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Cooking

Recipes for Mexican paletas

Icy, fruity, and sometimes spiced, paletas are more fun than regular popsicles.

Strawberry, orange-chili, and icy lime paletas.

Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

Strawberry, orange-chili, and icy lime paletas.

As a young kid, I considered Fudgsicles the Holy Grail of popsicles. Then I had my first paletas, Mexican-style ice pops, from a street cart in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. I remember those paletas as vibrantly flavored with fruits, chilies, and other spices. The texture was also distinctive — pleasantly icy and refreshing — and coarse compared with the smooth, creamy store-bought kind. With a set of widely available popsicle molds, paletas are easy to make at home. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

ORANGE AND CHILI PALETAS

Makes 4

If you want more than just a hint of heat, double the red pepper to a scant ½ teaspoon, or omit it if you prefer plain orange. Don’t even think of using anything other than freshly squeezed juice.

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2 tablespoons finely grated zest and ¾ cup juice from 2 to 3 large oranges

1/3 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

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Salt

1½ tablespoons fresh lime juice

In a small saucepan stir together the orange zest and sugar for 30 seconds, then add ¾ cup water, the red pepper flakes, and a tiny pinch of salt. Simmer over medium-high heat, stirring. When the sugar dissolves, set aside to cool to room temperature. Strain into a measuring cup, pressing to release as much liquid as possible; discard the solids. Stir in the orange and lime juices.

Divide the mixture among the molds, leaving about ½ inch of head space. Position sticks or tops and freeze until hard, at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.

Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

TIP: When you fill your molds, be sure to leave about ½ inch of head space at the top because the liquid expands as it freezes.

STRAWBERRY PALETAS

Makes 4

1 pint fresh strawberries (about 2 cups), rinsed, hulled, and quartered

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

Salt

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

In a medium bowl stir together the berries and 1 tablespoon sugar and leave to macerate, covered, for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring 2/3 cup water, the remaining sugar, and a pinch of salt to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring. When the sugar dissolves, set the syrup aside to cool to room temperature.

In a blender, pulse the strawberries, syrup, and lime juice to liquefy. Divide the mixture among the molds, leaving about ½ inch of head space. Position sticks or tops and freeze until hard, at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.

> Variation

STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM PALETAS

Follow the directions for Strawberry Paletas, reducing the amount of water to 1/3 cup and the lime juice to 2 teaspoons. Add ¼ cup heavy cream to the blender along with the strawberries, syrup, and lime juice.

CREAMY SWEET LIME PALETAS

Makes 4

½teaspoon finely grated zest and ½ cup juice from 2 limes

1 tablespoon sugar

¾ cup whole milk

¼ cup heavy cream

Salt

½cup sweetened condensed milk

In a small saucepan stir together the lime zest and sugar for 30 seconds, then add the milk, heavy cream, and a pinch of salt, and, stirring, bring the mixture to a bare simmer over medium-high heat. When the sugar dissolves, set aside to cool to room temperature.

Strain the infused milk into a large measuring cup, pressing to release as much liquid as possible; discard the solids. Stir in the lime juice and sweetened condensed milk.

Divide the mixture among the molds, leaving about ½ inch of head space. Position the sticks or tops and freeze until hard, at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.

> Variation

ICY LIME PALETAS

These are icier and more tart than the creamy lime version.

Follow the directions for Creamy Sweet Lime Paletas, making the following changes:

1) Increase the lime juice to ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons juice (from about 4 limes).

2) Increase the sugar to ¾ cup and substitute ¾ cup water for the whole milk.

3) Omit the sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream.

MEXICAN CHOCOLATE PALETAS

Makes 4

Mexican chocolate is often spiked with cinnamon, almond, and chili. These pops borrow that formula.

1½tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more, to taste

Salt

11/3 cups whole milk

4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped

½ teaspoon almond extract

In a small saucepan stir together brown sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, a tiny pinch of salt, and milk and, stirring, bring the mixture to a bare simmer over medium-high heat. When the sugar dissolves, set aside off heat and add the chocolate. Rest until the chocolate melts, about 4 minutes, then whisk vigorously to combine. Cool to room temperature, and whisk in the almond extract.

Divide the mixture among the molds, leaving about ½ inch of head space at the top of each. Position the sticks or tops and freeze until hard, at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.

Adam Ried appears regularly on America’s Test Kitchen. Send comments to cooking@globe.com.

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