I have a tremendous crush on Matt Armendariz. It’s awkward, I know. I’m married, he’s married; I have a kid, he has dog children. It’s okay; my husband knows. He took a picture of Matt with his shirt half off a couple of years ago, so I think we’re even. Fortunately for those who are now reading this uncomfortably at home, hoping this conversation ends quickly, my crush is more of a talent crush: Matt is a former graphic designer and art director and currently a food photographer, author, and the man behind the Matt Bites blog. His photography is fantastic, all-natural light and unfussy, but what I find more addictive than anything else is his outlook and his life energy. Spending 5 minutes with him is hard without getting hooked on his enthusiasm for family, good friends, great food, and a well-lived life with lots of travel to far-flung places. He even went to Avery Island, Louisiana, to learn how Tabasco is made. And didn’t take my husband with him. Alex is almost over it.
And now he is a cookbook author too. [Amusingly, Matt and I signed our cookbook deal the same week, except his book is in my hands right now, and my book is … OH LOOK! Manhattanhenge! Did you catch it?] On A Stick!- yes, in which every recipe is speared, skewered, or threaded on a handheld food device- is truly an exaltation of summer. It’s State Fairs and street fairs, frozen beach treats, and the stuff picnics and backyard barbecues are made of: skewered salads, grilled marinated kebabs, melon with spices, and fried pickles. Even unfathomable things, like fried chicken and waffles, meatballs, spaghetti, potato chips (!), and pizza, get adorably impaled. It’s lighthearted, but there’s no skimping on the cooking: coconut shrimp, Chinese meatballs, pork belly, and sweet and sour lollipops. Are you drooling yet?
Back on the home front, Wee Jacob is spending a few days at Camp Grandparents — splashing in a backyard kiddie pool, getting over his City Boy fear of lawns, and perfecting the art of tie-dying a t-shirt with watermelon juice — so I can
get some sleep make great strides on my imminently due cookbook, and I miss him terribly. It’s only three days but never has the apartment felt so dull when devoid of my curly-haired sidekick’s glockenspiel practice. It turns out that cooking is much less fun when there’s no risk of someone riding his trike over your toes in the kitchen. It turns out that once you get one decent night’s sleep, you’re all caught up and looking for excuses to return to the playground again. And so I made him fudge popsicles from Matt’s book as a welcome-back treat.
I admit I had my doubts. It felt like so little chocolate in them; how could they be fudgy? Fudge popsicles must be fudgy. And chewy. And chocolaty. There are rules, and you can’t go and change the way fudge popsicles are supposed to taste. And so I had to audition for one. And then Alex too. And now I will have to welcome my kid back with a lie and tell him that the recipe only made two popsicles. I should have known better than to doubt Matt’s cooking instincts.
Makes four standard-sized popsicles (3 ounces each) or 6 in my tiny* popsicle molds (which were 2 ounces each)
Two tablespoons (21 grams or 3/4 ounce) semisweet chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate
1/3 cup (67 grams or 2 1/3 ounces) of sugar
One tablespoon (7 grams or 1/4 ounce) cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons (8 grams or 1/4 ounce) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon (3 ml) vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon (7 grams or 1/4 ounce) unsalted butter
In the bottom of a medium saucepan over deficient heat, gently melt the chocolate chips, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, milk, and salt, and raise heat to medium. Cook mixture, stirring frequently until it thickens, between 5 minutes (for me) and 10 (suggested in the book). Remove from heat, add vanilla and butter, and stir until combined.
Set aside to cool slightly, then pour into popsicle molds. Freeze for 30 minutes, then insert popsicle sticks. Freeze the rest of the way before serving.
* I’ll jump ahead of the question someone usually asks and tell you that I bought popsicle molds intended for feeding babies. I liked that they were tiny, as I was pretty sure my one-year-old didn’t need to eat an adult-sized popsicle this summer. Nor do I need to be washing it out of his clothes. 🙂 The popsicle maker works just fine, but because it’s in one piece, it’s best to unmold them all together (dipping the base in warm water). From there, you can spread them out on a tray in the freezer until they firm up again, then store them in a freezer bag for the long term. I didn’t use the sticks they provide; from childhood, they get all chewed up and are easily lost when you are sent outside with your drippy sticky treat. I instead bought disposable popsicle sticks, though I’m sure they’re even cheaper from a crafts store.