How to Make Red, White, and Blue Rockets for 4th of July

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pop rocket

Active time:1 hour

Total time:6:20 a.m.

Servings:ten

Active time:1 hour

Total time:6:20 a.m.

Servings:ten

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One treat that regularly inhabited the freezers of my youth was the sacred Jell-O pop pudding. These days, it’s hard to say “Jell-O pudding pop” without conjuring up the unsavory image of a distinguished TV doctor gone bad. Perhaps that’s why Jell-O has let Gen X’s favorite vanilla and chocolate desserts gently into this good night.

Sometimes when retro culture resurfaces with full force, I search the internet to see if anyone has resurrected my favorite old thing. Alas. Little Debbie’s Cosmic Brownies returned, as did Planter’s Cheese Balls. But those puddings? No chance. (Jell-O sells DIY kits.)

Self-isolating at home during the pandemic offered plenty of time to recreate 80s favorites. One sunny afternoon, I made a batch of homemade vanilla pudding and froze it in popsicle molds frozen and I imagined a much younger version of myself: satiated desire.

In the end, recreating an old favorite was just the starting point. Another point of nostalgia (I love Don Draper’s description of this feeling in “Mad Men”: the pain of an old wound) was rocket pop, the red, white and blue ice pop purchased, most often, from an ice cream truck.

Make your own pudding pops

I grew up in two places, first in New York and later in suburban Massachusetts. In the first, the music from the truck mingled with the many other sounds of the city. To hear it was to know the near respite from the sweltering summer heat in a city. In the latter, an ice cream truck meant some sort of community event. People were coming out of their houses, entering the wide streets, where the cars were sort of driving by. In small towns, time stands still in summer. It’s not like living in the city at all.

A rocket sound runs down the arm. By the time you hit bottom – the blue – on a hot summer day, it may be gone entirely, a victim of the scorching July heat. This is not the case with the recipe I developed, where crushed raspberries replace the red top of the arugula, vanilla pudding replaces the traditional lemon center, and cooked blueberries (here, tinged with lemon too ) anchor the bottom for a purplish-blue solid.

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I make them in paper cups, not molds. These are big, substantial pops that marry two of my favorite childhood flavors; they work together, physically and in the mouth. They are a little icy and a little creamy. Fruity, bright and sweet.

Will they run down your arm? Any July sun will melt them. But there’s no risk of losing the precious bottom layer if you eat slowly.

Because these pops need to be frozen in layers, you can save a little time and labor by making all three items ahead of time. Raspberry smash only takes a few minutes and a fork. Blueberry compote is a five minute affair, plus time to cool.

Vanilla pudding, the most complicated element of this recipe, is mostly about attention and fuss. It’s a basic pastry cream, but, due to its high egg to cornstarch ratio, it’s also the kind of recipe that avoids curdling (although there is a step here that protects against curdling wandering, if you accidentally go too far: a sieve). Prepare the pudding up to two days in advance and store in the refrigerator with waxed paper or plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming until you be ready to assemble the lollipops.

The pop rockets themselves can last up to a week in the freezer. So you can prepare them in advance for the 4th of July gatherings. And, when guests arrive, surprise them with these most festive delicacies, served extra cold and removed from their cups at the very last minute.

It’s a way to create new memories. I like to think that, years from now, my friends and family will remember my own soft drinks fondly, as I remember frozen treats from my own youth.

Save yourself a little hassle on the day of the party by making these homemade rockets, with a creamy custard center, up to a week ahead. The three elements that give the pops their red, white, and blue colors — crushed raspberries, creamy vanilla pudding, and baked blueberries with lemon — can also be made separately a day before assembling the pops.

Equipment: You will need ten 5 ounce paper cups, like the Dixie brand.

get ahead: Rocket pops can be prepared up to 1 week before serving. Pops components can be crafted up to 1 day before pops are assembled.

Storage Notes: Freeze for up to 1 week.

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  • 1 pint (12 ounces / 340 grams) fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 2/3 cup (133 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 cups (480 milliliters) whole milk
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) heavy cream
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) fresh raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of almond extract

Make the compote: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the blueberries, sugar, lemon zest and juice and cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the berries burst and the mixture looks like a sauce, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.

Place 10 five-ounce paper cups on a 9×13-inch rimmed baking sheet and spoon 2 tablespoons of compote into each cup. Transfer the sheet to the freezer and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare the pudding: place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan off the heat, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Slowly stir in milk and cream until ingredients are well blended. One at a time, whisk the egg yolks, making sure each is well incorporated before adding the next.

Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue whisking, reduce heat to simmer and cook until thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. If it seems runny, continue boiling for a few more minutes, whisking constantly.

Remove from the heat and strain through the fine mesh sieve into a bowl using a rubber spatula to press down or, if desired, pour directly into the bowl. Stir in vanilla. Cover and, if desired, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool and thick, about 2 hours.

Make the smash: While the pudding cools, in a medium bowl, use a fork to mash the raspberries, sugar, and almond extract until the mixture is coarse but not chunky.

Once the blueberry compote is semi-frozen – press down on it with a clean finger and it should create a bump – and the pudding has cooled, scoop 2 tablespoons of the pudding into each paper cup. Smooth the pudding with the back of the spoon, insert a wooden ice cream stick in the center of each cup and return to the freezer for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour, so that the layer has time to partially set. It doesn’t need to be completely frozen for the next layer.

Remove the popsicles once more and spoon 2 tablespoons of crushed raspberry over each popsicle. Return the sheet to the freezer and freeze for at least 3 hours.

When ready to serve, only run the cup under lukewarm running water and, holding the stick, gently pull the pop out of the mold.

Calories: 246; Total fat: 12 g; Saturated fat: 7g; Cholesterol: 32mg; Sodium: 97mg; Carbohydrates: 32g; Dietary fiber: 3g; Sugar: 25g; Protein: 4g

This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.

From food writer Hannah Selinger.

Tested by Debi Suchman and Hattie Ulan; questions by e-mail to [email protected].

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