Along with bling and outrage, the ice lolly is probably the thing fashion designers and toddlers most have in common. It is instant dessert and an edible sticking plaster. Mostly, whether you go to town with the freeze-ins, the ombrés and the post-freezer coatings, it is heatwave relief on a stick.
Almost any liquid, bar neat, heavy alcohol, freezes well – from double cream and coconut milk to freshly pulped watermelon (for which there’s a stellar hack: slice off the top of the fruit, plunge in a hand blender and juice the inside, then strain). Make sure whichever option you plump for is overly flavourful – mild juice will make for a meh lick.
Texture, on the other hand, will make it exciting, from pieces of fruit to nuggets of cookie dough, chocolate chips, oatmeal, bits of cake and sprinkles galore. Conversely, if you like it smooth, strain any freshly made juice and, as with ice-cream, freeze your mixture first in a tub, then break it up, blitz until smooth and freeze again in lolly moulds.
Moulds are great but paper cups, Smarties tubes or egg cups will do. If needed, freeze until slushy, then add in the sticks or spoons – or (clean) twigs – and freeze until firm, which will be at least four to six hours, and overnight is best. Guests of every age – giddy at their newly unrestricted social lives – are going to think you’re the bee’s knees just for having some in your freezer.
Anna Jones’s pastel-hued mini milks are a good place to start, combining milk (plant-based or cow’s) with vanilla, strawberry or mango and a sweetener. Coconut milk goes well with strawberries and hazelnut milk with yoghurt, honey and bananas. Sweet hot drinks (milky tea, hot chocolate, Vietnamese coffee or chai latte) all have popsicle potential, as do flavoured cold milks. A good hack is to simply freeze shop-bought chocolate milk. Alternatively, there’s the Let’s Eat Cake lolly version of Momofuku’s genius cereal milk ice-cream: you make a giant bowl of your kid’s favourite breakfast (four cups to three cups of milk), which you refrigerate for several hours, then strain and use to make a custard. You then layer up custard and dry cereal in moulds and freeze.
Pureed fruit (peach, raspberry, banana) or fresh juice (watermelon, grapefruit) both work on their own, sweetened or gussied up with added bits. Minimalist Baker does blueberries, satsuma segments and chopped-up peach in orange juice. Mark Grossman simply dips frozen banana halves in melted, buttery chocolate then adds sprinkles to freeze.
Denai Moore of Dee’s Table, ace purveyor of Jamaican vegan fare, makes a cherry almond lolly that is something special. Cover 130g raw cashews with boiling water and leave to soak for 2 hours, then drain and blend with 2 tsp almond extract, 3 tbsp agave or maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla and 120ml plant milk til smooth, then refrigerate half. Add 115g frozen cherries to the other half, and blend until smooth. Half fill your moulds with the cherry mix and freeze for 45 minutes before filling up with the plain mix. Add sticks and freeze overnight, or for at least six hours.
The fun of fruit is in the variety of colours you can use – if you are that way inclined. To make fully distinct layers of something quite liquid, mix up your different colours and freeze until set in between in each addition. For something thicker, such as a yoghurt base, skip the intermittent freezing. Elephantastic Vegan’s beautiful blueberry ombré simply involves adding progressively more frozen blueberries to a batch of soy yoghurt, so the colour steadily deepens with each new layer. Similarly, but not vegan, Molly Yeh adds more and more cocoa to sweetened, vanilla-spiked Greek yoghurt.
There’s a recipe for every bottle in your drinks cabinet: tequila, vodka, Campari, rum, rum, bourbon, more rum, Bailey’s, beer and Aperol spritz. You can freeze a blue Martini and the Dude’s own white russian. And with raspberries and some lemonade, you can make what the food website Spices in My DNA has labelled a raspberry frosé poptail. Just remember that while spiked treats are no doubt where it’s at, freezing booze makes it no less boozy: beware driving when popsicled.
For richer treats, mascarpone, nut butter, tahini, creme fraiche, cream and, well, ice-cream make for good, thickened bases. And then there’s fro-yo: Liam Charles recently came up with a fruity breakfast batch, with yoghurt and oats, while Angela Hartnett’s strawberry vanilla pops are delightful and Anna Jones makes maple-sweetened coffee pops that I wouldn’t turn down.
What I really want, though, is a honey parfait popsicle. In their intro to this recipe (found in Honey & Co: Food From the Middle East), Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer describe a dinner party at which they “rolled up 25 small cones from brown parchment, placed them pointy-end down in empty egg cartons, filled them with honey parfait and put a stick in each.” When the lollies were frozen and the guests sated, they handed them out and the room went silent as 25 lawyers licked lollies and grinned like gap-toothed year threes.
To make 4-6, whisk 3 egg yolks until foaming. Bring 80g honey to the boil in a small pan, then carefully pour into the yolks as you whisk, until they are fluffy and shiny. Gently fold the honey-egg mixture into 200ml lightly whipped double cream, then pour into moulds. Freeze for at least four hours or until, as Srulovich and Packer put it, you are ready to be a child again.