My roommate found a Zoku popsicle maker on the street and brought it home. I wanted to experiment with it to see if I could make some summery frozen treats!
On the way home, my roommate stumbled upon some goods that a neighbor was throwing out. Among the items was a Zoku popsicle maker, which had been on my wish list for some time. She brought it home, and I decided to try to make some popsicles with it!
The found Zoku didn't come with the normal accessories that usually come with the kit (such as proprietary sticks and a remover tool), so I decided to experiment with stuff that I had in my kitchen. I had cylindrical sticks from some disposable push-pops that I decided to try using as popsicle sticks. First, I stuck the Zoku in the freezer to freeze overnight.
After searching online, I found a promising recipe for watermelon pops from Food & Wine magazine:
I sometimes buy mint to use for soda-making, but I always find that I can never finish the whole pack fast enough before it goes bad. Rather than waste money on mint, I decided to use the recipe as a guideline for some watermelon pops minus the mint.
I first went to Trader Joe's to pick up some groceries. It turns out that they have these small, personal watermelons you can purchase there. I also got a lemon to mix with the watermelon.
After returning home, though, I found that the watermelon had gone bad and had a very unpleasant, vinegar-like taste. I ended up throwing out the entire melon and making another trip to my local Whole Foods to get a replacement watermelon.
The replacement watermelon I purchased at Whole Foods was much fresher, but also much more expensive (yikes!)
I chopped up about half of the watermelon and blended it in batches using my Magic Bullet. I also added some fresh lemon (about half a lemon) as well as some simple syrup that I had in my fridge from leftover soda-making. I just added enough to taste. I tend not to like very sweet desserts, but I added some sugar because I heard that things taste less sweet when they're frozen. My roommate also mentioned that adding sugar helps soften the mixture when it hardens, making it easier to remove from a mold.
After blending the ingredients, I tried pouring then into the Zoku mold directly. I quickly discovered that things were getting pretty messy, so i used a funnel that to pour the mixture more directly into the mold. I was surprised by how little needed to go into the mold.
After filling the molds, I held the cylindrical popsicle sticks in the mold for about 2 minutes until the mixture had hardened enough for the sticks to stand on their own.
Then I let the whole pop harden for about 10 minutes.
After waiting 10 minutes for the pops to harden, I attempted to remove the popsicles from the mold, which proved to be pretty impossible to do. I'm not sure if the sticks just don't have enough leverage, but despite running the Zoku under warm water and trying to scrape down the sides using a knife, I wasn't able to remove them successfully. In the end, I forcefully pulled out the stick and then ate the popsicles like Italian ice. (The pop itself was actually pretty delicious, although technically, it wasn't a popsicle...)
After looking online at FAQs on the Zoku website, I found that recipes with a low sugar content cannot be easily released from the mold. Zoku has their own recipe book (that is quite expensive), so perhaps you need to ensure that the balance of ingredients match whatever they have in their recipe book? Also, after looking further into the Zoku, I found that the necessary accessories are pricey (such as the sticks and "super tool," which helps you remove the pop from the mold). Additionally, you can't leave the pops in the mold or they become impossible to remove if they're not removed right away, which means you need a separate container to store the pops (which Zoku conveniently sells for $$).
After this unsatisfactory experience using the Zoku machine, I decided to try simply using the push-pop containers I had saved from my last visit to an ice-cream shop (as a side note, it was to Quenelle, an amazing ice cream shop in LA).
As I mentioned, I had 2 leftover push-pop molds from my trip to Quenelle in LA. I was a little worried about how leak-proof the containers were, but I was surprised to find that they held up very well when I filled them with the watermelon + lemon mixture. To ensure that they would stand up in the fridge, I placed them in a plastic cup and then stuck the whole thing in my freezer. We'll see how they turn ou!
The push-pops were much more successful than the Zoku pops, although the texture was still pretty icy. I was at least able to enjoy them much more easily than what was produced with the Zoku. I still have leftover watermelon mixture, so I may try to add extra simple syrup to the mix and freeze an extra set of pops to compare the texture.
There are a few things I'd still like to experiment with:
More to come...
I added more sugar to my mixture (to be honest, I can't say exactly how much. I don't tend to measure when I cook). I found that it didn't seem to make much of a difference in terms of texture. I wonder if maybe the amount of time the treat is frozen for makes a difference?
I also realized that all examples of push pops I could think of used cream. Perhaps ice cream is just better suited for the shape of the push pops?
After realizing that water-based frozen treats were probably not meant to be put in push pops, I decided to look for recipes online that use push-pop containers. Many of the used yogurt in what seem to be essentially frozen smoothies:
Since I have some frozen mangos and some blended yogurt, I decided to see what differences I could detect with the texture of the treat. After defrosting and cutting up some of the mango (about 1 cup frozen) and mixing it with yogurt (1/2 cup), I poured the mix into my molds. I found that my empty yogurt container was actually the perfect size to hold both molds (yay!). Afterward, I put the whole thing in the freezer to solidify.
The mango push pops I made fared slightly better than the watermelon pops in terms of texture, though they were still a little icy. I preferred the flavor of the watermelon pops, though, as the mango wasn't fully ripe and was a little sour.
I've seen some recipes for layered push pops, so I think I may try that next. I have some blueberries and more frozen mangoes, so I plan to try making some layered pops in the coming week.
I also found out that blamb has a Zoku (with some sticks), so I'm hoping to borrow one to test out using the Zoku again!
When I first received the Zoku machine, I had actually ordered some sticks to use with it after I found them for cheap online at Williams-Sonoma (who would have thought). But after I quickly discovered how expensive the path of continuing with the Zoku machine might be (given all their additional accessories), I decided to return the sticks.
The process of returning the sticks involved me being put on hold for 40 minutes before being able to speak with a customer service representative. Luckily, I had just placed the order earlier that day, so the representative let me know that the order was canceled.
Yesterday, though, I saw that I had received a package from Williams Sonoma. I was pretty irritated at this point, anticipating that I would need to waste time going to the post office to return a product that I had waited 40 minutes to cancel. I was in the middle of writing an angry email to Williams Sonoma when I decided to check my credit card bill. To my surprise, I found that I was actually refunded the price of the sticks. So I think that they basically sent me a free set of Zoku sticks.
Needless to say, I discarded that draft email. Perhaps the lesson learned is good things come to those that wait?
Anyhow, I don't plan to make anything with my free set of Zoku sticks just yet since I'll be pretty busy over the next week, but I hope I'll have some time in a few weeks to continue some experiments with the Zoku machine!