For all the talk of molecular gastronomy, most recipes of which would be impossible to replicate for any home cook, there are still some party tricks that do not require liquid nitrogen or maltodextrin. My latest favourite one is the chocolate shell I discovered courtesy of Thomas Keller.
It all started out with coconut oil. Once maligned, it has regained popularity, especially in vegan baking which is where my curiosity was pushing me. There are two types of coconut oil – refined, which is used to cook at high temperatures (think stir-fry) and virgin (for baking and medium heat cooking). After some investigating, I brought home a not inexpensive jar of organic virgin coconut oil.
My first experiment was to add it to some coconut shrimp saute that would normally require a splash of coconut milk – the oil gave it a more subtle but still very coconut-y flavour. Next were brownies – I took one my standard recipes and I substituted coconut oil for vegetable one. It also works if your recipe calls for butter. I sprinkled some dried unsweetened coconut flakes on top of the batter before baking it and the result was a deliciously dark, moist chocolate brownie with a coconut punch.
But here is the party trick. Because coconut oil is solid, once added to melted chocolate and then poured atop cold ice-cream, it makes the chocolate sauce harden into a shell in a matter of seconds. Poured in front of your guests, it will draw some happy smiles.
CHOCOLATE SHELL – adapted from Thomas Keller
7 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 T virgin coconut oil
- Place the chopped chocolate in a small heat proof bowl and melt it slowly on a bain marie.
- Add the coconut oil and stir gently with a spatula until completely dissolved.
- Keep it warm until ready to use. Pour it on ice-cream and you will see it harden in a few seconds.