October 31, 2011
The lime paletas were a big hit -- here's how they were done

paletas.JPGOn Saturday, we hosted a small dinner party and stayed busy preparing all kinds of good food - a spicy and very tender beer-can chicken, beef and chorizo empanadas, a nicely balanced red sangria and a cinnamon-y horchata that one guest proclaimed was the best he'd ever tasted - and that was before all the booze was consumed.

Oh, and for dessert, we had paletas - lime pie paletas.

They were quite fun to make. The recipe for those, as well as for the delicious "horchata de arroz," were both in the new book "Paletas," by Fany Gerson. I was about to review the book anyway, so I thought I would test out a few of the recipes on unsuspecting guests - unsuspecting, as in, they probably had no idea I had never made either before.

While I handled the paletas, Lynn took the reins on the horchata concoction. As some of you may know, paletas as like popsicles, and horchata is a rice drink. Both are popular in Mexico, and they both have quite a following in Sacramento. My paletas were very creamy, as you will see.

juice.JPGYou don't have to be in the throes of a heat wave to enjoy paletas. The recipe is called "paletas de pay de lemon" - lime pie ice pops.

You start with a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, and mix it with a cup of half and half. Here is where you don't want to cut corners: ¾ of a cup of fresh squeezed lime juice. I have a Samson juicer that I use often, and I love it. So it was easy to peel 5-6 limes and get some fresh juice in minutes (use canned lime juice at your peril; the flavor just isn't there). Before you peel, though, you'll need the fine zest of two of those limes, which makes about 2 teaspoons.. Mix it all together with a pinch of salt and you're ready to pour.

I whisked mine in a 4-cup container with a pouring spout, so I could pour easily. The molds are from the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. You can get molds that take wooden popsicle sticks - a good idea if you're planning to give the treats away.

pour.JPGAs the book reminds us at the beginning, don't fill the molds all the way to the top - the liquid will expand when it freezes. After four or five hours, we're not done. I emptied a package of Maria cookies into a Ziploc bag and crushed them with a rolling pin.

One at a time, I unmolded the paletas by dipping them in warm water for about 30 seconds. This is the best part - I pressed them into the crushed cookies, creating the pie crust effect. To get the crumbs to adhere, it actually helps if you press the crumbs into the paletas rather than press the paletas into the crumbs. At the end of dinner, the only things left were the green sticks!

Next time, I'll give you a rundown of the horchata procedure, which starts with pulverizing uncooked white rice in a blender (or food processor). It's definitely worth the trouble.

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