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Mint Basil Chip Popsicles

Infusing fresh herbs into cream is what makes these Mint Basil Chip Popsicles unforgettable

So much can change in a year. If I looked back on my life, I always knew where I was going or at least tried to play a good game. From high school to journalism school. From j-school to grad school. And then things completely went off the rails.

What looked like a future in India became a present in the Bay area that painted sweeping strokes of a new future. I stayed tuned into the possibility of rethinking where I was headed until one very decisive moment of the kind of vocational meltdown that can only happen in a public place. In a darkened movie theater, the heroine of the flick made a decision anyone else might think is career suicide. And, in the end, she re-envisioned a life for herself that was good and whole. What sprang unexpectedly into an emotional moment was the idea that somewhere I had lost my way. Could I get it back? I sat there, unexpectedly weeping during this scene of The Devil Wears Prada?!  My boss a few seats down. Hoping against hope that she wouldn’t see me with her laser intuition and grill me.  Instead, Anne Lamott saw me as I approached her hustling a few popcorn kernels into her mouth while in a lobby line for another movie. We didn’t say much. She didn’t need to. A beacon of light only has to shine.

And thus began a tiptoeing back to consider what my future might hold and how I might claim it. Perhaps it seems like a misstep to follow that drumbeat rhythm taking you deeper into your story, but mine led me to poetry school and gratefully, a husband, a house, two cats. Not at all the life I thought my wanderlust leanings would go.

One of the cats heard the siren song of the Mint Basil Chip Popsicles

And yet, we surprise ourselves all the time, don’t we. Finding an appetite for peas as an adult that we abhorred as children. Circling back to the classical music of childhood when contemporary music doesn’t quite cut it. Infusing fresh farmer’s market herbs into cream for something with a bit more oomph but that still hits all the right keys for my Mint Chip ice cream loving heart. Mint Basil Chip Popsicles are this year’s gold star pick on a wooden stick.

It’s popsicle week. Last year I narrowly missed it by a few days with my Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles but followed along swooning over the wide range of flavors. Last year was the deluge of good work writing, shooting, and planning that continues on into this year. It’s not where I expected to be when dreaming of the future as a child, but I can’t envision any other future better than this one. We make our lives or they make us?

The secret to Mint Basil Chip Popsicles is fresh chervil. It lends an herbal note you can't quite put your finger on.

Mint Basil Chip Popsicles

The inspiration for the base of these popsicles came from a visit to Tartine Manufactory and a swirl of their fior di latte herbal soft serve. I prefer my chocolate chipped in chocolate chip ice cream and accomplished the right texture using either the small or large holes on a box grater.

Makes about 8 popsicles

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 cups fresh mint leaves (about 1 bunch)
1 cup fresh basil leaves (about 2 robust sprigs)
1/2 cup fresh chervil leaves (about 9 slender sprigs)
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, grated

Bring the cream, milk and sugar to boil. Whisk to prevent scorching. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium and cook for  2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Infuse the mint, basil, and chervil in the hot cream for 30 minutes. Strain out the leaves. Stir the chocolate shards into the infused liquid. Pour the liquid into the popsicle molds, filling them ¾ of the way. Leave no chocolate behind–spoon any remaining chocolate shards into the wells. Freeze for an hour. Insert the popsicle sticks. Freeze for 3 more hours.

Grating the chocolate for these Mint Basil Chip Popsicles gives you that classic chipped chocolate texture.

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Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles

Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles - anneliesz

Growing up, popsicles always seemed like the sad substitute for ice cream. The one exception to that rule were the creamy paletas we would pick up at the bodega when visiting our family in Mexico. Back home in Texas though, purple, red, and neon orange frozen confections resembled rockets that required licking and furtive patience as you had to work hard not to have them completely melt and drip on your hands during hot summer days. We pushed up on orange creamsicle push-up pops. We nibbled, licked, and slurped our way to the bottom of sundae ice cream cones hoping to find a well of hardened chocolate shell at the bottom like a secret prize. I scorned the Fudge Popsicle, regarding it as a low calorie impostor. I might have still been developing opinions and points of view about subjects in school or summer required reading, but for ice cream I always had an answer ready. I could tell you why one Texas creamery’s Homemade Vanilla tasted best without adornment (an accolade since I couldn’t fathom why people would ever want just plain vanilla). Chocolate always grabbed me in its clutches except when cloked as ice cream and especially figured into fudgesicles.Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles - anneliesz It’s a funny thing—growing up. The world continues to evolve and so do your tastes. A few years ago, it looked dubious that this same Texas creamery would be able to rebound after a production crisis. Or two. It’s strange to see companies that seemed so secure and inevitable during your childhood, companies you would be sure would be around when you have kids and they’re of the age to eat ice cream as summer relief, falter and struggle. Last autumn, while I visited Austin on book tour, I paid a visit to a local grocery store for supplies and there they were, behind doors in the freezer aisle. Gone were the Peaches and Cream. Nowhere to be seen was the Banana Pudding with hunks of vanilla wafers in the frozen custard. Even the stalwart Cookies & Cream with big chunks of chocolate sandwich cookies had flown the coop. Buttercup yellow pints of vanilla cozied up to pink-tinged brown pints of Dutch chocolate. They peered out and looked vulnerable. What once had been several shelves full of the cheering cow logo quarts had been reduced to two types of pints. It struck me as a picture of how in an instant, things can change, even if the instant takes place slowly—what are a few years in the whole of a person’s life but a blip?

Not long ago, I watched as a friend navigated the murky waters of the foundering ship that was the food company where she worked. Even when you see on the inside the cogs beginning to give way, it can be so hard to abandon ship. You want to believe that the brand you’ve known and love will muster through and make it to the other side of whatever battle in which they are entrenched. It can be incredibly jarring to invite a product into your refrigerator (and really, into your life) only to be made aware of its disappearance on the shelf and the subsequent absence it creates. How do you fill that need for a particular taste and the void it creates in your lexicon of ingredients?

Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles - anneliesz

Out of sentimental attachment last fall, I discovered in a hotel room in Austin that my preference for vanilla had changed. I had changed. It felt like a sort of betrayal to shift my vanilla ice cream loyalty elsewhere. Was I any less of a Texan? Working at a food company makes you privy to so much that goes on behind the scenes and all the people essential to making a product succeed, including, of course, the customers themselves. You want to cheer on companies whose foods align with your values, whose flavors make you rally support in dollars spent. I have no idea the statistic of food companies that fail. It’s a question far too depressing to consider, really. Instead, I focus energy on applauding the effort—the belief that something tasted good enough that it must be shared. That all the countless hours spent getting a product on the shelf (not to mention the tireless efforts to keep said product on the shelf) are worthwhile.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that I’ve circled back to Fudge Popsicles and reconsidered my position. Because I’m older, I can be specific as to why Fudge Pops never quite did it for me as a kid (icy, water-based or skim milk-based which might as well be water). I owe that discovery also to mouthfeel and that I relish chewy popsicles. Because I’m older, I’ve made batch after batch of ice cream and the small failures along the way have led to the big reveal: life is short. Anything worth doing should be worth it even if it doesn’t last forever. We all have expiration dates on us, even businesses and brands. While we are able, life is meant to be lived, and sometimes that requires Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles.

Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles - anneliesz

Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles

These popsicles are inspired by a perfect square of Fauchon Pink Peppercorn Chocolate that brought me bliss from a recent souvenir care package. In my desire to recreate that sensation of dark chocolate melding with citrusy pink peppercorns, I decided these flavors would make a fudge pop for all other fudge pops to reckon with. I swear by Guittard 70% bittersweet chocolate, after recipe testing five different kinds of chocolate for the truffles recipe in Steeped. It’s my preferred chocolate and that coral red box claims to hold 6 ounces but my scale pronounces it 6 ¼. When developing this recipe, I tried to hold back on the sugar because I didn’t want the popsicles too sweet. I finally arrived at the amount below once I relaxed and remembered that sugar and salt amplify flavor—so you will find the popsicles are not cloyingly sweet, instead the chocolate and peppercorn flavors play up satisfyingly. I dedicate these popsicles to good friends who have a wicked sense of styling and find food photography a fun afternoon endeavor (Here’s looking at you, Steph) and friends who love you enough to tote special French chocolates back from the city of lights (bisous, mille fois, Olga).

Makes 10 popsicles

6 1/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (1 red box from Guittard), coarsely chopped

2 cups heavy cream

½ cup water

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons whole pink peppercorns

 

Place the chopped chocolate into a medium stainless steel bowl with a wooden spoon nearby. Bring the cream and water to just under a boil, whisking in the cocoa powder, salt, and sugar once tiny bubbles prick the outer edge of the saucepan, until dissolved. Remove from the heat once the bubbles grow to the size of a pinhead, usually 30 seconds to 1 minute longer. Meanwhile, grind the peppercorns to a medium-coarse consistency in a mortar and pestle. Pour 1/2 cup of the hot cream into the chocolate while stirring until the chocolate has melted. Continue stirring, pouring in the remainder of the hot cream. Stir in the peppercorns. Pour the hot fudge cream into the open wells of a popsicle holder. Insert the popsicle sticks and freeze for 3 to 4 hours.

Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles - anneliesz