A pop a day keeps boredom away!

Posts tagged ‘basics’

Day 111 — Arnold Palmer Ice Pops

The Arnold Palmer is my favorite beverage for a summer afternoon. Not too sweet (at least, not the way I drink it), nice and cold, and just the right amount of caffeine. So there was no doubt I’d be making it into an ice pop.

Some people also add mint and/or simple syrup. I'm too lazy for that (though I totally wouldn't put it past me to make one of these with mint at some point and pass it off as a "new" pop).

Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and so I decided to make this a core pop, rather than just mixing the lemonade and tea and freezing the mixture.

Because my tea was unsweetened, I made it the inner layer of the pop. I let them lemonade freeze rather longer than I would have if I were making a regular core pop, because I wanted the two flavors to be in rough balance.

The inside view.

Turns out, by making this a core pop, I was too clever by half. The lemonade layer was nice, with the soft, bitable texture I’ve come to expect from my Zoku pops. The tea layer was hard. Really, really hard. Like ice, actually.

I know, right? Who’d have thought? Turns out the injunction against freezing unsweetened liquids in the Zoku isn’t just about the possibility of the pops sticking (more on that tomorrow). It’s about the totally inedible texture of the resulting pops.

Next time, I’ll keep it simple.

Bonus Post: Zoku Ice Pop Troubleshooting — how to keep your ice pops from sticking.

Commenter Sarah asked for tips to keep her Zoku Ice Pops from sticking in the maker.  Putting aside for the moment the idea of a defective Zoku (which can happen), here’s what I have learned in the last hundred-odd pops:

1.  Your Ice Pop base needs to be sweet, but not too sweet.

According to the Zoku Ice Pop Maker instruction manual, any base you use to make ice pops needs to be sweet or else the pops will stick.  That doesn’t mean sweetened — some liquids, like juice, have natural sugars that prevent the pops from sticking to the ice pop molds.  You should never have a problem, for instance, making pops out of straight orange juice or something similar.

That said, it’s possible for some pop ingredients to be too sweet to freeze properly.  This happened to me on Day 3, for example, when I tried to use prepared pie filling to decorate/flavor a yogurt ice pop.  The pie filling didn’t freeze at all; it just got gooey.

Honestly, I don’t know where the sweet/too sweet line lies yet.  I’ve been too risk averse.  But I know for sure that things like sweetened condensed milk are too sweet to be frozen straight.  They must be diluted rather drastically or else they’ll never get firm enough to pull from the molds.  (see my Lemon Bar experiment).

2.  Artificial sweeteners are verboten

I don’t know why it’s so, but according to the Zoku manual, you cannot make ice pops with artificial sweetener.  Honestly, this one’s no skin of my nose, since I don’t like them.

3.  Too much fat is as bad as too much sugar

This one took me by surprise when I ran afoul of it.  I’d mixed peanut butter, chocolate cream cheese and enough milk that the base seemed thin enough. And yet they stuck.

Fact is, high-fat items seem to have as hard time freezing solid as high-sugar ingredients.  When using them to make ice pops, it’s really important to make sure they’re diluted with enough lower-fat liquid that they won’t stick.  I haven’t yet worked out the perfect proportions, but it seems to be at least 3 parts liquid to 1 part of the richer ingredient.

4.  Thick bases might stick.

Even when you’re using a low-fat and reasonably-sugared base, some base ingredients are simply too thick to pour and/or freeze well.  For instance, I use a lot of yogurt when I make pops for my kids.  According to the Zoku manual, straight yogurt might stick, so I always thin mine out with milk.  As best as I can tell so far, once the yogurt is thinned out enough to pour easily, it’s probably thin enough to freeze well and come out of the molds with no problem.

5.  Your Zoku must be clean and dry

This one is quite tricky, and frankly my least favorite thing about the Zoku Ice Pop Maker (though I don’t think there’s really any way to fix it).  Fact is, to do what it does, the Zoku has to be COLD.  That means that any liquid that touches its metal bits will freeze, fast.  To clean a frozen Zoku, you need to rely on wiping and scraping out the molds with a dry cloth (or paper towels).  If you need to give the Zoku a proper cleaning, you need to thaw it first.  Then, once it’s clean, it needs to be completely dry before you freeze it again.  Any leftover water will freeze in the molds and, according to the Zoku manual, can cause the next round of ice pops to stick.

Sarah, I can’t tell from your comment which one of these issues could be what you’re dealing with.  From your description of the pop remover just spinning without gaining purchase, I’d guess your base is too high-fat and/or too thick.  At any rate, that’s what happened when I had that particular mistake.

If you’re already following all of these tips and your pops still won’t come out of your ice pop maker, then you may have a defective Zoku (or, at least, a defective remover tool).  I’d call or email Zoku to see about a replacement.  I’ve emailed their customer service department before, and have found them to be responsive.

I hope this helps!  If you have any specific questions or more information to give about your particular situation, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to address it.

Day 99 — Basic Cheescake Ice Pop Recipe

I’m back! Did you miss me? (Don’t answer that).

Anyway, this week I decided to tackle the long-promised cheesecake week. First up, of course, is the basic cheesecake ice pop.

For this recipe, I borrowed the basic proportions of the cheesecake recipe in the Zoku book — roughly 1 part cream cheese to 2 parts milk, plus sugar and vanilla.

The yogurt you see there was actually a mistake. I wanted to add a little sour cream to the recipe to add some tang, but I couldn’t find any sour cream in my fridge. I decided to use the yogurt I bought this morning, and it wasn’t until added a good dollop to the mixture that I licked the spoon and realized that I’d bought vanilla yogurt instead of plain.

The Zoku book says you should heat the cream cheese and milk together to mix them, then cool the mixture before freezing it. As usual, I was too lazy for that level of premeditation, so I just blended it with my new little baby food blender. It blended well, though the mixture turned out a little frothy.

These turned out nice, though not as creamy as I’d hoped. Since I made a big batch of the base (for further experiments this week), I added another ounce or so of cream cheese to the mixture and blended again. The base tasted more like cheesecake, but we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how the frozen result tastes.

Day 69 — Basic Peanut Butter Ice Pop Recipe

Those of you who have been reading for a while may remember the last time I tried to make an ice pop with peanut butter. In short, it was a failure. I’d made the base too thick and possibly too high-fat (I mixed it with chocolate cream cheese), and the pops were too soft to unmold.

But I knew there must be a way to make peanut butter ice pops, I just had to find it. And while browsing my Zoku Ice Pops Book, I found one. Trouble is, that recipe is way too complicated for me, calling for several ingredients and requiring the mixture to be cooked and cooled before freezing. It turns out that the guiding principle behind my popmaking efforts is simplicity (or laziness), and so I wanted to make a recipe that wouldn’t require cooking.

Peanut butter, milk, sugar. You could also add a little salt to intensify the flavors. I didn't, but I think maybe I should have.

Though I didn’t follow Zoku’s recipe, I did use its basic ratios as a guideline. The recipe calls for a roughly 1:4 ratio of peanut butter to liquid, so that’s where I started. I used about a tablespoon of peanut butter, a tablespoon of sugar and a little more than 4 ounces of milk. I was worried about the peanut butter mixing into the milk, so I used my little food processor to make it all come together.

After I mixed that first version, I tasted it and decided there wasn’t enough flavor. I added another tablespoon of peanut butter and just under a tablespoon more of sugar. I think the peanut butter was the right call, but the final pops ended up too sweet. Next time, I’d stick to a heaping tablespoon of sugar.

For those trying to follow along at home, the recipe is now:
2 T peanut Butter
a generous 1/2 cup of milk
1 heaping tablespoon of sugar, or one tablespoon plus another teaspoon.

Blend together until the peanut butter is well incorporated, and freeze!

I will admit I was appregensive as I watched this pop freeze. I was almost convinced they’d get stuck in the Zoku, but thankfully they didn’t.

The pops tasted nice but as I mentioned above, somewhat too sweet. Overall, this recipe is a winner. It’s got everything I aim for in an ice pop recipe — quick and easy prep plus simple ingredients. And it will make a terrific base for all sorts of variations.

Day 61 — Ginger-Lemon Ice Pops

One of the reasons I enjoy writing this blog so much is that it plays to my strengths. Specifically, as the mother of a nursing infant who doesn’t nap unless he’s being held, I have lots and lots of enforced time to sit and let my mind wander. This allows me to think of lots of ice pop ideas (sadly, the vast majority of them flee my head the second I focus on something else). It does not, however, leave a lot of time for advance prep of ice pop ingredients or materials. Basically, if I have to spend more than 5 minutes or so actually putting together the ingredients for a pop, or if those ingredients need to be prepared any earlier than “immediately before freezing them,” then chances are, that pop isn’t going to get made any time soon. That’s why I’ve been plotting a banana-nutella pop for weeks but haven’t actually gotten around to making it.

Today’s pop was a tiny baby step into changing that attitude, coupled with an experiment to see just how little preparation I can do and still come out with a product that seems like some effort actually went into it.

I needed ginger earlier this week for a dinner recipe, so I bought a rather large hand of it with the thought that I could use the rest to make ice pops of some sort. I knew that probably I’d need to make a ginger syrup in order to get gingery ice pops, but since I’m lazy I decided to try osmosis first.

At around 7 this morning, I cut a 2-inch piece of ginger into several pieces, stirred it into six ounces of lemonade, and stashed it in the fridge. My hope was that the flavor of the ginger would infuse the lemonade with no further effort on my part.

When I took the mixture out of the fridge this evening, things looked promising. The lemonade was definitely cloudier than it had been in the morning, and I could detect a (faint) whiff of the ginger. With high hopes, I poured my pops.

Sadly, I am forced to conclude that osmosis is not the most efficient way of adding ginger flavor to a base. In the finished pops, I could detect a very subtle hint of ginger, but I have a hunch that someone who didn’t know it was there would miss it entirely. There were a few bites with a more pronounced ginger flavor, and those were so good that they encouraged me to keep trying to get more flavor into my pops. I will probably have to break down and make ginger syrup for my next try.

Day 57 — Nutella Ice Pops

When I’m making ice pops, I usually really like to work out my own recipes. I can’t, of course, claim that all of the pops I make are my original ideas. But I do enjoy the trial-and-error process of making my own “recipes.”

Today’s pop is not my own recipe, however. I found it on Pinterest, which led me back to this site. The recipe I used is actually from “Julie’s” comment on that blog post — she called for 1/2 cup of milk and 1/6 cup of Nutella to make 3 ice pops. I stuck as closely as I could to these proportions without actually measuring my Nutella. I just used a big glob and assumed it was close enough.

It’s important to note that Nutella does not willingly play well with others. It did not want to dissolve smoothly into the milk. If I were a more patient and forward-thinking person, I’d have melted it in earlier in the day then chilled the mixture. But since I usually make my base mixtures moments before I freeze them, I didn’t want to warm it up too much. I just accepted the fact that my mixture wouldn’t be smooth.  It turned out not to matter in the finished pop.

Given the proportions here, I was rather shocked at how deep and rich these pops came out. The Nutella flavor really shines, and the texture is nice and soft. These are a definite hit, and I think they will lend themselves to all sorts of customization in the future.

On another note, the wonderful Domestic Diva, MD nominated me for the “Versatile Blogger” award, and I am both honored and grateful.  The rules of the award are:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass the award on to 7 more bloggers that you enjoy.
  4. Contact the bloggers that you have chosen to let them know that they have been nominated!

My Seven things:

1.  I am an identical twin.

2.  I love the idea of crafts, but am terrible at following through on projects.  Somewhere in my house are wonky, crooked, half-finished baby blankets for each of my kids.

3.  I grew up in New Jersey, but now that I live in North Carolina I can barely understand why everybody doesn’t live here.  Then I read about our legislature’s recent hijinks and I remember.

4.  I love to read. Sara Paretsky and Laurie R. King are among my favorite authors, because they write strong, smart, difficult women.

5.  I am constantly singing to my kids.

6.  I am a homebody.  Given the choice, I will almost always choose to stay at home and play board games with my husband rather than go out.

7.  Speaking of husbands, I’m pretty certain mine is the best one ever, for many reasons.  I kind of feel like I won the lottery the day I met him.

I am going to have to nominate my seven bloggers tomorrow, as it’s getting late and this post is already quite long.

The Bloggers I am nominating are:

1.  Savory Simple — I love her photos and the originality of her recipes.

2.  Obscure and Demure — Just plain fun.

3.  Trials in Food — I love her concept.

4.  Going Dutch and Loving It — One of the most interesting blogs I’ve seen in a while, with fantastic photography.

(I’m sorry, y’all.  I’m going to have to finish this post tomorrow night.  The baby just woke up and I need to get this posted).

Day 49 — Cranberry Lemonade Ice Pops

My youngest child is almost six months old, and for the most part I’ve adjusted to being a mother of three. But there is no denying that my days are busier than they used to be, and one of the things I consistently find myself too busy to do is drink enough water. Often, dinner time will roll around and I’ll find myself desperate for a drink, then think back a realize all I’ve had that day was my morning coffee.

Today was one of those days. So when it came time to make today’s pop, all I really wanted was something that would help quench my thirst:

To make up for the simplicity of the ingredients, I decided to put to work all of the lessons I’ve learned so far about making layered pops:

Lesson One: Measure for even layers. For this pop, I decided to freeze my juices (and I use that term loosely, since I’m well aware that both of the beverages I used are actually mostly water and sugar, with a little juice thrown in for flavor) in one-teaspoon stripes.

Lesson Two: Find a neat way to pour. For this, I used the tiny black funnel I mentioned in an earlier post.

Lesson Three:  Be patient. Wait for one layer to freeze completely (or darn close to it) before pouring the next, so the layers stay clean.

Following all of those lessons meant this pop was somewhat more time consuming than usual (it took me a half an hour to make), but the result was great:

Neat, even, beautiful.

Not only was my pop pretty, but it was exactly what I needed tonight. I feel less parched already.

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