A pop a day keeps boredom away!

Posts tagged ‘cautionary tales’

Day 195 — Gazpacho Ice Pops

Today’s pop is one I’ve been plotting since about 10 minutes after I got my Zoku. Gazpacho is one of my favorite summer treats, and I thought it’d be really great to have it extra-icy. So when I finally made my first batch of gazpacho for the season, I knew I had to make the pop.

I don’t have an ingredients shot, but gazpacho contains cucumbers, onions, garlic, green pepper, parsley, red wine vinegar, tomato juice, olive oil and salt. We use the recipe in the Joy of Cooking, with some minor tweaks.

I like my gazpacho pretty smooth, so I didn’t process it any further for these ice pops. That was probably a mistake, since pouring it into the Zoku was a little tough. It all worked out, though, and no problems with sticking:

The first half of this ice pop was delightful. Cold, intense, interesting. About halfway through, though, the garlic started catching up with me and the pop went from delicious to somewhat tedious. I didn’t finish it. Much as I love gazpacho, I guess it’s better off eaten from a spoon instead of a stick.

Day 158 — Funny Face Ice Pops

Back in April, while we were visiting California for spring break, I found the cutest little set of food cutters at an Asian market. They are meant, I think, for cutting nori to decorate bentos, but I thought they’d be great for decorating ice pops. Since then, I’ve just been waiting for the right time to try them out. Today was the right time.

I used plain old lemonade for the base, since I know how it freezes and because it’s a very neutral color. I thought peaches and/or strawberries would be fun to use for the faces. So I started to cut out tiny little eyes and mouths, and immediately learned two things:

1. Peaches are not the best “tool” for this job, and
2. Strawberries are even worse.

Both fruits were a little too soft and a little to delicate to cut well with these tiny cutters. Just look at the carnage:

Do you see many useable pieces in this mess? It’s almost as if there’s a reason the Zoku people always say to use apples to decorate ice pops.

Still, I was able to get enough good pieces of peach to make one little face (the strawberries were a completely lost cause). I arranged the face on my pie server and used that to stick it to the sides of the Zoku mold.

Then, forgetting that I had already removed its top, I picked up my bottle of lemonade and gave it a good shake.

10 minutes later, I had cleaned the sticky mess off the floor and was ready to proceed. The pop turned out cute, if a little hard to photograph:

In person, you can see that my little face is winking.

This pop was fun, if frustrating to make. The end result was cute enough that I am looking forward to trying more “funny face” ice pops in the future, but next time I’ll stick with apples or another very firm fruit.

Day 148 — Crystal Light Appletini Ice Pops

One of the things that the Zoku Pop Maker instruction manual warns against is using artificially sweetened liquids to make ice pops. Now, that’s not really a problem for me, as we generally avoid artificial sweeteners. But I received this in the mail a few days ago:

Now, if I’m drinking anything billed as a “‘tini,”, it had better have alcohol in it. There was little question of me actually drinking this stuff (at least, not without a shot or two of vodka). So I decided to risk making it into a popsicle.

I figured from my last experiment in breaking the Zoku rules that probably one of three things would happen with this pop. It could stick in the ice pop maker; it could come out but be too hard to eat, or it could be just fine.

Turns out it was door # 2:

I had a little trouble getting this pop out — the remover tool definitely had to work at it, and the first two tries I gave up for fear of forcing it and breaking the Zoku stick. But the third time I tried it, the pop slid right out of the mold.

Eating it, however, did not prove so easy. The ice pop came out extremely hard — eating it was more like gnawing on an ice cube. Tiny bits would snap off, but I couldn’t really bite it. Turns out sugar is kind of essential to making ice pops with a good texture.

Day 138 — Orange Strawberry Ice Pops

Strawberry season is rapidly drawing to a close around here, so I’m still trying to enjoy as many of them as I can before they’re gone. And more strawberries for me means more strawberry ice pops for you:

Strawberry and orange isn’t a flavor combination that you see often, but I thought it was interesting enough to give it a try. I sliced the strawberry into circles in order to be able to fit more into the mold (It made sense in my head), and because I thought they’d be prettier that way. Seeing how it came out, I kind of wish I’d thought to to cut notches into the strawberry slices, to make little hearts. That would have been really cute. But still, the pop came out really pretty:

Though the pop was pretty, it wasn’t very good. It was just…too much. Too sweet, too tart, too everything. The strawberry and the orange flavors did each other no favors, obliterating the unique flavors of each and replacing it with a generic but overwhelming tartness. This is one combination I probably won’t try again.

Day 133 – Orange “Mousse” Ice Pops

When I was a kid, I thought Cool Whip was the end-all, be-all of dessert ingredients.  I wished we could have that on our ice cream rather than the boring homemade whipped cream my dad always insisted on making (I also adored iced tea made from powdered mix and far preferred potato buds to the real thing.  I was a strange kid).  And I was completely fascinated by desserts that combined Cool Whip and Jello.  I don’t recall ever having tasted a magic jello parfait (where plain Jello is layered with a Cool Whip/Jello mixture), but they looked pretty in the ads, and I was sure they’d be fabulous.
I still have never had one of those parfaits, but I thought it’d be fun to make an ice pop in that spirit:

Orange Jello was always my favorite.

I mixed the Jello mix with the hot water it called for, then poured 2-3 tablespoons of it over about 1/4 cup of thawed cool whip.  I added cold water to the remaining Jello and poured that as my first ice pop layer. Once that froze, I poured in the creamy mixture.  I was a little concerned that it would not freeze hard enough with the Cool Whip, but I hoped that the plain layer would anchor the ice pop sticks and allow me to unmold the pops.  I also made one plain Jello ice pop, as insurance.

The layered pops came out just fine, but to my shock, this is what happened when I tried to unmold the plain pop:

I don’t know what happened here, I think maybe there was some ice gathered in the bottom of my Zoku.  I have never had a “normal” pop stick before.  But at least the layered pops are pretty:

The mousse layer was really soft — I definitely would not make an entire pop out of it, because there’s no way they’d come out of the molds intact.  But as a layer, they’re really nice.  And they tasted just as good as my childhood cravings had imagined.

Day 120 — Beer Ice Pops

Today’s pop seemed like such a good idea at the time. I mean, if a cold beer is a good thing, then a really, really cold beer should be great, right? So:

My husband was in charge of making this pop, and he said it didn’t go well. The first one he poured foamed a ton. The second one foamed less, but the expanded well above the edge of the mold. Either way, it was messy:

Interestingly, these pops were the first ones we’ve ever been able to remove from the Zoku without using the remover tool. They just pulled right out of the molds.

I didn’t try these pops, because I really don’t like beer. Husband tried them, though, and said they were quite bad. The finished ice pops were bitter, apparently because they were made with a very hoppy beer. Apparently, a less hoppy beer (such as a lager, or Guiness) might be a better choice.

Still, beer ice pops just didn’t live up to the idea.  I think husband will stick to drinking his beer from a glass.

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 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 47 — Lemon Ricotta Ice Pops

Today was a gray and rainy day here, so I wanted an ice pop that hinted at the promise of Spring, while still being creamy and a little indulgent. Lemon and ricotta is a common combination that seemed to fit the bill, so:

This was one of those days where instead of trying to make 6 ounces of base (the amount in three ice pops), I improvised ingredients and just tried to focus on proportions. As often happens when I do this, I ended up with far more base than I needed, but a fair sense of the proportions involved.

I started with a large scoop (about 1/2 cup) of ricotta and the zest and juice of one lemon. I added a generous splash of milk (at least 1/4 cup) and about 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar, then blended the whole thing with a stick blender (my usual tiny food processor was in the dishwasher). I wish I had waited to stir the lemon zest into the blended mixture, so that it would be more prominent in the finished pops. As it was, the pops were fairly undistinguished from the outside, giving little hint of their flavor.

Today’s pop just didn’t work out. I wanted the pops to have a bright, sunny favor, but the lemon juice fell short of accomplishing that. And despite my diligent blending, the consistency of the ricotta gave the pops an almost chalky mouthful.

This is the second ricotta-based pop I have tried, and I haven’t liked either one of them. I think maybe the texture of ricotta doesn’t lend itself to frozen consumption.

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