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Comfort Food: In this weather, popsicles


Nice and cool, just like we like them. (Nancy Baggett)

Great minds think alike. Just as Jane Black of the Food section was researching her popsicle piece, I've been chilling out with my own homemade ice pops and have come to crave them on steamy days. They are amazingly refreshing and satisfying, not to mention economical, plus they’re a terrific way to take stay hydrated when temperatures soar. During the last heat wave I was trekking to the freezer for them all day long.

I don’t feel too guilty about eating my ice pops or giving them to my grandchildren, though, because all my recipes start with fruit juice or fruit. I wanted these pops to have kid-friendly flavors that my grandkids would like, and both the raspberry-white grape and chocolate-banana recipes here fill that bill. (See some of my other, more sophisticated popsicle recipes here.)

“Plain” raspberry-grape pops require nothing more than 2/3 cup white grape-raspberry frozen juice concentrate diluted with 1 cup water. (The same formula can be used with frozen pineapple juice concentrate enhanced with a few drops of vanilla to create equally quick and tasty pineapple pops.) I like to use brands that contain only juice products and no artificial colors or added sugar, though you could probably substitute frozen fruit punch concentrates, if desired. To make the “two-tone” raspberry pops just follow the recipe after the jump. You can even make raspberry and chocolate-banana fudgesicles by layering the two mixtures as shown.

I started out making my pops using an inexpensive commercial plastic popsicle mold and 3-ounce plastic cups and purchased wooden sticks (found in a craft store). Either will do well, and I’ve provided instructions here for both. Then I purchased and experimented with a Zoku quick pop maker, which is admittedly an unnecessary luxury but lots of fun. (Besides being available at Zoku's site, you can buy one for $50 at Williams-Sonoma.) Now, my grandkids have been enjoying making their own pops using these recipes and the new Zoku I couldn’t resist getting for them.

Recipe Included

A couple of tips to keep in mind if you decide to create your own pops or want to modify my recipes: If you feel a need to sweeten, use honey rather than sugar. The sugar may produce grainy pops, but honey won’t. Also, while reduced-sugar pops will work in commercial plastic popsicle molds and plastic cups, the Zoku specifically advises against them, warning that they stick in the molds. Finally, remember not to overfill the molds or cups; the mixture expands a good bit when it freezes and you don’t want it to dislodge the stick or touch the foil covering the top.

-- Nancy Baggett

Nancy’s latest cookbook is "Kneadlessly Simple: Fabulous, Fuss-Free No-Knead Breads" (Wiley, 2009). She lives in Maryland and blogs at Kitchen Lane.

Chocolate-Banana Fudge Pops
Makes six 3-ounce servings

These have a fairly bold chocolate-banana flavor, but you can cut back the cocoa powder to 2 tablespoons and/or reduce the banana slightly for a milder taste. For proper texture, don't omit the banana completely.

Generous 1/3 cup boiling water
1 ounce semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (either American-style or Dutch-process)
1/3 cup clover honey or other mild honey, or more to taste
1 large (or 2 small) overripe bananas, peeled and cut into chunks
Scant 2/3 cup cold water

Combine the boiling water, chocolate, cocoa and honey in the bowl of a food processor. Let stand for 3 or 4 minutes so the chocolate can soften. Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the banana chunks and puree until smooth.

Measure the water in a large liquid measuring cup with a pour spout, then add the banana mixture and stir to incorporate. Cool to room temperature.

If making ice pops using 3-ounce plastic cups or plastic popsicle molds, pour the mixture into them, dividing it equally. Leave about 1/3-inch of headroom at the top, as the frozen pops will expand. Add the plastic sticks to the molds as directed. If using paper cups, cover each with a small square of aluminum foil; make a slit in the center top; and insert wooden popsicle sticks into the cups. Freeze the molds or cups until the popsicles are thoroughly frozen; depending on the freezer this may take at least 4 and up to 8 hours. Remove them from the cups by dipping their outsides in warm water for 10 to 20 seconds (don't overdo it), and/or flexing the cups or molds until the popsicles loosen from the sides. If necessary, loosen the pops from the sides using a thin knife to break the vacuum.

If using a Zoku pop maker, cover and refrigerate the chocolate-banana mixture for several hours, until well chilled. Have the Zoku maker thoroughly frozen (24 hours). Insert the Zoku plastic sticks into its molds as directed. Pour the mixture into the Zoku molds up to the fill line. When the pops are thoroughly frozen, remove them from the molds using the orange tool as directed. Don't try to pry the pops from the molds using a knife, as the interior of the molds may be damaged. Add new plastic sticks and make a second round of pops, if desired.

Eat the pops immediately or freeze for later use.

Per serving: 110 calories, 1 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 20 g sugar


Raspberry-White Grape Popsicles
Makes six 3-ounce servings

These two-tone pops contain a little yogurt, which boosts nutrition. Although the recipe calls for white grape-raspberry juice concentrate, I've substituted Concord grape juice frozen concentrate with good results.

For the juice layer
Generous 1/2 cup cold water
1/3 cup white grape-raspberry frozen juice concentrate (may substitute Concord grape juice frozen concentrate)

For the yogurt mixture layer
1/3 cup white grape-raspberry frozen juice concentrate
3 tablespoons regular or low-fat (sweetened) raspberry or vanilla yogurt
5 tablespoons cold water

For the juice layer: Stir together the cold water and juice concentrate in a 1-cup liquid measuring cup with a pour spout, until well blended.

For the yogurt layer: In a 2-cup measure with pour spout, use a small whisk or a fork to thoroughly blend the juice concentrate and yogurt in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup with a pour spout, until completely smooth. Stir in the water until incorporated.

If making ice pops using 3-ounce plastic cups or plastic popsicle molds, pour the juice mixture into them until they are slightly more than halfway full. If using molds, add the plastic sticks as directed. If using paper cups, cover each with a small square of aluminum foil; make a slit in the center top; and insert wooden popsicle sticks into the cups. Freeze the molds or cups until the mixture is mostly frozen; depending on the freezer this may take up to 2 hours. Fill the cups or molds nearly full with the juice-yogurt mixture, leaving about 1/3-inch of headroom at the top, as the frozen pops will expand.

Return to the freezer until frozen completely, 2 to 4 more hours, depending on the freezer. Remove the popsicles from the molds or cups by dipping their exteriors in warm water for 10 to 20 seconds, and/or flexing the cups or molds until the popsicles loosen from the sides. If necessary, loosen the pops from the sides using a table knife to break the vacuum.

If using a Zoku pop maker, cover and refrigerate the mixtures for several hours until well chilled. Have the Zoku maker thoroughly frozen (24 hours). Insert the Zoku plastic sticks into its molds as directed. Pour the plain fruit mixture into the Zoku molds until slightly more than halfway full. When the pops are thoroughly frozen, about 4 minutes, add the second mixture just to the fill line. Let stand until the pops are completely frozen. Remove them from the molds using the orange tool as directed. Do not try to pry the pops from the molds using a knife, as the interior of the molds may be damaged. Add new plastic sticks and make a second round of pops, if desired.

Eat the pops immediately or freeze for later use.

Per serving: 25 calories, 0 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber

By The Food Section  |  August 5, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Comfort Food , Recipes  | Tags: Nancy Baggett  
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