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9 tips for making homemade gourmet ice pops

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Cooking School

9 tips for making homemade gourmet ice pops

Everyone loves an ice pop on a hot summer's day, but the commercial kind are loaded with artificial ingredients. Kari Marshall, CEO of The Pop Stand, an artisanal frozen bar company in Toronto, shares her tips for making your own delicious gourmet versions of this popular summer treat.

How to make homemade ice pops:

1. Base notes
Create a base liquid to freeze with anything from fresh fruit juice to spices to soy milk. "The combinations are endless and when you experiment with different ingredients, the nuances are fantastic," says Marshall.

For the punchiest flavours, use ripe, seasonal produce. And make sure your base tastes a little more intense than you'd like it to be once frozen; chilled foods numb the taste buds.

2. The big chill
It takes four to six hours for pops to freeze, but freezer model, mould size and ingredients all factor in. Crank your freezer to its coldest setting and leave your pops in overnight. "If you get impatient and keep opening the door, you'll get ice shards," Marshall warns. Ice pops with alcohol or more sugar (natural fructose included) take longer.

3. Shape shifters
You can buy ice pop moulds at big box stores or use clean yogurt pots, cupcake molds, ice cube trays or freezer-safe shot glasses. "Just make sure the opening at the top is wider than the one at the bottom, so you can get your ice pops out at the end," says Marshall. Tip: Run the mould under cold water for a few seconds so it comes off easily.

4. Stick it
Buy wooden lollipop sticks at the dollar store or get creative. Marshall recommends cinnamon sticks, clean twigs or even the chocolate- or caramel-filled dip spoons designed for stirring hot chocolate as alternatives. "With those, you get a nice surprise at the end," she says.

Page 1 of 2 -- Discover five more great tips for making homemade ice pops on page 2. 5. Get fresh
Most fruits freeze well. Marshall loves raspberries, strawberries and cherries in her pops. Watermelon is subtly refreshing. Mix pineapple with something else; it's so high in fructose that it doesn't freeze well.

Fruits can be muddled, puréed, juiced, chopped or even frozen whole, if they’re small. Muddling adds texture, and every bite varies in intensity and flavour. Puréed and juiced ingredients give consistency, and chopped or whole fruits add visual interest and texture. Veggies such as corn, beets and carrots work well in blends, too.

6. Sugar, sugar
Ripe fruit tends to need no help, but if a base needs to be sweetened, Marshall adds organic cane sugar, coconut sugar or maple syrup. "Just make sure things are blended well to get a nice creaminess and no ice crystals," she says.

7. Cream of the crop
For velvety ice pops, dairy is great. "I make a kicking key lime pie flavour with juiced and zested key limes, dried chili peppers and sweetened condensed milk," says Marshall. She also makes creamy pops with blended caramelized bananas and cream, and with milky Mexican hot chocolate. For vegans, substitute soy milk, almond milk or blended avocado.

8. Happy hour
Beer and wine freeze well, but hard liquor works only in very small doses -- use it to punch up fruity flavours. Marshall makes natural orange pops to serve in a bubbly at weddings, "just like mimosas," she says. Kahlua and Baileys freeze quite well, but again, use them in a blend. For cocktail-inspired ice pops, suspend lemon or lime twist garnishes in the base liquid before freezing.

9. Layers
In an homage to the tricolor rocket pop, why not make stripes? "I do a muddled raspberry base layered with hibiscus iced tea," says Marshall. Just part-fill moulds with one base flavour, let set, then top up with another complementary flavour. Create diagonal stripes by propping up moulds on one side, so they set at an angle.

The golden rule when you’re making gourmet ice pops is to let your imagination run wild. "Baking is such a science," says Marshall, "but freezing is so forgiving."

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Cooking School

9 tips for making homemade gourmet ice pops