Who doesn’t love ice cream cones and ice cream bars? The cold creamy texture is such a treat on a hot summer day. In our household we love ice cream, and we were buying too much fancy organic ice cream for both my budget and my sensibilities as a dietitian. ½ cup of premium ice cream has as much saturated fat as many of us should be eating in an entire day, and who eats only ½ cup? Certainly no one in my family.
Another concern that I had about eating so much ice cream is that it was displacing other desserts that might be higher in healthy antioxidants (ie fruit). It is pretty clear by reading the ingredient labels and by tasting, that most ice cream, even those with fruit flavors, contain a nutritionally nominal amount of fruit.
Fruit and fruit juice pops are a great way to have a cold treat on a hot summer day while increasing our daily intake of fruit. But I will be honest, sometimes I like a creamy treat, and fruit or fruit juice pops, while tasty at times, are just too icy to replace ice cream to my palate. I want something more like an ice cream cone or ice cream bar.
This summer we developed a method for making creamy pops that have displaced almost all of the ice cream we were eating. There are endless variations on our theme but the common ingredients that contribute to the creamy texture are a seedless fruit puree of some type and sweetened condensed milk. Sweetened condensed milk is a “magic ingredient” for creamy ice cream without making a cooked custard base or even using an ice cream maker to churn. America’s Test Kitchen uses it for a simple chocolate ice cream recipe in this YouTube video. Why not take the creaminess provided by the condensed milk and apply it to a healthier fruit popsicle, a kind of hybrid popsicle/ice cream bar?
In most cases besides fruit and condensed milk, we add a bit of vanilla yogurt or Greek yogurt. If we are being decadent we might fold in a touch of whipped cream. Ground nuts, nut butter, low-fat cream cheese and whey protein powder have also occasionally made an appearance. You really can let your imagination go wild.
Here are the general directions for making:
Creamy Fruit Pops
To make creamy fruit pops, you first must purchase popsicle molds. We have tried several types and they all work fine. Adrian likes the Zoku classical popsicle molds.They come with their own reusable plastic sticks.
I prefer the molds I purchased at Cost Plus which use the traditional wooden popsicle sticks.
I hate drippy frozen pops so I also tried push-up type popsicle molds and recommend them for all those messy eaters out there (yes, that would be me!)
Next, you make smooth puree of fruit. We typically use berries, apricots or plums. Cook the fruit in a glass bowl in the microwave or on the stove until it has broken down into a mush. Using an immersion or stand blender to grind the cooked fruit can speed this process along. The puree will look like this raspberry puree, which is smooth but has a lot of seeds.
We like our pops to be very smooth, so we strain out the seeds and skins from the puree. We use a fabulous attachment for our Cuisinart citrus juicer called a Power Strainer. It pushes the fruit puree through small holes leaving the seeds behind.
We use it all the time for tomato sauce and fruit purees. Unfortunately it is no longer being made and we will probably cry if it ever breaks. I did find that you can buy it used on Amazon. Alternatively a hand strainer such as this model is a worthwhile investment for making smooth purees and sauces. Even a stainless colander type strainer with a spoon or a pestle can be used to remove the seeds. You can also just leave the seeds and skins in for more fiber if you would like.
A typical ratio for the mix is 3 cups of fruit puree , ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk and ½ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt. I like organic sweetened condensed milk and organic yogurt so I try to use this whenever possible. Mix this up and taste. If it is not sweet enough or creamy enough for your preference, add more condensed milk (an entire can is 1 ½ cups which is quite a bit but we have used this amount on occasion, especially with lime and lemon pops). If it is not tart enough, or you want more of a yogurt pop, you can add more yogurt. For 3 cups of fruit puree we typically use between ½ and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, and between ½ and 1 cup of yogurt (either nonfat Greek or vanilla yogurt). If you prefer more of an “ice cream”, decadent pop, you can fold between ½ and 1 cup of cream whipped to soft peaks into the mixture. Another way to get a more rich or creamy pop is to add nut butter or finely ground nuts to the mixture (about ¼ cup or so).
We like to blend the ingredients to a fluffy texture in a blender on high speed to aerate, but whisking with a hand whisk or using a mixer would also work. This is the final raspberry mixture.
Now pour your mixture into the molds, insert the popsicle sticks, pop them in the freezer and wait for at least 4-6 hours or more until they are firm.To unmold either let them sit for a few minutes out at room temperature to soften, or hold them between your hands to warm up, or dip in a bowl of hot water for a few seconds to soften the outside to un-mold. Don’t pull too hard on the stick before the outside is soft, or try to remove them before the center is frozen, or the stick will come out leaving you a pop in the mold without a stick!
Yum, a creamy raspberry yogurt pop.
These pictures show preparation of a variation which is a creamy raspberry fruit pop with a swirl. When filling the molds, the raspberry is alternated with spoonfuls of the swirl ingredient. Once the pop is filled, a knife is swirled through the two flavors lightly.
The raspberry mixture was 3 cups raspberry puree, ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk and ½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt.
The cream cheese swirl was made by blending 4 ounces of low-fat cream cheese with 1 cup vanilla yogurt and ¼ cup of sweetened condensed milk.
This is the swirled cream cheese/ raspberry mixture in the Zoku Classical molds before freezing.
The toasted hazelnut swirl was made by toasting ½ cup hazelnuts in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until lightly toasted. They were then ground to a paste in the blender, and blended until smooth along with ¼ cup of sweetened condensed milk, ½ cup nonfat greek yogurt and ½ cup of vanilla yogurt.
This is the swirled raspberry hazelnut mixture in the Cost Plus molds.
The popsicle sticks were then added and the pops were placed in the freezer.
Finally the pops were dipped in a bowl of hot water for a few seconds and un-molded.
Here is an array including cream cheese swirled, hazelnut swirled, and raspberry yogurt pops.
A mix of cool raspberry and raspberry swirl pops.
What a welcome treat on a hot summer day!
We have made blackberry, plum, raspberry, grape, blueberry and apricot. We have also made key lime, orange and lemon (using just the juice and rind with condensed milk and yogurt or whipped cream). Our main ingredients are always what we grow or what is in season. I still have not tried peach, but for those of you with peach trees and a bumper crop I urge you to give that a try. We have added peanut butter, cashew butter, hazelnut butter and whey protein powder. Every pop has been tasty, or so it seems, as none are left in the freezer!
As you can see, ingredient amounts are really left to your imagination. Just use what you like, add what you have, taste the mixture before you freeze it and go from there. Good luck with your creations and happy summer!
© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.