Did you know that the very first Mexican ice treats were made with snow carried from the tops of local volcanoes? What this says to me is that, by now, the people of Mexico must be the authority when it comes to icy treats like paletas.
To support my theory, we have Fany Gerson and her latest book Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Iced, & Aguas Frescas. I dare you to read five pages without either getting pulled into a description of a fruity, creamy, flavor-filled paleta or, alternatively, just wanting to lick the page. I certainly couldn't.
Paletas are so much more than the popsicles most of us Americans grew up licking. Fany Gerson explains that Mexican paletas are either made with fresh fruit (paletas de agua) or rich cream (paletas de leche). The flavors in either case are vibrant and pure.
Paletas are most commonly made with a single ingredient, like watermelon, tamarind, or coconut. Gerson says that, "When other flavors or ingredients are added to fruit paletas, they're usually there only to enhance the natural succulence of the fruit." To prove her point, she gives us recipes for Apricot-Chamomile Ice Pops and Spicy Pineapple Ice Pops.
The paletas de leche often veer into ice cream territory. Chopped nuts, bits of chocolate, and swirls of dulce de leche make their way into these paletas. Fruit also finds a home here! Doesn't the idea of a Sour Cream, Cherry, and Tequila Ice Pop just make your mouth water? And I love that the creamy Lime Pops in the recipe below get a coat of graham cracker crunchiness.
Gerson doesn't stop at just paletas. While recipes for those icy treats comprise the majority of the book, Gerson also includes plenty of recipes for raspados, a dessert somewhere between a granita and a sno-cone, followed by an assortment of aguas frescas. Like paletas, aguas frescas are so much more than simple fruit juice, incorporating ingredients like chia seeds, hibiscus, and cinnamon.
Recipes from Paletas will be making frequent appearances at my cookouts and backyard parties this summer. My goal by the end of the season is to have tried them all with no repeats. Given the selection Gerson has included here, I have a feeling that won't be a problem at all.
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 4 large limes)
2 teaspoons lime zest
Pinch of salt
3 cups coarsely crushed Maria cookies, or graham crackers
Put the sweetened condensed milk, half-and-half, lime juice, lime zest, and salt in a bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined.
If using conventional molds, divide the mixture among the molds, snap on the lid, and freeze until solid, about 5 hours. If using glasses or other unconventional molds, freeze until the pops are beginning to set (1½ to 2 hours), then insert the sticks and freeze until solid, 4 to 5 hours. If using an instant ice pop maker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Spread the graham cracker pieces on a large plate. Unmold the paletas and press each side into the graham crackers, coating completely.
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