Hey, pops aren't just for kids

The Baltimore Sun

Pops! Icy Treats for Everyone By Krystina Castella Quirk Books / 2008 / $15.95

It's summertime. It's hot. Who doesn't want a cold treat?

I'm betting that Krystina Castella can convince you, as she convinced me, that an icy pop can be as satisfying - or almost as satisfying - as ice cream.

Thinking of those syrupy red, purple and orange things on a stick from the store, I had written off pops as kiddie food, something for 7-year-olds at the pool. But flipping through Castella's 125-page love poem to all things iced and on a stick, flipping past Blueberry Cheesecake Pops, Coconut Cream Yogurt Pops, Caramel Latte Pops, my preconceived notions melted like so much Fudgsicle.

I loved that she brought pumpkin, a favorite autumnal flavor, into summer with her Sugar Pumpkin Pops, a smooth, decadent-seeming treat that, unlike its distant store-bought cousins, packs some serious vitamins.

The Root Beer Float Pops, from Castella's chapter on soda fountain-inspired pops, was ridiculously easy to make and endlessly refreshing.

Why risk the melt factor hauling home second-rate stuff when, after an investment in inexpensive pop molds, you can concoct much better ones? (Castella goes a bit far, suggesting people make their own molds out of silicone, plastic baggies, swizzle sticks - everything but a nail file and some chicken wire. It's too much.)

Gelato! Italian Ice Creams, Sorbetti and Granite By Pamela Sheldon Johns Ten Speed Press / 2008 / $14.95

Only the Italians could have conceived gelato - a frozen dessert with less fat than ice cream, but with a flavor and texture that leaves all but the best ice cream in its sweet, velvety wake.

It's funny that both this book and Pops! have exclamation marks in their title. Pops might need the extra boost - not so gelato. Anyone who's ever licked a nocciola- (hazelnut) or a caffe- (coffee) flavored cone while strolling along some via or another knows what I'm talking about.

If you don't, check out Pamela Sheldon Johns' book.

She starts off with some gelato history and a tour through a few of her favorite gelaterias in Italy. After this throat-clearing comes the point - the recipes.

She's got classic flavors and more unusual ones - like the Mascarpone Gelato. It tasted lush, particularly just out of the ice cream maker. Rich, creamy and not overly sweet.

I'm eager to try a few of the sorbetto recipes - the orange in particular, which Johns serves in hollowed-out citrus.


Sugar Pumpkin Pops

Makes six 8-ounce pops or eight 6-ounce pops

2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, homemade or canned (see note)

1 cup milk (divided use)

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (divided use)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup roasted, hulled pumpkin seeds

Combine the pumpkin puree, 1 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup of the milk, 1/4 cup of the sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon and nutmeg in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Stir in the pumpkin seeds.

In a bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup milk and 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the pop molds until about 2/3 full. Freeze for at least 4 hours. Fill the molds to the top with the milk mixture and insert the sticks. Freeze for an additional 6 hours.

Remove from the freezer; let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before removing the pops from the molds.

Note: When using canned pumpkin puree, add 1 additional cup of water in the first step.

From "Pops!"

Per serving (based on 6 pops): 261 calories, 11 grams protein, 14 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 28 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 12 milligrams cholesterol, 57 milligrams sodium


Find recipes for Mascarpone Gelato and Root Beer Float Pops at baltimoresun.com/taste

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