Sunday, June 17, 2012

DIY Magic Shell

There are some things you can recreate at home.
There are some things you cannot.
Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.
Sometimes the costs are high – in money and in time.
And sometimes they are low.

For example:
I saw on Pinterest a recipe for homemade magic shell.  You know the hardening chocolate sauce for ice cream like a Dairy Queen dipped cone?  Magic shell came on the market when I was a kid and we thought it was such a cool concept.  I remember getting the original and the chocolate mint flavors.  

So naturally, when I saw a recipe for homemade magic shell I was excited.  When I clicked and read the blog post, I was even MORE excited because the recipe contained only 2 ingredients: Chocolate Chips and Coconut Oil.  Even better! It looked simple and not filled with a bunch of junky ingredients.   And then I tried it.  To my delight it took only 3 minutes to make, didn’t cost much, left no mess and it worked!!!  So now, we magic shell things whenever we can.
Bobbie's Dairy Dip is a local favorite spot here in Nashville and they serve dipped cones, as suggested in the name.  They always have chocolate and another flavor.  The flavors rotate and include: peanut butter, butterscotch, coconut (YUM!), blue raspberry (ick!), etc.  So, after making the magic shell, my inventive son suggested we make another flavor, inspired by Bobbie's.  We decided since peanut butter chips can be purchased, it would be an easy substitution.  It worked.  (Though I would rather have a spoonful of actual peanut butter in my ice cream).  

This is an example of DIY gone right.

In contrast, after combing the entire Target store the other day with my 8 year old (who had a gift card from her birthday burning a hole in her pocket), she came to a decision.  She wanted to get a Dippin' Dots maker.  I was less than thrilled with this decision, as I had a feeling it was too good to be true.  After all, the real Dippin' Dots are made at 360 degrees BELOW zero with Liquid Nitrogen!   My rational opposition to this purchase was negated and overridden by my husband and daughter.  “It’s worth a try!”,  “It’s kinda fun”, “What if it works?”, “It’s her money after all, and a giftcard!”  I knew that Dave’s love for Dippin' Dots had overtaken his mind.  I looked at Asher.  We shook our heads and said, "this isn’t gonna work."  But we lost, and they won. 

all of the pieces that come with this contraption, which we then have to store somewhere in our house (notice the prepared Dippin' Dots are a sketch vs. the photo of the other parts...clever)
She bought the Dippin' Dots Maker and upon arriving home, we opened the package and took out the 35 parts and began reading the instructions.  A few minutes later, we realized that there was no “flavor packet” included, and then saw the fine print that stated that it is sold separately.  So, there we were with a lot of little parts, an instruction manual and no ice cream stuff.  It said, “use your favorite drink.” So, we made chocolate milk and gave it a go.  It was a complicated, messy process.   And the result….
4 hours later was blobs of chocolate ice milk that were formed into circles that were connected into round sheets.  They didn't resemble Dippin' Dots, nor ice cream. What a let down.

When I looked online at the reviews, AFTER THE FACT, the average score of over 100 reviews was a 1.9 on a 5 point scale.  One of the customer reviews that I thought illustrated the DIY probability profoundly said:

"Will not make real Dippin' Dots!
The only way to make real Dippin' Dots is with liquid nitrogen. It's a bit complicated and a parental supervision is a must, but it can be done. Liquid nitrogen can be purchased from your local welding gas supplier usually. You'll also need to buy a few things on [...].. A "dewar" to transport the liquid nitrogen, a condiments bottle, and a stainless steel mesh strainer. I also use a open top vacuum flask to make the dots in, but any stainless or Pyrex bowl will work fine. It's actually really easy to make it, once you get together the parts you need. You make any ice cream base recipe you can find online... Pour the liquid nitrogen into your bowl from the transport dewar. Drip the ice cream base from the condiment bottle into the bowl with the liquid nitrogen... Then scoop out the dots with the strainer and put them in the bowl you intend to serve them in. Stir them around till they've melted to the side of the bowl a little bit to ensure the temp isn't too cold or you'll get frost bite (bad)."

That simple, huh? 

Dave found coupons for Dippin' Dots stores included in the box.  He saw this as the redemption of the money lost on this not-very-effective product.  I saw the inclusion of these coupons as an acknowledgement by the company that these “DIY Dippin Dots” would be so disappointing that you would have to go to the store to buy the real-made-at-360-degrees-below-zero-Dippin' Dots.

I overheard Dave the next day, when they were making round two, say, "we can only make these when I am in town!!  You can't ask your mom to do this with you all." Good call, Dave.

So the moral of this story is:  
Some things are DIY and some things are just not. 
I usually ask myself questions like:  Is it easy?  Is it cheaper than the real thing?  Is it more convenient than the real thing?  Is it fun to make? Healthier? How many ingredients do I have to buy? How much equipment do I have to store?  IF these questions are answered favorably, then I’m willing to go for it and try to "do it myself."  Otherwise, forget about it.

To make Magic Shell:
Place 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
and 1/2 cup coconut oil 
into a glass 2 cup measuring cup (or bowl).

Stir together.
Place in microwave for 1 minute.  Stir.  Return to microwave if needed for a few seconds at a time until fully melted.
Add a couple of pinches of coarse salt.
(You can do this process on the stove top in a small pan if you'd rather).
Pour over ice cream and wait for a few seconds for it to harden.

I bought plastic squeeze bottles at the dollar store to use for pouring and storing it.

It can keep for weeks unrefrigerated.  If it becomes solid, warm it up for a few seconds and it should be good.

We tried it with peanut butter chips.  You can also add flavoring to the chocolate – like mint!  Or you can top ice cream with pecans or coconut along with the magic favorite!


  1. I love this.
    Being the youngest child with a mom who traveled on the weekends and wanted to leave her kid with activities, just about every DIY kit that target and toys r us ever sold made its way through our household; McFlurry makers, chocolate candy kits, snow cone makers, crayon and maker kits, etc...

    Never was I ever able replicate what the box had on the cover or what you could buy at the actual store! (Or make using real tools rather than plastic and a light bulb!) I was always convinced that the "next thing" would work; not to mention I was simply drawn to the perfect picture on the box and HAD to have it. :-)

    The saddest part is, if let loose in Toys R us today, I am almost certain that I would end up buying another kit! There's something about the joy and excitement of doing it yourself "Kid Style" that I'll never grow out of!

  2. I think my favorite part of the whole post (although the whole dippin dots story was AWESOME and I'm sure had every mom of young children laughing) was the part where Dave says to the kids "you are only allowed to do this when I'm IN TOWN". That right there says TONS about what a great husband Dave is.. Love you guys and Miss you!!!

  3. Angela...I know you must appreciate that disclaimer of Dave's since you have an incredible husband too. I love knowing that you laughed. I laughed as I was writing it.

    And Capri, you have made me feel much better knowing that it could be far worse – there could be a pantry full of these DIY items!