IS IT ME OR THERE’S A ZINNGG INSIDE MY HEAD?
Leaving you quickly today with this beautiful inspiration I got from Erin Ireland on Instagram, gorgeous cross-sections of sweet figs being encased in a thick and creamy, lightly sea-salted ricotta “cheesecake” mixture, like frozen eternal jewels! And we are not just talking about figs here. Think peaches, summer berries, tropical dragon fruits or pineapples, KIWIS! How pretty are those gonna be huh?!!
OK. That’s about as much enthusiasm as I can spare today. Is it me or do you hear a zinnnngg inside my head, too? Now this head-aching zombie must go lay down.
IN A COOK’S UNIVERSE, THE BAKER’S REALM IS A MYSTICAL AND DANGEROUS WORLD
Recently, someone asked me what’s the typical number of trials I have to go through before arriving on a satisfying recipe. And to that I said, “Two, I guess? Most likely?”. Well… in all honesty, I didn’t mean to lie. I just forgot to ask, if they were asking the cook? Or the baker?
I’m definitely more cook than a baker. And as a more-cook, relatively speaking, I have a more optimistic repertoire of savoury things where I have demonstrated slightly more competence in not screwing up. But in reality, if I were to take into account of the other side of the fence as well, the wild and parched, the untamed and unpredictable, the land of where the sweet things are… then my friend, I don’t think I have hairs enough to count my failures. In a cook’s universe, the realm of the bakers is a mystical and dangerous world, governed by a whole different set of laws and physics and creatures who look beautifully from afar like a herd of pink unicorns, but once approached, will vaporize into a cloud of black smokes and swallow my expectations in whole. It is scary. And it is real. And it is a place, unless guided by other wizards specializing in this black magic, that I do not like to enter lightly.
But sometimes the universe, especially my universe, is not perfect. Sometimes there’s no precedent, or magic potion to follow for what I wanted to create, or more accurately, re-create. For this instance, a childhood treat that Jason and I practically grew up with and hold dearly in our heart, the caramel flan popsicle (or as they called it in Taiwan, “pudding popsicle”) that we used to be able to buy in almost every convenient stores, but mysteriously vanished in the past decade. And in times like these, I just had to hood up, bid the loved ones farewell, climbed over the fence, into the woods, and hoped that something, anything, would make it back in one piece.
Well, it didn’t.
SHUT UP, SHUP UP, SHUP UP
Let’s play a game, shall we?
Let’s see how much of my babbling you can withstand before you say “shut up, shut up, shut up!” and burst into the kitchen to make yourself one of these milk and any-brownie, or as I call it, brownie-cow popsicles?
Right, so you see here’s the thing. I kinda love Earth. Maybe not enough to tie myself to a tree per se, but I do love Earth enough that I have more bicycles than mascaras, and I haven’t had myself an ungodly orgasmic piece of toro, for like more than three years now. And believe me, I do love my ungodly toro. But there’s something else I love dearly as well… In the light of summer-days when reality strikes, I realized that I do also hold high regards for… a dry butt crack. Yes, yes they do come loose-fit, oversized, or wet, and I daresay, more frequently so, since a few years ago when we decided to live in this particular apartment-complex in Beijing. Little did I know that Earth and my butt crack were set on a collision course.
You still there?
Right, so where was I? Yes, dry butt crack.
You see here’s the thing, as mentioned before, the apartment-complex we live in is supposed to be really “green”. Whatever that means… There’s no heater in the winter, or air-conditioning in the summer because the temperature inside the entire 10 ginormous buildings are monitored by… well, a “greener” system of some sort. Or at least as I was told, at a time before I learnt my lesson about China, and still believed what I was told. Awww… So we moved in, with good-will kicking and feel-good blazing, we, were gonna save earth, one lease at a time.
Then came the lesson. Never. Never. And I mean neeeevah, believe what you are told in China! Four excruciatingly warm summers later, we are looking more medium-rare than “green”, still melting inside our boxer-briefs, extra-large-holes tank tops, and our butt cracks… feeling wet my friend. Feeling wet.
Heh… hello? Right, there you are.
So why haven’t we moved you ask? If you were still here to ask questions… Well that’s a very kindly irresponsible thought for you to have I mean, what kind of earthlings are we if we were to bail on our promises just because we feel like we were brushed with meat-glue every time we hug?
Icecap-Jack, you melt. I melt.
So perhaps you should know that… hey, you there? I’m talking to you! Right, so you should know that heat tends to do things to weak minds… the other day when I literally risked my sanity and as a result, Jason’s well-being, by boiling a huge pot of stock for 4 hours which turned our lukewarm
bitchy beachy apartment into a steaming mind-bending crater of active volcano, I think I hallucinated a lil’bit.
I drifted to the nearest Cold Stone joint, took off my boxer-brief and sat my steamy butt-crack right on top of their sub-zero slab of freezing stainless steels… Tssss~ aaahhh… like a steak on grill, now this is where my cheeks belong… And then, only then, somebody came and handed me my go-to combo – sweet cream base with mashed brownies.
That’s it. Nothing. Else. This is a purist’s Cold Stone and how it should be. I peaked through my fingers to see the next guy ordering something as if the local candy store is unleashing a fuck-fest on top of his ice cream-cup, and got really, really bothered. Get a room! This is a family joint! So I turned away and literally, with my ass chilling, I was about to dig into my…
… then I drifted right back to reality. Pot. Boiling. Hot. STEAM. VOLCAAAANO! See I have to take matters into my own hands…
Take a good brownie. And I mean a good brownie, the dense… chewy, fudgy and chocolate-y brownie, and in this case, infused with Nutella. Then break it into large chunks. Force feed them to your popsicle molds, and if you don’t have any, some freaking paper cups! Jam a stick in there, I don’t know, a chopstick for all I care, then pour milk that’s been thickened with sweetened condensed milk… Up up up up, up riiiight there when it just fills the mold. Then you freeze the bejeezus out of them!
Chewy gets chewier… Fudgy gets fudgier… Then we both get one and sit our asses down on a sub-zero freezer slab, and I’ll tell you about the other time when I…
Hello?…. You there?
Makes: 10 popsicles
You don’t have to make your own brownie. You can certainly use a store-bought brownie, with flavours to your likings to make these popsicles. And if you want creaminess, you can substitute whole milk with half and half. Note that 3/4 cup of sweetened condensed milk is enough sweetness for my taste, but if you like a closer-to-commercial-level sweetness for your popsicles, use more.
To make the nutella brownie: Preheat the oven on 350ºF/175ºC.
In a microwave-proof bowl, add the bittersweet chocolate and unsalted butter. Microwave on high at a 30-seconds interval, stirring the mixture in between, until just melted (you’ll need approx 1:30 ~ 2 min). Whisk in the granulated sugar and large eggs until thick and even, then add the vanilla extract and sea salt. Whisk again until even. Add the all-purpose flour, fold the mixture together with a spatula until there is no flour-lumps left. Pour the batter into a parchment-lined, 8″ square-pan or round-pan. Bake in the oven for 25 min, until a wooden skewer comes out with moist crumbs from the center.
Let the brownie cool for 30 min.
To make the brownie popsicles: Break the brownies up into large chunks (you’ll need about 2/3 of the brownies). Lay a couple of pieces at the bottom of the popsicle-mold so the wooden stick has something to rest on, then insert the wooden stick. Fill the empty space loosely with more brownies until they reach to the top. Repeat with the rest.
Combine whole milk and sweetened condensed milk together, and warm in the microwave just enough for the sweetened condensed milk to dissolve (if not fully dissolved, the sweetened condensed milk will float to the surface during freezing). Whisk the mixture together to make sure it’s fully incorporated, then pour the milk into the popsicle-molds until it fills to the top.
Freeze for at least 6 hours to overnight until hardened (in my experience, the popsicles always feel a bit soft right after they are removed from the molds, so once hardened, keep them removed and wrapped in plastic-wrap instead of inside the molds).
DON’T WE NEED OUR RELATIONSHIPS
WITH A LITTLE BIT OF MILK
I DON’T know if this will completely sack my credentials (AGAIN) as an angry, opinionated love-cynic who just fell asleep when you mentioned the words “my ex-boyfriend’s facebook…”. I’m not even sure if this is a well-adviced public statement for anyone who isn’t fabulously gay. But this is probably as important to know about me as acknowledging the fact that I eat canned sardines in tomato sauce over oatmeals, that I also have a decade-long, still on-going, life-threatening addiction for… Sex And The City.
The key point in what I just said, is on-going. Like, seriously. You’d think that no one can be addicted to something that no longer exists. It’d be like trying to smoke a cigarette butt, found underneath the bookshelf, that’s accidentally dropped in diesel. You just can’t smoke that shit anymore. Oh, but I can. Since its last season ending in 2004, I had been waiting and watching every season that re-runs in turns on HBO on-demand every months, repeatedly, until 2008 when I left New York. Then I had to purchase the complete-seasons DVD to continue watching every single episodes that I’ve continuously watched for however long…
Don’t even get me started on the movies. I mean the second one gave me a bad trip but where the fuck is my third?
Think what you will about me… it’s probably all true… And as if what I just said wasn’t lame and pathetic enough, allow me to kick it up a notch. I’ve made myself…
the Petrovsky popsicle.
It’s an intensely black-tea-flavoured popsicle that’s sweetened with cherry preserve which also give it a slight tang. I was told, by a character from a TV-show that ended 10 years ago, that it’s how the Russians sweeten their teas, and I never doubted it for a second. The idea stayed inside my head for all this time, until a week ago when I purchased my first set of popsicle molds, the Russians invaded. If you’re into tea-flavoured everything, you’ll have the hots for these this summer. I did Petrovsky justice by powdering the tea leaves to embolden the flavour and adding an entire jar of sour cherry preserve with large chunks of cherries. These popsicles are cold, black and caffein-charged with hidden tang and sourness inside their hidden pockets like the character himself. But of course, mellowed out with whole and sweetened condensed milk.
Because don’t we all “need our relationships with a little bit of milk”. Even if it’s an icy one.
Makes: 8 ~ 9 popsicles
The black tea leaves is powdered in spice-grinder to give the popsicle a very intense tea-flavour. It’s a good trick for maximizing tea-flavour in any recipes (such as this cake). If you don’t have a spice grinder, you can sort of “fake” one with this trick. Or, you might have to use more tea leaves to brew a stronger base for this recipe. I used 6 tbsp of sweetened condensed milk for this batch of popsicle and found the sweetness on the mild side, making this a more “refreshing” popsicle than a “creamy” one. You can increase the sweetness and creaminess by adding more if you like.
You can definitely use other types of fruit jams/preserves that you like, or trying to use up for this recipe.
Powder the Assam black tea leaves in a spice grinder until finely ground. Mix the tea-powder into 2 1/2 cups of whole milk in a pot, and set over medium heat. Once the milk has come to a very gentle simmer (careful not to scorch the milk), turn off the heat immediately and let steep for 1 min, then strain the milk-tea through a fine sieve into another pot (to eliminate any large tea leaves). Whisk the cornstarch together with 1/2 cup of milk, then whisk it into the milk-tea until it’s slightly thickened. Then whisk in black cherry (or sour cherry) preserves and 6 tbsp of sweetened condensed milk until even. Add more sweetened condensed milk to adjust the sweetness if needed.
Divide the mixture into popsicle molds and freeze until hard. Enjoy.