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We had just lost the amazing ice-pop stand downstairs from our office and were really feeling the void. To make up for our loss, we developed some fun, summery flavors sort-of-inspired by Chopped baskets, working savory flavors in where we could.
These mixed-up pops were ridiculously fun to test (and taste). If you plan on developing your own recipes, here’s what we learned: Basically, it’s really easy to freeze things — you could put plain fruit juice in the freezer and it’d end up a pop — but for perfect popsicle texture, you’re looking for a balance between fruity, creamy and icy.
If you did try freezing fruit juice, you might notice it came out a little icy, without that “chew” you expect from pops. To remedy that, use sugar. Sugar (in the form of simple syrup, honey or maple syrup) makes pops taste richer, fuller and chewier. You may want to add a little more sugar than you think you’ll need — freezing tends to dull the intensity of flavors — and taste as you go.
Speaking of taste: The best pops come from the best fruit, so get the most delicious fruit you can, ideally in season. If your farmers market vendors sell “seconds” (cosmetically imperfect fruit at a discount), get that — it won’t matter what the fruit looks like when it’s blended, and you’ll be getting a bargain.
Add alcohol judiciously — it’s a great flavor booster, but too much will impede the pop’s ability to freeze. A splash per pop is about as much as will work, and alcoholic pops will always be a bit softer than kiddie ones.
The faster your pops freeze, the better the texture will be, so put them in the back of the freezer and try not to open the door too much while they’re freezing. To unmold them cleanly, dip the tray in hot water to loosen. Eat quickly — and enjoy!
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Rupa Bhattacharya is a Food and Beverage Editor in Food Network Kitchen.