Saturday, December 6, 2014

Pops and Milkshakes for the Holidays?

You might think that a Holiday feature about frozen pops, milkshakes, or slushies is crazy during December but some of our readers are in the southern hemisphere where the month is summertime.  Plus as my husband likes to say "no such thing as too cold for ice cream." I was chosen by Tryazon to try out some products from ZOKU and they sent me a huge box of items to try out. I used these on two occasions -- one just yesterday evening and one coming up next Saturday. I'll add this article when I have more photos from the second party but I wanted to get this all out to you now so that you can think about it as a possible holiday gift to give.

I liked how ZOKU packed these supplies, not much wasted packing paper, everything firmly in place yet easy to remove. I do have to say that opening the two recipe books was a challenge because of the plastic being so tightly over them but I got it. They sent me a ton of extra pop sticks and guards so I can serve a huge party... how to store these in the freezer is challenge. There are a lot of pieces to this entire thing that is a storage challenge in general. Companies need to really think about that more.

Let's start with the Slush and Shake Maker and the accompanying recipe book. The book has five chapters plus an index and conversion chart for American to UK (or the other way around).  The first chapter is an introd with a graphic history of slushies and milkshakes, an introduction to the product, and some advice on how to use it.  The other four chapters are recipes that you can follow or use as general guides.

I made a simple chocolate malted milkshake with this for our testing. The box holds three pieces -- the inner core that you put in the freezer at least 18 hours before you want to use it, the outer sleeve that lets you hold the container while you stir, and a slush spoon you use to stir and scrape whatever pureed mixture you put into it.  What first looks like a single box of tools to create your treat turns out to not be true because you need a blender to puree your ingredients and of course whatever you are going to need to scoop or measure said ingredients.  I did not find the general "stir until thick" that is part of every recipe particularly helpful nor did I find the spoon's plastic wrapper message to stir every minute very useful. The core is very cold and any of the pureed product you put in will harden up fast and be difficult to scrap unless you do it far more often than every 60 seconds. Did it make a milkshake?  Sure but I didn't really find it "fun" or "fast."  Given the amount it makes you will be sharing one single milkshake or slushie or you may each need one.

The other boxes I was sent are all focused on making frozen pops and I used each of them in some fashion for the testing. Let's just briefly look at each item before I get to the creation of pops.  I had an assistant (my hubby) for this as well and multiple taste testers at two separate parties.


Quick Pop Maker Trio makes 3 pops at a time.  Inside is the maker itself plus 6 sticks, 6 drip guards, and a Super Tool which is a gripper to help you remove the sticks with the pops on them.







The Storage Case is basically a bottom that holds 6 sticks and a cover so you can store 6 finished pops.  The cover is semi-transparent so you can sort of see what designs are inside. It would be better if it were truly transparent to show off your creations. We'll use the bottom part as a sort of serving track to offer the pops at our big party like I did for my mini party last night.





A box of 6 sticks and 6 drip guards... for those keeping track that makes 18 sticks and drip guards so far...



A box of Tools that includes 3 Pour Cups, 1 Angle Tray, 1 Siphon, 1 Fruit Wand, and 2 Fruit Stencils made of metal.

The Chocolate Station has five pieces -- lid, the chocolate melting and dipping station, the Drizzle Spoon, and 2 dipping trays that you put additional items like nuts, candy sprinkles, marshmallows, whatever to add to the pops. The little booklet here has directions for making the pops and for making quick shells that you can add to the frozen pops. I could see this device being useful for more than the pops frankly.

The ZOKU folks also sent me additional pop sticks and drip guards -- 36 of each which bring the total of pops I could make to 54!  Seriously? Why would I possibly

16 canvas bags that say "ZOKU" on them which I gave away to the folks willing to try the pops out at my two parties and give me their opinions of them. You'll see them in the photos of some of the folks I gave them too; I only took photos with permission to post them.

Finally I received the Pop recipe book and three of the ZOKU catalogs for their other products. I gave the catalogs away, too.

In case you'd like to look and see what recipes you could make before you buy these, check out the ZOKU blog for ideas here.  I looked at this page myself and it goes beyond the cookbook as well as repeat the basic directions and suggestions.

So what did I make with all of this? Note: I used a zero calories substitute in these and it worked just fine.  Using lower fat products may also help but I opted for whole milk or heavy cream where called so I was switching out too many ingredients at once.

I started with a basic chocolate recipe, not exactly their "Oh, Fudge!" recipe (page 82) since I used darker chocolate but it turned out great.  Here you see the five pops in the storage case.  I learned two lessons from this first batch. First, the top of the stick is not getting fully covered by the pop... I had an idea that I tried after that so we'll see if I was able to fix that problem. Second, you really need to end your fill below the fill line because the recipe really does only make the amount of pops available and even the slightly amount over will short your final pop. Six pops at 67 calories each since I used zero calorie sugar substitute; real sugar will add more calories. Add a white chocolate coating and you increase the calories to around 150. Everyone who had the single flavor pops found that the strongest chocolate came at the top (the bottom when you are making them) but that bottom (near the drip guard) was very water tasting.  We think this reflects how they freeze in the maker.

With those lessons in mind I tried a more complicated pop -- "Chocolate Peanut Butter" (pages 87-88). For this I had to make two recipes and alternate them, letting each layer freeze before adding the next.  Given the small opening for the pouring into the molds I used the pour cups from the Tools kit. One problem with this recipe is that it doesn't suggest a time between layers so it was difficult to assess when to do the next layer, I went with 5 minutes on the timer myself assuming that since these were smaller they'd freeze faster and then 7 minutes for the final layer to make sure it was all frozen.  The flavor here was evenly laid out between the strips -- again this may reflect the making process, where you poured a layer, let it freeze, then added another but the layers are shorter so there is less water to push out. Around 150 because of the peanut butter in these.

Finally using the two recipes I followed I made up my own for a white chocolate peppermint pop -- basically I switched out the peanut butter and chocolate for white chocolate in the previous recipe and added peppermint flavoring.  I dipped these in the white chocolate recipe from the Chocolate Station and tried to add some red and white peppermint candy pieces but they were a bit too large to adhere very well. Also, if you are adding anything to the dipped pops you have to work fast because if you made the shell recipe correctly it will freeze fast. The flavor of these was the most even of the pops -- does this have to do again with the layer?  Maybe it also reflects the high fat content of these. Each has around 150 calories again.

There is a problem with the Chocolate Station that is not covered in the little booklet that comes with it. Every time you dip you lower the temp of the topping and after a few pops the topping starts to harden in the station. I found drizzling worked much better.

I served these at two events so I'll look at each below; adding the second after it happens next weekend.

Event #1 Gaming Night: My gamers often help me test products out and they seem to enjoy it.  I showed them the boxes and things and they asked me questions about the process, they offered their opinions of the pops and helped me figure out what happened with flavor variations and textures in some of them. It was nice to hear them confirm my opinion of the process of making them and they helped me figure out that hands-on time to make 6 pops is around 35 minutes. I'm hoping some of them leave comments below so they can speak for themselves.

They tried the varieties I mentioned above. I used the storage base to serve them at our bigger annual holiday party that had close to 30 guests.  A few people were brave enough to go into the freezer and get a few of them but whenever I took the half dozen around like this, folks took them. Oddly all of the adults loved them but not the few kids we had... very strange.  I gave away the bags at both the small gathering and the large party, each bag had coupons in them from the company for a discount until the end of 2014.

I didn't take photos of folks with the pops at the big party -- too much going on -- but here is one of just some of our guest hanging out playing games so you can see what half of the attendees were doing at any given time. As you can see they were eating and playing Christmas BINGO at the same time... yup they also ate the pops while they played.

"FAST!" as it says on the pop maker box is not what these treats are. The maker itself only makes 3 pops at a time yet the recipes are for 6-9 pops -- pouring the basic ingredients then letting them set to freeze at the fastest means you could get six in 20-22 minutes... I suppose that might seem fast but consider the steps before then. You must put the maker into your freezer for at least 24 hours before you make them, this is not a "I want it now" treat.  Unless you are making 100% fruit juice, milk, or other pre-made drink, making the recipes and chilling them down adds an hour to three hours to the process.  If you do anything more complicated than a basic one, it takes even more time.  When I'm sent something to try for you all I need to be honest about it. As a very small group, planned activity, this was fun to do with my husband and our partner.  For any larger group though it will leave people out and only make them wait more.

2 comments:

elizabeth said...

Your pops look amazing! I always have a hard time getting them to come out of the mold that perfectly. Does the pop maker do that?

TammyJo Eckhart said...

The maker is coated in something so if you use it correctly they come out pretty well.