A few summers ago, I was standing in my kitchen at about 4 p.m. when I heard a sound so evocative of my suburban New Jersey childhood that, at first, I thought it was in my head: the tinkling tune of an approaching ice-cream truck. When my children ran in to demand money for ice cream, establishing that I wasn't daydreaming, I grabbed my wallet and we went outside to flag down Mr. Softee. For the next two afternoons, we answered the same Pavlovian call, enjoying Creamsicles, Fudgsicles, Strawberry Shortcakes and Toasted Almond bars as we stood on the sidewalk in front of our house.
And then, abruptly, the ice-cream man stopped coming around. It turns out that an ordinance designed to prevent children from running out into the middle of traffic-clogged Hamptons streets during the summer prohibits ice-cream trucks in Sag Harbor Village proper, banishing them to beach parking lots for the season. Understandable from a safety standpoint, but disappointing if you've grown to expect ice cream on a stick on schedule.
Luckily, our local five-and-dime stocks plenty of plastic ice-pop molds and wooden sticks. I knew I'd never be able to re-create a Creamsicle at home, so I focused on coming up with a formula for frozen yogurt pops that I could adapt to use with various fruits as they arrived at the market during the summer.
Simply combining pureed fruit, plain yogurt (full-fat Greek-style makes the creamiest bars, but low-fat works fine) and honey worked pretty well. But my homemade bars melted quickly in the August heat, in contrast to the ice-cream man's bars, which kept their shape and didn't drip at all during the five minutes or so it took to eat them. Commercial bars contain stabilizers precisely for this purpose. Not having access to guar gum, I turned to unflavored gelatin to raise the temperature at which the yogurt would melt. It worked beautifully. As a bonus, the gelatin gave the frozen yogurt a smooth consistency and a less icy texture than frozen yogurt made without it. A generous amount of honey also helped prevent ice crystals from forming as my pops sat in the freezer for several days.
Some fruit flavors are meant to go together, especially in the summer and especially in yogurt pops: Strawberry and banana, blackberry and peach, kiwi and mango, blueberry and nectarine. It takes a little extra time to make striped yogurt pops using two different flavors of yogurt, but it's fun and easy. Simply freeze the molds for 15 minutes before adding each new layer. This should thicken the yogurt already in the molds enough to keep it from mixing with newly added yogurt, so the layers remain separate and distinct.
BLUEBERRY AND NECTARINE YOGURT POPS
Make 4 each of these fruit-flavored yogurt pops, or layer the two different mixtures for two-toned pops. And use the recipe as a template for other fruit flavors and combinations, substituting equal quantities of other fruits for the blueberries and nectarines: strawberries, bananas, raspberries, peaches, kiwis, mangoes, etc.
2 cups blueberries
2 cups nectarines (3 medium or 4 small), pitted, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 packet (2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin, divided
2/3 cup honey, divided
2 cups plain full-fat Greek-style yogurt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, divided
1. Puree the blueberries in a blender or food processor, then press the puree through a fine strainer and into a bowl, discarding the seeds.
2. Rinse out the blender, add nectarine pieces, and puree. Transfer to another bowl.
3. Sprinkle 11/4 teaspoons gelatin over the blueberries and 11/4 teaspoons of it over the nectarines. Let stand to soften, about 5 minutes.
4. One at a time, place each bowl over a small pot of barely simmering water and heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is warm to the touch, about 3 minutes. Do not overheat.
5. Whisk 1/3 cup honey, 1 cup yogurt and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla into each bowl.
6. Divide half of nectarine mixture among 8 (4-ounce) ice-pop molds, then put in freezer until partially frozen, about 15 minutes. Divide all of blueberry mixture among molds and put back in the freezer until partially frozen, another 15 minutes. Fill molds with remaining nectarine mixture. (Alternatively, just fill 4 molds with the blueberry mixture and 4 with the nectarine mixture.) Freeze for 15 minutes, cover molds and insert sticks at least through middle layer and freeze until completely firm, at least 3 hours.
7. Place molds in a container with room-temperature water up to 1/4inch from top of molds. Let stand for a few seconds, then remove covers and pull out pops. Serve immediately or wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze until ready to serve.
Makes 8 pops.