe :)
- For our purposes today? Use your favorite brand. We’re just boosting the flavor of the melted chocolate here. I personally think that a Dutch processed cocoa will give you a deeper and mellower flavor. Regular cocoas may taste a bit more acidic.
How much cocoa should I add?
- I used black cocoa, which has a pretty strong flavor. For this recipe, I used 1 teaspoon and that gave me the added richness I was looking for.
- If you use a milder cocoa, you will probably need to use more than the 1 teaspoon. The beauty of this addition is that you can add it to taste. Stir in a teaspoon and taste it. Want more chocolate flavor? Add more!
Other Flavors You Can Add to Chocolate Hard Shell
- Feel free to add a splash of vanilla extract, peppermint extract or any other flavor extract. Just add it after the chocolate is melted. I prefer not to heat up the extracts in the microwave.
- How about a hit of espresso powder for a mocha variation? Or, cinnamon? Ooooh, and then spoon it over chocolate ice cream!
(I have some other interesting ideas for adding flavor, but I think I’d like to experiment first and insure they work well before offering them up to you.)
How to Use Chocolate Hard Shell Ice Cream Topping
- Well, first of all, use it on ice cream! Allow it to cool a bit to lukewarm before you spoon over your ice cream. Then, watch as the glossy syrup loses its shine, the chocolate hardens and the surface dulls to a matte finish.
- Dip frozen bananas into it! (You know that’s my favorite way to use it :) Just remember, if you have left over after you’ve dipped fruit into it, it becomes more perishable, so refrigerate and use within a couple of days.
- You really can drizzle on anything cold and it will become hard shell. You can also just drizzle it on anything that’s not cold, like cakes and it will firm up a bit when it cools but it won’t become super hard. It will be a bit more fudgy in texture, not as fudgy as ganache, but not crack open hard as it does when poured over frozen items.
How to Store Chocolate Hard Shell Ice Cream Topping
- Theoretically, if you use an oil that’s stored at room temp (see oil info above), it can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for months. This is assuming your oil was fresh to begin with. We know that even oil can spoil and become rancid.
- I always err on a conservative side with food storage and safety, so I store mine in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The truth is, whether you store it at room temperature or in the refrigerator, with the ratio of fat to chocolate that I’ve provided, it will not remain in its melted liquid state. You will need to reheat it in the microwave (in increments, as mentioned above) to return it to its lovely syrup consistency.
That’s basically it, kids. Melt chocolate and oil. Stir in flavorings. It couldn’t be easier, which is why this recipe makes a small batch. I have no need to have it ready to go at all times because it basically takes no time to make. I make it on demand.
If you use good chocolate, this Chocolate Hard Shell Ice Cream Topping will, hands down, taste better than the stuff you buy at the store.
Of course, that means I’m going to have to admit to you that I actually LIKE the stuff now. Imagine that ;)