Right about this time of year – when you can count the days of school left on one hand (if you live in DC, where we like our school years practically bumping up to Independence Day) and when we’ve traded short-lived, temperate spring days for humid-and-nearly-unbearable – I begin digging in my cabinets for my ice pop molds. You know the ones. I used them to make these peachy numbers last summer and these minty watermelon ones the summer before that. They’re the same molds I used to make these slightly wacky, salad-inspired two-toned treats that appeared in the Washington Post.
Ice pop making is sort of like ice cream making for me – we do it once a year, we have great fun, we say we should do it more often, then we push the equipment to the back of the cabinet until the next summer when the cycle begins all over again. Inevitably, some part of the set is missing. Either I can’t find all 10 molds, which are randomly scattered throughout the cabinet. Or the metal top that holds the sticks is wedged between a casserole dish and the base to my traveling bundt cake holder. Why should this year be any different? I located six of the 10 molds.
The release of Jennifer Steinhauer’s new book, Treat Yourself, couldn’t be better timed. It’s as if she walked up and down the aisles of the grocery store and recreated all the foods your kids want you to buy, to which you reply “Ask Grandma next time you visit.” Based on her own fond childhood memories, Jennifer developed recipes for nostalgic treats like hostess cupcakes, moon pies, nilla wafers, nutter butters and mint milanos (savory stuff too – funyun, anyone?) using real ingredients like butter, sugar and good old all-purpose flour. The book is divided into sections by type of treat. I can honestly say it’s the only cookbook I own with chapters like “Snack Cakes” (chapter 3) and “Fruity Treats and Filled Things” (chapter 4).
I attended Jennifer’s book party last week, where I picked up two signed copies – one copy for me and one for you. (Yes, you! Well, one of you. See details at the bottom and it could be on its way to you faster than you can say “Chicken in a Biskit.”) Jennifer covers Congress for The New York Times and I’m sure her reporting is unbiased, accurate and all-around terrific. I try to pay as little attention as possible to what’s going on across town, so I can’t tell you for sure. But it’s clear her heart – and her funniest writing – follows her stomach. You may be familiar with her frank, deliciously acerbic writing style from her Food52 column, Weeknights with Jenny. Now that, I read. The same dry wit and charming prose is woven into the chapter intros and headnotes of her new book. A favorite passage – “In the pantheon of all things great, doesn’t ice cream fall roughly somewhere between women’s suffrage and the polio vaccine?” Right on, sister. So of course, the first recipe I tried came from chapter 7, “Frozen Treats.” Heck yes.
To be fair, the recipe I had my eye on – pudding pops – didn’t even call for my ice pop molds. It in fact called for wax-lined Dixie cups. Since I was only able to find the kiddie-sized paper kind used for bathroom dispensers and since I had found a whole six out of 10 ice pop molds, I decided to try out a few in cups and a few in the old pop molds just to see how they came out.
The recipe starts with good old-fashioned pudding. As I stood over the stove stirring and stirring, I realized I have never actually made pudding. Ever. Why didn’t someone tell me about this?! The recipe is so simple and straightforward that I only altered it the tiniest smidge by adding a little pure vanilla extract. I think deep chocolate flavor only gets better with a whisper of vanilla. (This is my barely tweaked version of the chocolate pudding pop.) From there, the pudding cools in the fridge before it’s spooned into molds, cups or if you’re me, both. I had the hardest time with this step. I just wanted to eat the pudding out of the bowl and call it a day. Good thing the camera stared me down and kept me honest otherwise you’d just be reading a lot of words and my guesses as to how these might work.
I don’t know about you, but I think the shape and container in which some things are served make a big difference. So I tried pops from both the Dixie cup batch as well as the mold batch. I enjoyed them equally. The Dixie cup portions were a tad smaller (about 3 ounces, compared to 4 ounces in the molds) but equally easy to eat. Both stayed on the stick until the last few melty bites. Is there anything more upsetting than losing that last little wedge to the porch floor?
I’d love to say I’ll be cranking out frozen desserts on sticks all summer long but I think we both know better. I will instead direct my energy towards checking out a few more childhood wonders, like mint meltaways from Fannie May. Remember those, fellow Chicagoans?
So who is getting this book anyway? Enter to win a signed copy of Jennifer’s book by telling me below which nostalgic treat you’d love to make in your own kitchen. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner next week!
06.27.14 UPDATE! The winner of the book “Treat Yourself” is Irina (lucky number 3!). Congrats, Irina and enjoy.