Aug. 3—When the mercury mercilessly slithers up to the 90s, our blender, Li’l Crusher, comes out to play. He’s one pandemic purchase we don’t regret. We’d been using my parents’ ’70s-era blender until it began emitting an alarming, burnt-rubber odor every time we turned it on. We dutifully splashed out for a top-of-the-low-price-range appliance with “total crushing power,” as it said on the box. Come summertime when blending frozen concoctions is essential, Li’l Crusher is our best steel-bladed friend.
So, blending is the easy part. The real challenge this summer hasn’t been how to blend our frozen treats, but how to freeze them. Last week my daughter, Annika, whipped up the most glorious concoction with frozen bananas, peanut butter and cocoa powder. (If you must know, she used four frozen bananas with 2 tablespoons each peanut butter and unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and 1/4 to 1/3 cup milk.) She enjoyed it first as a smoothie, then decided to freeze some — but where were our frozen-pop molds?
I bought the sturdy plastic molds at a Tupperware party 30 years ago and used them all the time when Annika was younger. The frozen possibilities sparked Annika’s culinary creativity and she’d happily try various combinations of juice, fresh fruit and yogurt to make new flavors. When we moved to our current house, I put them … somewhere. Annika ended up freezing her smoothie in empty yogurt cups, which worked quite well.
I decided it was time for new frozen-pop molds. I had visions of fancy molds in sleek rocket shapes, just like the red, white and blue Bomb Pops I used to get from the ice cream truck when I was a hot and whiny kid. Surely, my local big-box store would have something similar, considering that it’s the very height of summer and we’re all hot and whiny. I spent a frustrating hour searching all over the store and spoke to many store associates who insisted that frozen-pop molds were definitely on this aisle, or this one, or in the kitchen section, or in the baking section, or possibly in the grocery section. Eventually, I gave up and went to the craft store, where I found a couple of silicone molds for $2 each.
The next day, naturally, I found my old plastic frozen-pop molds in the back of a drawer.
Peaches-and-Cream Frozen Pops
5 peaches, peeled and diced
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg and salt
Blend everything together and pour into freezer-safe molds. Freeze for four or five hours or overnight.
The real question is, what to fill them with? I bought a bagful of super-sweet Maryhill peaches and a quart of half-and-half and made peaches-and-cream frozen pops. This is a recipe that’s just right for August, when peaches are at their peak and children and grandchildren (and adults) are clamoring for something cold and sweet. There are a zillion recipes for frozen pops with peaches and cream but the thing to remember is that you’ll never go wrong with any combination of peaches, sugar and cream.
I peeled and sliced four peaches. I’d have liked them to be a little more ripe, but I needed frozen pops fast and couldn’t wait another day. (You can also use frozen peaches or canned peaches; no need to be picky in a pinch.) I plopped the peaches into Li’l Crusher along with 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Don’t balk at the spices and salt; they’re the magic ingredients that endow these frozen pops with a hint of peach pie flavor. Blend everything with 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream and 1 cup half-and-half. Test for sweetness; if it tastes good to you in liquid form, it will taste good frozen. You do what makes you happy because that’s the whole point of a frozen pop.
For extra peachy texture, I diced another peach and stirred it into the mix then carefully poured it into my tried-and-true plastic frozen-pop molds. The peach pieces caused the mixture to pour somewhat unevenly but I got there in the end. I snapped on the lids, inserted the sticks and put the little darlings in the freezer.
I had some mix left over, so I decided to give the silicone molds a shot. They’re not great. These wobbly, unstable molds are arranged sideways like an ice cube tray, allowing myriad opportunities for jettisoning filling while positioning the mold in my crowded freezer. Another head-scratching feature is that the stick holes are on the side. They were sealed when I bought them, I assume to keep filling from leaking out. I had to wait until the pops were half-frozen, take them out of the freezer, break the seal with a knife and try to shove a stick into a partially solid frozen pop. I suppose that into every life, a little rain must fall. I must suffer for my art.
Freeze the frozen-pop mixture for at least four or five hours or, even better, overnight. If you have trouble removing the frozen pops from the molds, run a little warm water over the molds or melt them with a blow torch. No, don’t use a blow torch. A nice, heavy hammer will work just as well. Remember that these frozen pops are mostly fruit so eat them with a clear conscience and stretchy shorts.