Coconut Ice Pops To Get Us Through Summer

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popsPhoto: Courtesy of Kitchen Konfidence.
Growing up in New Jersey, I spent many summers on Long Beach Island (yes, on the Jersey Shore). I would wake up early each morning, have breakfast, then walk several blocks from my aunt’s house to the beach before any of my other family members.

My family would arrive late morning carrying a cooler packed with Italian sandwiches, fresh fruit, and cold sodas. One of my favorite beach traditions occurred in the late afternoon. Amidst the quiet chatter of family and the sound of crashing waves, I would hear a faint ringing in the distance. My eyes would dart to the dunes behind me to see the ice cream man vigorously shaking a leather strap studded with clunky jingle bells.

In a matter of moments, I'd be up and running full speed towards the truck parked on the street, desperately trying to be first in line before the hoards of other children came running. Awkwardly dancing about to avoid burning my feet on the hot pavement, I'd order my favorite cold confection: the coconut ice pop. Nothing felt better than walking past the line of envious onlookers gleefully enjoying each bite of cool, refreshing coconut.

This recipe for coconut ice pops is not an exact copy of the typical one found in my childhood ice cream truck; I decided to put a San Diego spin on the classic with the addition of Mexican cinnamon. These pops are essentially frozen coconut horchata. The flavor is pure, light, and oh-so-delicious. You can make “adult” versions of these pops by adding a little dark or spiced rum. I've made several batches of these coconut ice pops and found a super simple way to remove the brown skin from the coconut flesh. The secret? A vegetable peeler! After baking the coconut and removing the outer shell, easily cut away the skin with a peeler without wasting too much of the beautiful coconut meat.

Ingredients:
1 coconut
Kosher salt
2 cups boiling water
3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup white sugar, plus more to taste
1 small piece of cinnamon (preferably Mexican canela)
1/4 cup spiced rum (optional)

Instructions:
1. Preheat an oven to 325°F. Using a hammer and screwdriver, carefully pierce the three eyes of the coconut. Empty the coconut water into a glass or pitcher and save for another use. Be sure to get as much liquid out as possible.

2. Place the coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and cook until it begins to crack (35-40 minutes). Remove from the oven and let cool. Using a hammer, smash open the coconut. Separate the flesh from the outer brown shell with your hands (or carefully pry with a knife). Using a vegetable peeler, cut about 16 long, thin strips from the largest piece of coconut flesh you have. Place the strips in a small bowl and toss with a small pinch of kosher salt. Set aside.

3. Peel the thin brown skin from remaining coconut. Shred cleaned coconut using a hand grater or food processor.

4. Place shredded coconut in a blender with boiling water (work in batches if needed) then blend until smooth. While the coconut is blending, set a basket strainer over a medium bowl, and line with a layer of cheesecloth.

5. Once smooth, pour the mixture through the strainer onto the cheesecloth. Fold up the sides of the cheesecloth around the solids and squeeze out as much juice as possible. Discard solids.

6. In a large saucepan combine strained coconut liquid, milk, sugar and cinnamon, stirring to combine, and dissolve sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat then reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if needed.

8. Let cool to room temperature then pour through a fine mesh basket strainer into a large measuring cup or pitcher. Stir in the spiced rum if using. Place one strip of salted coconut into each ice pop mold. Pour in coconut mixture and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. My pops froze in approximately 4 hours.

NEXT: This Summer Is All About The Puree
It takes just a quick scan on Pinterest to fall into the rabbit hole of food blogs. But, Brandon Matzek's Kitchen Konfidence is one we'll gladly get lost in. Ahead, the San Diego-based chef and photographer shares everything from his killer bacon jam hand pies (!) to a braised beef taco recipe that's to-die.