Cooling the Summer heat with popsicles - even if it has to be done without a blender!


(Em português)

It's been at least one or two Summers since I've been willing to post a recipe for popsicles, I don't recall it precisely.
In the meantime I have been thinking of how to make popsicles that won't come out as ice blocks, but that also won't give me too much trouble (by which I mean: don't require a stand mixer, or re-stirring every 30 minutes) nor take weird industrialized ingredients.
Hummm. How to make it simple?
Well, I have found out a few things about this process through trial and error, and I think finally I can share a "formula", as I did with the crunchy bars. Although, before I jump into the recipe, I would like to tell that I have been interviewed by Melanie Moreira for the site Receitas sem fronteiras, talking a bit about the ways that lead me to the kitchen. It is only available in Portuguese, but if you want to check out anyway, click here.
The picture illustrating the interview is by Nicole Samperi.
Are you feeling like going to the kitchen too? :)

Back to the popsicle subject, here is the deal:
we want a mixture that will freeze, but not entirely. Because when a liquid freezes entirely, the result is a big ice block.
On the other hand, if we get tangled tiny ice crystals, the result is a soft nice popsicle, which can be civilly eaten.
There are a few ways to stop the batter from freezing as a block and making it come out softer.
From what I read here and there over time, the main ways to achieve this results are:
- breaking the crystals while the freezing process is happening, so that they will keep small.
- adding some kind of sugar to the recipe.
- adding some kind of fat to the recipe.

My idea was kind of having tasty popsicles that were not too chubby, that's why I didn't want to abuse sugar nor fat.
I found that using soft fruit and not adding liquid to the mixture, I can lower the sugar and fat proportion and still get great results.
Besides, if I choose heathy fats (say tahini, peanut butter, coconut oil) I am one step ahead - if you consider classic ice cream and popsicle recipes call for egg yolks or heavy cream cream, which don't really contribute much, nutritionally speaking.

The breaking-ice-crystals-thing works just like in classic homemade ice cream recipes:
after preparing the batter, you leave it in the freezer for one hour. Take it out, run it on the stand mixer until smooth. Freeze again, mixer again. Repeat the process like 3 or 4 times, then transfer the smooth batter to the popsicle molds and freeze definitively until it's time to eat it.
I just think this is too much work. It works, though.

Something important to consider when elaborating a recipe, is that when food is frozen, you feel less of it's taste. That's why you will want to push the sweetness and eventual spices (cinnamon, cardamom, mint, ginger, whatever) a little further up.
It needs to taste more intense then it would if you were preparing a smoothie or juice.
Also, think of the molds ahead of time. I really recommend getting actual popsicle molds.
They are very very cheap (my 6-popsicles mold costed about R$6), and with them you don't throw anything in the waste after eating.
Now, if you don't own molds, that's not a reason to give up on cooling down & sweetening life.
Use what you have around. It could be disposable cups, or small plastic cups.
You could use wooden sticks, or substitute those for teaspoons. Even small forks will do.
In order to have them stand still until the batter is frozen, cover the each cup firmly with foil or parchment paper.
Step by step is: fill the cups with batter, cover each one with the paper, poke through with the spoons; this way they one fall to the side while the mixture is still liquid.

My basic batter more or less follows this pattern:
1 1/2 cup chopped soft fruit (banana, papaya, peach, mango, avocado, kiwi, strawberry, melon...)
1/4 cup fat (if using coconut milk, tahini, peanut butter, almond butter, whole yogurt, heavy cream... Or, use 2 tablespoons it using a more pure kind of fat, such as coconut oil or butter)
1/4 cup sweetener (molasses, honey, sugar, maple syrup...)
Cup measure: 240ml.

That's the right amount for my 6-popsicle mold, they are about 80ml each. Adjust for the vessels you will be using.
I throw it all in the blender, pour in the molds, wait for them to freeze, and then... happiness!

Try not to add liquid, if possible, because the more liquid an ingredient, more likely it is to freeze as a hard block (water, milk, orange juice etc. do that).
You can add spices to taste, make myriads of variations. Add small pieces of fruit, nuts, grated coconut, and so on).
In case you feel like using the juice of more liquidy fruits, such as orange or grapes, just combine them with more thick ingredients, like yogurt or coconut milk.

Now, what if your blender gave up life (like mine did)?
Then you send it to be fixed, and still nothing happens. My friend, do not dispair.
There are several fruits that can be smashed with a for and stirred by hand to form a batter. Look at the pictures below, of popsicles made out of banana, homemade yogurt, tahini, cinnamon and honey.

Other good ideas:
smashed avocado, 1 tablespoon unsweetened cacao powder, 1/4 cup honey.
1 cup yogurt, 3/4 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup maple syrup.

Now that you got the base, make your own versions of it, according to your taste and to what ingredients you have around.
Share in the comments what are your favorite homemade popsicles!

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