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When I was a kid, fetching Chips Ahoy cookies from my best friend's pantry meant sneaking through the kitchen while trying to avoid his mother's watchful eye. But nobody paid attention to the surplus of Fudgsicles in the big freezer in the garage, so that's where we'd go.
I don't know if a freezer full of Fudgsicles was some sort of prerequisite for a suburban garage in the 1980s (sadly, we didn't get a peek in Stranger Things), but it certainly was the norm for me. I can remember looping around from the backyard to the garage, standing in front of the freezer with that bright yellow box, cold in my hands.
Compared to chocolate Pudding Pops, Fudgsicles had an intensity like no other—colder, icier, and, well, fudgier. And while summer may be winding down now, as far as I'm concerned, it hasn't even started until I've had at least one of those frosty-cold chocolate treats.
Since Fudgsicles bear no relation to a rich and creamy Pudding Pop, they're best made without eggs or cream, which serve only to mute the flavor of chocolate. Store-bought Fudgsicles rely on a combination of Dutch process cocoa powder and skim milk for their powerful but refreshing flavor, and my recipe does the same.
Trust me, the skim milk is no dieting trick or calorie-cutting effort. Rather, it provides a touch of flavor and body without bogging things down, while Dutched cocoa has an earthy flavor and inky hue better suited to "fudge" than the comparatively acidic profile of natural cocoa. My favorite Dutch cocoa powder is Cacao Barry Extra Brute, which is both darker and richer than any supermarket variety. Don't let the $20 price tag spook you; ounce for ounce, it's cheaper than Hershey's Special Dark (not to mention 10,000 times more balanced).
Aside from Dutched cocoa and plenty of skim milk, my recipe gets its copycat mojo from brown sugar and gelatin. Where real Fudgsicles let malt powder round out their flavor, I opt for the simplicity of brown sugar, to convey a similar vibe and streamline the ingredient list. Meanwhile, gelatin encourages the formation of smaller ice crystals in frozen liquids, giving the pops a texture that's pleasantly icy but not grainy—a cool trick Max discovered for DIY soft-serve.
The dry ingredients are dissolved with half the milk (speeding the process of both warming and cooling the base), then warmed just enough to melt the gelatin. When you're dealing with acidic ingredients like brown sugar, gentle heat is crucial to avoid curdling the milk. So long as it's "hot to the touch," it's plenty warm enough—gelatin starts melting at body temperature, but you can aim for about 145°F if you'd prefer a less subjective goal.
Once the gelatin has melted, the remainder of the milk is added to rapidly cool the fudgy base, which is then divvied up among individual popsicle molds. You can use whatever size or shape you have on hand, but I've come to prefer the individual sort because they're perfect for unmolding one at a time (as are Dixie Cups, which will do in a pinch).
Wooden sticks won't stay submerged in the chocolaty milk, so be sure to let the mixture firm up in the freezer before attempting to add the popsicle sticks. Of course, if your mold comes with its own lid/stick combo, that won't be a problem. While the freezing time will vary depending on the size and shape of your molds, in my experience it takes about three hours for the pops to freeze.
To serve, hold the molds under hot running water for about 30 seconds, then slide a knife between the pop and the mold so that a bit of air slips in. After that, the Fudgsicle should pop right out.
From there, you should ideally run out (to the garage, if possible) and savor the last days of summer. Although, I'll be honest, it'll have to get mighty cold outside before I give up on these icy treats.
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