TORONTO - Andrew Chase was one of the most popular guys in his neighbourhood last year while developing recipes for his new cookbook, "200 Best Ice Pop Recipes."
In fact, he still gets requests. He recently received "the cutest note" some young neighbour kids had attached to fresh cherries they'd picked asking him to "make a recipe with these 'charrys.'"
On a recent sweltering day, Chase said he craved an ice pop made with Indian masala coffee, a coffee spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and ginger and brewed with milk that's popular in India and Malaysia. "It's just what I need. I need a cup of coffee, but I don't want anything hot."
Developing the recipes for the book published by Robert Rose Inc. turned out to be a lot of fun, said the food writer and former chef.
"It exploded. I realized how much fun it is and how many different things you can do and all the fruit and all the coffee and the tea and the chocolate and the cocktails."
The frozen treats on a stick can be made in a huge variety of intense flavours and jewelled colours that are sweet as well as savoury. Chase devised recipes for treats ranging from various types of fresh fruit, vegetables and luscious chocolate incorporating mint, ginger and hazelnut to classic comfort desserts like lemon meringue, peanut butter and carrot cake. Then there's holiday fare, like pink and white layered ice pops for Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Ice Pops and Christmas Brandied Fruitcake Ice Pops.
"But the fruit, to me, is the heart of it," Chase said. "That's why I put a lot of effort into balancing the citrus and the syrups and that kind of thing to get the best out of the fruit."
The fruit is often blended raw, but sometimes he opted to cook or bake it, on its own or in syrup.
Rather than making a simple syrup to be used for all recipes, he created syrups that would be specific to a certain fruit.
The sweetness level for all the ice pops can be adjusted to taste. In addition to sugar, he used various syrups and sweeteners — agave, corn, maple, brown rice, malt, barley, molasses — "all sorts of things that bring out flavours, but I think they're rather healthy."
For the book, he focused on ice pops, avoiding ice cream on a stick or anything churned. "The whole point is it's simple and straightforward. Use the best fruit, and the best ingredients and get the best ice pops" that he said are a cut above commercial varieties.
"All the kids in the neighbourhood loved them," Chase said, adding he made thousands while working on the book. "I tested them on a really representative population in Toronto — at least in the east end."
The savoury varieties were popular among his tasters, he said. Vegetable Cocktail Ice Pops, Beet and Cucumber Ice Pops and Gazpacho Ice Pops, among others, are ideal to serve at barbecues. They can be consumed as an appetizer or between courses.
Chase grew up in Boston and then spent about 15 years in Asia where he was an academic specializing in Asian art history. "I was editing and that kind of thing, but I've always had a huge love of food and cooking. I've been a cooking fanatic since I was a baby.
"When I came to Canada about 25 years ago I was ready to change from being an academic to a restaurateur.... First I worked in a restaurant to learn it, then opened restaurants. Then I sort of missed the more intellectual side, so I started writing."
Restaurants included the Berkeley Cafe, Cafe Asia and Youki Asian Bar and Bistro. He has worked for Canadian Living magazine, Homemakers and the Toronto Star as well as publishing several cookbooks.
His years as a chef taught him how to marry flavours and his background inspired him to create many Asian-influenced ice pop recipes using such ingredients as mung beans, red beans, tamarind, peanuts, mangoes, melon and jackfruit.
Little equipment is needed to make ice pops. Disposable wax-lined paper cups (85-millilitre/three-ounce size) and wooden Popsicle sticks are ideal. If desired, inexpensive moulds can be purchased from dollar or department stores or there are sets with racks and metal lids available for about $30 from kitchen-supply stores.
The treats can be put together in about 15 minutes, then cooled and placed in the freezer for about four hours.
Chase provides instructions for coating ice pops in chocolate and designing beautiful layered indulgences.
He said parents of toddlers love the "less drip" variety he created. The trick is adding gelatin to the mix, which slows melting.