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The Magic of Magic Shell

Have you stopped to wonder what’s so magic about Magic Shell? Why does it harden into a delicious chocolatey shell when you pour it on your ice cream, while regular chocolate syrup doesn’t? Everyday Einstein explores the mystery.

By
Lee Falin, PhD,
October 13, 2013
Episode #072

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Last week, we talked about the science behind blowing on your hot chocolate to cool it off. This week we head to the opposite end of the dessert temperature spectrum, and sit magicshelldown for nice cold bowl of ice cream.

As you might imagine, my family of 7 has wide and varied tastes when it comes to ice cream toppings. Some of us like whipped cream, others like nuts, some don’t care for sprinkles, and I’m the only one enlightened enough to appreciate cherries. However there’s one topping that is universally loved in our home: Magic Shell. 

But have you stopped to wonder what’s so magic about magic shell? Why does it harden into a delicious chocolatey shell when you pour it on your ice cream, while regular chocolate syrup doesn’t?

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I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts

The key ingredient behind the magic of Magic Shell is coconut oil. Coconut oil allows the chocolatey goo to harden on contact with ice cream (or anything else cold) thanks to its relatively high melting point.

Coconut oil has a melting point of around 25o Celsius (or 770 Fahrenheit).   This means that as long as it’s at least that warm, coconut oil will stay in liquid form. However if you were to cool it down (by pouring it on ice cream for example), it freezes into a solid.

By comparison, olive oil has a melting point of -6o Celsius (or 21o Fahrenheit). So there’s a much smaller chance of it freezing if you were to pour it on your ice cream.

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