Thursday, August 8, 2013

strawberry, lime and black pepper popsicles

strawberry-lime, black pepper

I had these popsicle molds for 14 months before using them once, yet in the weeks since I used them for the first time, I’ve made three other varieties and considered doing a 5-day week of posts here exclusively devoted to popsicle offerings. I’ve basically fallen down a popsicle rabbit hole so deep, now every time I see something that looks good, I think, I wonder how that would taste as a popsicle. (My family’s looking nervous around me, understandably.)

strawberries, hulled and quartered
macerating with sugar

So, what changed? First, I realized that they hold 1/3 cup each. One-third of a cup! Do you know how little that is? You could literally stuff it with the most indulgent Ben & Jerry’s and still come in under their suggested serving size, while eating something that felt generous. Not that we’re going to do that. Yet. I also realized that all of the headaches that most iced frozen desserts involve — egg yolk custards, buckets of leftover egg whites, freezer bowls, the churning of machines so loud and groaning that we used to (seriously) lock in the bathroom so we didn’t have to hear it, only to have another two hours of freezer time to go — do not exist in Popsicle Land, a magical place where all concoctions freeze perfectly and but six hours stand between you and your next indulgence-on-a-stick. Finally, seeing as we recently decided it would be a really good idea to buy a white carpet, I especially love that at least the ones I’ve been making aren’t terribly drippy. As they’re mostly fruit purees and other thick things, they don’t so much melt back to a watery state when someone (not naming names) takes an hour to finish one.

a brief simmer to further limpen them

I bought this book on Paletas a few weeks ago and, look, I admit when it came out I thought, “a whole book of Mexican-style popsicle recipes? I can’t imagine needing that,” while my popsicle molds collected dust. Silly Deb, silly silly Deb. This book takes something as simple as a frozen things on sticks and raises it to an art form. I haven’t made one recipe from this book that didn’t knock it so far out of the park, we didn’t sit there in total silence muttering, “No this is the best one yet,” each time only having to update our opinion when the next one came out of the freezer.

lime juice then more lime juice
blended, mostly
ready to freeze
all frozen, ready for dessert

And then there are these. Our favorite summer cocktails hinges on just four tiny things — strawberries, lime juice, black pepper and white tequila — but the combination is out of this world. I even tried to reverse engineer it in my book, only moderately successfully, and probably could have saved some time if I’d just, like, Googled it. (It makes a pitcher. Go, get to work.)

ridiculously good strawberry lime popsicles
strawberry lime and black pepper popsicles

But I did not make these with tequila in them, in part because the ingredients are so absolutely amazing without it, and also because “Yes, mommy made a freezer full of vibrant red homemade popsicles from your favorite fruit but they’re not for you, nya-nyah” is some pretty cruel tantrum bait. Fortunately, Tracy from Shutterbean has solved everything, once again, and it’s called, or I call it, The After-Bedtime Dip. You’re welcome.

a white tequila dunk after bedtime

One year ago: Mediterranean Baked Feta with Tomatoes
Two years ago: Naked Tomato Sauce
Three years ago: Everyday Chocolate Cake
Four years ago: Plum Kuchen
Five years ago: Garlic-Mustard Glazed Skewers
Six years ago: Summer Berry Pudding

Strawberry, Lime and Black Pepper Popsicles
Strawberry cooking and freezing technique from Paletas, flavors from the Red and Black cocktail at Back Forty

Prior to falling in love with this cocktail, I’d only paired strawberry with lemon, and I was missing out because lime is the perfect contrast to strawberry’s spun sugar/cotton candy/pink frosting earnestness. It’s second only to the black pepper, which you can add at whatever level you’re comfortable with (1/4 teaspoon was only vaguely noticeable, and did not even go mentioned by the resident spice-sensitive preschooler), needn’t add straightforward spiciness so much as a background pick-me-up. You’ll be amazed by how well strawberries and black pepper go together; they’re totally the yin to each other’s yang, even when you’re not doing The After-Bedtime Dip in white tequila.

Texture-wise, we love that these popsicles, since they’re made from tender fresh strawberries, don’t get rock hard (the way ones made from juice will) but stay tender and totally nibble-able.

4 slightly heaped cups (about 20 ounces) fresh, ripe strawberries, hulled and quartered
2/3 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (we used the latter but use less if you’re sensitive to sugar)
1/2 cup water
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (use less for a barely detectable bite, more if you’d like it more present)
Pinch of sea salt

Combine the strawberries and sugar in a bowl; let them sit for 15 minutes if they’re really fresh, longer if they’re firm or off-season berries. Transfer mixture to a saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. You can hasten this along by transferring them back to their macerating bowl and setting that in a bowl of ice water.

Once cooled, transfer to a blender or food processor, add the lime juice, pepper and salt and blend until mostly smooth (I find some leftover bits lovely in here). Divide between popsicle molds.

[You'll have about 3 1/4 cups of the mixture, which divides evenly among 10 1/3-cup molds, with 1/4-inch space on top to make room for expansion in freezing.]

Freeze for about 5 hours, or until completely frozen. Dip in lukewarm water for 10 seconds to unmold each popsicle.

If After-Bedtime Dipping: Put a shot of white tequila in a glass wide enough to dip popsicle. Yes, you can double-dip.


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