Firecracker Popsicles

popsicles

My definition of “favorite holiday” has fluctuated over the years. As a kid, the Fourth of July was never really a big deal. It wasn’t like Christmas or a birthday — we didn’t get presents and there wasn’t any special sort of character that came to visit. I actually don’t remember many of my childhood Fourth of Julys… they were always relatively tame.

But in D.C., Fourth of July is the greatest holiday. Ever.

I remember when I was still working at the Department of Labor — there was a little yellow concessions stand right outside the main entrance, facing the Capitol Building and the National Mall. Rachel and I used to schlep outside on the hottest days (it was frigid inside because of the air conditioners) and we’d grab ice cream snacks.

Firecrackers were always my top choice. And when you’re in one of the most American places on the planet, every ice cream cart is well-stocked with Firecracker pops.

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I even proactively purchased popsicle molds just so I could make my own Firecracker pops this year — I purchased these ones from Amazon — and they came with popsicle sticks. And, I prefer the classic look.

So, popsicles are pretty easy, right? You make some sort of liquid, fill the molds, and freeze overnight. Well, I tried this with coffee, and the coffee came out so rock-hard-icy that it hurt my teeth. I figured that this time, I’d run each liquid through the ice cream maker so they would soften up. WRONG. Don’t do this. Most of the pops were too soft to be pulled out in once piece.

So I’ve adjusted the instructions below to eliminate what I actually did in practice. Running the mixtures through the ice cream maker actually incorporated too much air into the mixtures, which kept them from freezing solid. Not running them through the ice cream makers should do the trick.

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Firecracker Popsicles { Want more July 4th recipes? Check out my Fireworks Cupcakes and my Star-Spangled Tart from previous years }

Strawberry Sorbet, adapted from the Joy of Baking
1/3 cup simple syrup
2.5 cups strawberries, cleaned and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons vodka
1 tablespoon Triple Sec

Blueberry Sorbet, adapted from Simply Recipes
2 cups fresh blueberries, stems removed
1/3 cup simple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of salt

Vanilla ice cream, adapted form David Lebovitz
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole or soy milk
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons bourbon

First, assemble the vanilla ice cream mix. Combine 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Keep an eye on it, and make sure it doesn’t boil over. Heat them until you start to get a nice froth on top, and immediately remove from the stove. In a mixing bowl, combine your egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract.

While whisking vigorously, gradually pour about 1/4 cup of the milk and cream mixture into your egg yolks and sugar. You really cannot whisk vigorously enough — you need to temper the yolks to ensure they don’t scramble. This is how we make a custard. Continue adding the hot milk in 1/4-cup increments until it is completely mixed. Filter the custard through a fine mesh sieve, and set aside in a jar. If you’re not one to wait around, set that jar in a bath of ice and salt water to speed the cooling process up. When it’s entirely cool, stir in the bourbon.

Then, create the other sorbets. This process is pretty easy — you just take all of the ingredients and pulse grind them in a food processor until the fruit is entirely pureed. Keep the strawberry and blueberry sorbets separate, and let chill in the refrigerator until the vanilla ice cream is cold.

Assemble the popsicles. First, spoon the blueberry sorbet into your popsicle molds. I’d go with 2-4 tablespoons in each mold, depending on the mold size. Go ahead and tap the counter with the popsicle molds a few times to get any bubbles out, and set in the freezer for at least two hours.

After the first layer is frozen, repeat with the vanilla ice cream mixture — spoon a bit into each mold, and tap on the counter. Freeze for one hour.

Then, fill the popsicles to the brim with the strawberry sorbet mixture. Insert popsicle sticks into each mold, and freeze overnight.

To remove, run the mold bases under warm water.

A Star-Spangled Tart

Something that I haven’t been quite honest about, reader, is that the past year or so has been some sort of limbo for me.  I know I’ve mentioned it, but I thought I’d address some things that have had a lot of impact on my writing, my cooking, and my outlook on life in general.

So much of my life is weighted upon my work – even for those of use who have workaholic tendencies (guilty as charged), what you do is your means to how you live your life: it determines what you eat, how you sleep, where you live, and how you spend the majority of your time awake as a person.  What you ultimately do for work says everything about who you are – everything, and no less.

When I first started working, my parents advised me to work for the weekends, and to savor time spent away from the office, while my peers say not to work too much or too hard.  Both options, to me, are a waste of time that you will never get back – as a single twenty-five year old, anyway.  If I had a family to support, my story might have been different.

Note to self: if you are not satisfied where you are, you should never be satisfied until there is a (non-fluorescent) light at the end of the tunnel, and you should never, never – ever – settle for anything less.

Maybe this is a generational thing. I feel like I’m surrounded by incongruencies: people saying that you can’t do anything without a graduate degree, others saying that you don’t need any sort of degree to be successful.  Some people are unhappy at their jobs, but stay for the benefits, and/or the ability to have their cake and eat it too.  Or they just complain, and stay where they are solely because they’re not working to change it.  Or, they put in the work to find satisfaction.  Those who pursue satisfaction – however long or winding the road may be – well, I hope with all my heart that they find it.

After twelve long months, I think I have a good idea of what will happen to me next.

I’m wrapping up my position at CIPE, where I was able to learn so much about what I want to do.  Next week, my family arrives, and I’ll be able to share a tiny slice of what my life has been like since I found my home here in Washington – and my Washington friends will finally meet my family, and probably do a long-awaited beer bat with my father.  I’m hoping for another Fourth-of-July Eight Clap.

After that, this American girl is going to Mexico for a week.

And after that, I’m taking the next step – so thank you, all of you who have dealt with my bitching and moaning, my neglect, and my stress.  Your unconditional support means the world to me, and I promise, I can pay you with food, friends, and long, chatty runs along the Potomac river.

Sweet, delectable food.  Happy fourth of July, America.

 

Sweet tart crust, by Smitten Kitchen

1.5 cups AP flour, plus whatever you need to make the dough workable
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

Whipped Cream Filling

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

You’ll need two rectangular tart pans to make the American flag shape – the dough recipe gives you just enough to fill both.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a food processor, combine 1.5 cups flour, 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Pulse grind until evenly mixed.  Then, add the cubes of butter and pulse grind, slowly adding in the egg.  Pulse grind (about ten seconds each) until it won’t mix any more.  At this point, the dough was too sticky for me to work with, so I gradually added flour – about another half cup – until it was more of a pie-dough consistency.

Deb recommends chilling the dough, but I’m horribly impatient these days, and frankly, since it wasn’t required, I didn’t do it.  I rolled the dough out to about 1/4 of an inch in width, and transferred to a buttered tart pan.  I like giving tarts a nice, thick crust – the dainty crusts always fall apart on me.  I’ve given up on them.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the crust is golden to your liking.  Then, remove it from the oven, and let cool.

While that’s resting, beat your whipping cream in a stand mixer for a couple of minutes, until it looks like, well, whipped cream.  Look for stiff peaks.  As it begins to form, gradually add the sugar and vanilla extract.  Set aside in the refrigerator until your tart is ready to serve.

To prepare, use a spatula to fill the tart with whipped cream.  If you want it to be extra decadent, line the tart with a layer of fresh strawberry jam before filling with the whipped cream (that was my original intent, but I got distracted when I made this, and then forgot to do so).  Arrange your berries on top of the whipped  cream to look like a star-spangled banner, put on an American flag bikini, and share your tart with some of your best friends, American or not.

Summer in the City

There’s something special about spending Independence Day in Washington, DC.  Granted, this is only my second time spending the holiday in the nation’s capital, but I feel there is a certain breed of patriotism that meanders its way into the hearts and minds of my fellow Washingtonians.  Perhaps it’s the effect that living and breathing in such an iconic city has on our every day lives.  Or perhaps it’s just our recent obsession over American flag bikinis, three-day weekends, and anything red, white, and blue. Continue reading “Summer in the City”