Whenever I see a picture of strawberries dipped in chocolate my mouth waters. It takes me back to the nineteen eighties and the cover shot on the first issue of Chocolatier magazine. In my mind few things conjure up the same level of decadent pleasure as a ripe strawberry coated in rich dark chocolate. I have made them several times and recreated the beauty, but I have never been satisfied with how they ate. I have always worked with pure chocolate, tempering it in a bowl and then dipping the strawberries. Sometimes I would double dip the strawberries, first in milk chocolate then in dark or visa verse, but in every case the chocolate was too hard for the texture of the strawberries. It cracked and shattered when I bit into it, and it melted too slowly. The release of chocolate flavor was always out of sync with the flavor of the strawberry.
Recently I solved this problem, and the solution was so simple; a classic ice cream shell. Chocolate and ice cream don’t mix well. Cocoa butter has a melting point of around 95oF, almost body temperature. This is why a piece of chocolate melts with such creamy richness in your mouth. Ice cream makes the mouth much colder than the melting point of cocoa butter. If you mix pure chocolate with ice cream and then eat it, the chocolate melts very slowly. The ice cream disappears quickly, and you are left with a mouthful of chocolate pieces that feel grainy and waxy. To get around this, chocolate destined for use in ice cream often has some vegetable fats mixed in with it. This depresses the melting point of the cocoa butter so that the chocolate will melt and release its flavor in a cold mouth full of ice cream.
I make a chocolate shell or chocolate coating designed to solidify instantly when poured on ice cream, but with a melting point low enough to melt quickly in the mouth. My secret ingredient is natural, unrefined coconut oil that I buy at Costco or Wegman’s. I combine six ounces of Scharffen Berger 70% Bittersweet Chocolate with three tablespoons (roughly 20%) of coconut oil in a stainless-steel bowl and melt it in a Bain Marie. I then whisk it for about 30 seconds to make sure its blended and then store it in a microwaveable container. When someone wants ice cream, I break out the shell coating, microwave it for about a minute, let it cool a little and then pour it over the ice cream. It instantly solidifies to form a delicious chocolate “shell” that has the perfect texture when eaten.
What if I dipped cold strawberries in the chocolate shell? Guess what? The same thing happens. Ten minutes in the refrigerator after dipping and you have beautiful, room temperature stable, chocolate coated strawberries and when you bite into them the shell doesn’t crack or shatter. It melts immediately in your mouth with a wonderful release of chocolate flavor perfectly synchronized with the release of flavor from the strawberry. And even better the chocolate shell requires no tempering. You just melt it, let it cool to around 90oF and dip your strawberries. It works equally well with Scharffen Berger 62% Semisweet chocolate, 70% Bittersweet Chocolate, 41% Milk Chocolate, 50% Dark Milk Chocolate or 43% Oat Milk Chocolate.
Here is the simple process:
Making the Shell Coating
- Combine 6 ounces of Scharffen Berger 70% Bittersweet Chocolate Chunks with 3 tablespoons of unrefined coconut oil in a stainless-steel bowl.
- Place the bowl in a Bain Marie and let the ingredients melt.
- Once melted remove from the Bain Marie and whisk or stir vigorously to mix the chocolate and coconut oil together.
- The chocolate shell swill be around 115oF when you remove it from the Bain Marie.
- Allow the shell coating to cool to 90oF, stirring occasionally.
Dipping the Strawberries
- While the shell coating cools place the strawberries in the freezer—about ten minutes maximum. This will speed up solidification when the shell coating touches the cold surface of the strawberry. Don’t let strawberries freeze.
- Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Hold a strawberry by the leaves on top and dip it in the shell coating, rolling it around to coat as much of the surface as possible. If you prefer you can use a chocolate dipping tool or a fork.
- Remove the strawberry and allow the excess shell coating to drain back into the bowl.
- Place the strawberry on the parchment paper and repeat until the desired number of strawberries are coated.
- Once you are done dipping you can allow the shell coating on the strawberries to solidify at room temperature (68oF) or to speed up the process you can put the tray in the refrigerator. Take them out of the refrigerator at least ten minutes before serving.
- If a thicker coating is preferred the strawberries can be dipped a second time either in the same chocolate shell or a different one to give a more decorative effect.
- A different chocolate shell can also be dribbled on the strawberries for a Jackson Pollack-like decoration.
Serve and enjoy. I guarantee they will disappear quickly.
Note: Leftover chocolate shell can be stored in a microwaveable container. It will keep just like any chocolate but should be kept out of the light. I keep it in the refrigerator not to keep it cold, but to keep it in the dark.
To use microwave carefully, just enough to melt the shell coating completely.