The steps for making your own ice pops are fairly basic — and familiar to anyone who has dabbled with the process. The key is to experiment and have fun. Where else can mishaps be so tasty?
• Base mixtures for the pops can start with juices and puréed fruit, yogurt, ice cream or pudding. If you need some inspiration, consider what you’d use in a smoothie and start there.
• Expand your repertoire by freezing malts or milkshakes in your molds for a different kind of creamy treat, or try a cooked concoction (see recipe) as a base.
• Use good ingredients: ripe fruit, freshly squeezed lemon or limes (not bottled).
• Sugar and alcohol will prevent a mixture from freezing hard. To illustrate, consider the difference in the firmness of an ice cube and a frozen can of orange juice concentrate. One is rock hard and the other is slushy. Mixtures with more sugar will be softer when frozen. If you freeze iced tea, it will be like an ice cube, but add puréed fruit to it and the consistency will be softer. Alcohol also affects the firmness of the pop: Too much prevents the mixture from freezing. Only a few tablespoons of alcohol will work for 4 to 6 pops.
• All sorts of plastic molds with built-in sticks are available in kitchen specialty stores, craft stores and online. There’s also the tried-and-true paper cup method with wooden craft sticks that can be inserted after the mixture is slightly frozen to a slushy state, which will keep the stick upright. Of course, then you have to remember to check on the state of the pops. An alternative for the forgetful cook: Cover the top of the mold with foil, make a small cut and put the wooden stick through it — and forget about it once it’s in the freezer. (The foil will hold the stick in place while the mixture freezes.)
• Allow at least a ¼ -inch space at the top of the mold because the mixture will expand as it freezes.
• Start with cold ingredients; it will take at least 5 or 6 hours for the pop to be firm; overnight is better yet. Consider setting your freezer at its coldest. And make sure you’ve got a flat surface for the pops as they freeze or you will have crooked pops, though they will taste just as good!
• To remove a plastic mold, run warm water over the exterior briefly or hold the mold in your warm hand until it releases from the plastic.
• Pops last about a week in the freezer, when still in the molds. Beyond that, they may get freezer burn. To keep them longer, remove the pops from their molds and store them in the freezer in individual, airtight bags.
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