Excerpted from The Picnic by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson (Artisan Books). Copyright (c...
When you live without air conditioning, you learn to embrace the heat.
There are tactics for coping--always having a bottle of rosé in the fridge, keeping the ice cube trays full, or following the cat's lead and lying prone on the tiled bathroom floor (and trying not to think about how clean said bathroom floor actually is). You can also keep the heat down by not cooking.
The only problem with that last one is that when you cook for a living (and I mean that literally, and, well, literally), you can only stay out of the kitchen so long. Those recipes aren't going to test themselves! This time of year, we embrace our inner stoics and keep cooking on into the dog days. There are things we're not willing to cook, mind you--braises or slow-roasted dishes--but staying out of the kitchen is just impossible. We sweat through it, then duck into a bar down the street for a cold beer.
But there are instances when cooking can help beat the heat. We've recently started playing around with popsicle recipes, for better or for worse. The nice thing about popsicles is that they're easy to make. Maybe a little too easy. We went for it and purchased a simple popsicle mold, but you don't even need that--paper cups or tall, thin glasses work nearly as well.
After a little experimentation, I decided to try recreating a childhood favorite--the Fudgsicle™. I wanted them to be rich and smooth and have an intense chocolate flavor. A little research revealed that most recipes for fudge pops are little more than chocolate pudding recipes that are ultimately poured into popsicle molds and frozen. I ended up tweaking the Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding recipe from the Joy of Cooking and using it to make my fudge pops.
I couldn't have hoped for a better outcome. These pops are velvety smooth and deeply, darkly chocolaty. They soften and melt in the most luxurious way possible, which is especially nice for those of us with sensitive teeth (people who can bite into a popsicle scare me). In other words, these popsicles are not just glorified blocks of ice. They are the platonic ideal of what a fudge pop should be.
Whisk together in a saucepan:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whisk into the sugar mixture:
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
Over medium heat, bring to just under a simmer, whisking constantly. When the mixture thickens, remove from the heat and whisk in:
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pour the mixture into popsicle molds, small paper cups, or tall, thin glasses. Cool completely before freezing. If using a popsicle mold, you can set it in a large bowl of ice water to cool it rapidly, or you can simply place the molds in the refrigerator to cool before freezing.
When the mixture is cool, place in the freezer to cool completely. If you have a mold with a tight-fitting lid, you can insert the popsicle sticks before freezing. Otherwise, allow the mixture to freeze until slushy, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, the insert popsicle sticks and freeze completely.
To unmold, dip the molds in cool water until the fudgsicles release easily. Because these pops are a bit melty, I like to place them in a single layer on a parchment or wax paper-lined baking sheet and place them in the freezer until solid. To store, I cut wax paper into strips, wrap the pops in the wax paper, and put them in a plastic bag in the freezer.