With America’s birthday just around the corner, I figured I’d celebrate on the blog in my own little way with a food group that’s equally as aspirational as good ol’ Independence Day herself:
Much like our sacred national holiday, popsicles (or ice pops, to get technical), can go terribly wrong when the necessary precautionary measures are not taken. But, with a little planning (and a lot of patience), you’re in for a ridiculously fun and memorable occasion that may or may not go down in history books…
(Okay not really, but these bad boys are pretty darn delicious).
As someone who tends to favor winter weather and holidays that involve turkey, stuffing, and snuggling under blankets, the 4th of July is typically hit or miss for me. However, it’s definitely not for lack of trying; in fact, I actually spend considerable amounts of time prepping for Independence Day (at least emotionally speaking). Each year in anticipation of this special day, I fantasize about all the barbecue and pasta salad I’ll eat, or how I’ll paint my nails in some sort of festive patriotic design. I’ll typically buy some sort of red, white, and blue outfit or bathing suit that I forget to wear on the actual day, resulting in an abandoned corner of my closet that I now affectionately refer to as “Aspirational Americana/Cookout/Beach Party.”
The hubs and I will have every intention of seeing fireworks, but by the time we start investigating potential venues, most of the festivities will have taken place the weekend prior, or will be at 10 pm on a work night (and who can even stay up that late anyway?).
Needless to say, you can add 4th of July to the list of things in my life (along with the blog, house hunting, my career, etc) that I attempt to manipulate into perfection based on an unattainable vision that I have in my heart and mind, but ultimately just ends up being a crushing disappointment when it fails to live up to my unreasonably foolish expectations. However, since this year we actually have solid plans of the traditional Americana sort – BBQ, sparklers, cake in the shape of an American flag, etc. – I’m hoping that this year…this year, will be different, my friends.
My feelings about popsicles mimic those that I have for Independence Day: I have the grandest aspirations about luscious summer ice pops, but some way some how, they end up letting me down…which isn’t easy to do, considering many popsicles are just pureed fruit, and if I wanted a smoothie for dessert, I’d have a smoothie for dessert youknowwhatimsaying? Even as a child when ANYTHING with sugar was supposed to please me, I distinctly remember looking at a popsicle and thinking to myself “NOT ice cream.”
(Don’t even get me started on those wretched sugar-syrup ones in the plastic tube that you’d cut your mouth on trying to get the package open).
Never fear, dear reader – these are not the popsicles of your childhood, my friends. I’m proud to say I’ve figured out how to make these ice pops super fat and decadent (I even figured out a way to put BUTTER in them! Woohoo!).
Typically when I’m making ice pops I’ll use my trusty Zoku Quick Pop Maker which I absolutely ADORE, but I purchased this ice pop mold last summer and wanted to try it out. Aside from the amount of time and attention these take, the process is relatively simple – the key is just having lots of patience and allowing each layer to freeze adequately before piling on the next layer.
The tart berry layers pair nicely with the creamy cheesecake layer, and the salty graham crumbles are the perfect unexpected textural surprise. These pops are beautiful and delicious, AND since they don’t have as much butter and sugar as what I normally use in my recipes, I consider them a nutritional WIN this holiday season.
For those of you celebrating in the US this week, have a splendid holiday full of good food, family, friends, and sunshine. For those of you outside of the states, you should make these popsicles anyhow – because us aspirational people gotta stick together!
Happy scooping 🙂
Berry Cheesecake Ice Pops with Buttery Graham Crumbles
Yield: 10 Pops
Buttery Graham Crumbles:
- 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 3 sheets of graham crackers, processed until crumbly)
- 1 teaspoon melted butter
- Pinch of salt, or to taste
- 2 cups chopped strawberries
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons sugar (or sweetener of choice, to taste – add more or less depending upon sweetness of berries and personal preference)
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- 1.5 cups blueberries
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons sugar (or sweetener of choice, to taste)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon of lemon
Make the Buttery Graham Crumbles:
1. In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and salt; toss with a fork to combine until mixture is crumbly and the graham crumbs are sufficiently moistened. Set aside until ready to use.
Make the Strawberry layer:
2. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste the mixture to ensure it’s sweet enough for your liking. If you wish, you may run through a mesh sieve to catch all the seeds (personally, I don’t mind the added texture). Using a cup or bowl with a pointed spout, pour strawberry puree into each mold until the mold is approximately a third full. Place into the freezer to freeze until partially solid, about one hour. Rinse out your blender container in preparation for the blueberry layer.
Make the Blueberry layer:
3. Similar to the strawberry layer, combine all ingredients into the blender and process until smooth (you can pass through a sieve to remove some of the pulp and seeds if you wish). Set in the fridge until ready to use (note: you may need to re-blend or stir the puree prior to using if it becomes too thick in the fridge). Rinse out blender container to prep for the cream cheese layer.
4. Once the strawberry layer is sufficiently hardened but not frozen solid (about an hour or so), remove from freezer and sprinkle some graham crumbs on top and *gently* pack down. I used about 3/4 teaspoon for each pop (and, the 1/4 tsp measure was the perfectly sized tool to use to pack down the crumbles). Set back in for half an hour to allow the crumbles to become cold.
Make the Cheesecake layer and insert popsicle sticks:
5. While the graham layers are becoming cold, make your cheesecake layer by combining all ingredients in your blender and pureeing until smooth.
6. Remove the popsicle molds from the freezer. Pour the cream cheese layer on top of the already-frozen strawberry and graham crumb layers – at this point, your molds should be 1/3 of the way filled. IMPORTANT: Add your sticks at this point (sometimes I forget to do this). Put in the fridge for half an hour or so, then remove and add more graham crumbles, freezing for an additional half an hour until graham layer is cold.
7. Finally, layer on the blueberry layer, ensuring an even distribution of puree around the popsicle stick. Place back in freezer until frozen (about 2 hours or so, but sometimes i’ll leave mine overnight just to be sure).
8. Once your pops are completely frozen, remove them from the mold. For easy removal, submerge molds in a large bowl/sink full of hot water for approximately 30 seconds. The pops should come out easily, but if not, submerge for 10 seconds at a time until the mold releases and the pops come out clean. I’d recommend serving immediately, but you can store n the fridge for about a day before serving.