Replicate a Nostalgic Favorite in Your Own Freezer
If you're a certain age and feeling nostalgic for the frozen treats of your childhood, you may have lost an hour or two of your time trying to find out where to buy Jell-O Pudding Pops. Unfortunately that frozen favorite of the 1980s generation is long gone from the supermarket's frozen section, despite a brief revival this century. That doesn't mean you'll never enjoy a pudding pop again – it just means you'll have to freeze pudding yourself at home to do so.
The Quickest Cheat of All
The fastest way to freeze pudding into pudding pops is to purchase it already packaged into individual, single-serving sized cups. Use the tip of a paring knife to cut a small slit in the lid of each cup, and insert a food-grade Popsicle-style stick – not the tinted kind used for crafts – into each cup. The lid will hold it upright, so the sticks don't lean. Clear a space in the freezer to stand the pudding cups upright, and then just wait a few hours until they're frozen. They'll freeze a little more quickly if they're separated, and won't take up as much space, but there's a greater likelihood they'll tip over and either spill or leave you with an asymmetrical pop.
Freezer pop molds are available in a range of sizes, from tiny ones suitable for toddlers to full-sized molds holding about 4 ounces each. Divide your pudding between the molds, and then insert the reusable sticks provided with most molds, or wooden sticks if that's what you've got. If you're using wooden sticks, it's best to let the pudding freeze partially, which takes 30 to 40 minutes in small molds and longer in large ones, and then insert the sticks. The stiff, partially frozen pudding will hold the sticks upright for a neater-looking pop. You'll usually need to run the fully frozen pops under hot running water for several seconds, to soften them enough to remove from the molds.
Fun and Finesse
You can freeze pudding in any flavor or combination of flavors you like, and there are several ways to make them even more fun and enjoyable. Kraft Foods, owner of the Jell-O Pudding brand, suggests folding whipped topping into the pudding to make your pops lighter. You can also replicate the "swirl" variety of the original Pudding Pops, after a fashion, by freezing molds half-full of chocolate pudding and then filling them the rest of the way with vanilla pudding. Dipping the pops in melted chocolate, to make a shell, makes them even more delightful, especially if you follow up by dipping the shell in crushed nuts or colorful sprinkles.
Commercial puddings and mixes may contain a range of gelling agents and stabilizers, which help give your frozen pops a smooth and creamy mouthfeel. If you want to make pops from your favorite homemade pudding recipe, you won't have that advantage and may need to tweak your base recipe a little bit. An extra egg yolk or two can help, or – for adults only – a splash of liquor, which acts as antifreeze, but the biggest issue is the starch you use for thickening. Cornstarch doesn't thaw well after freezing, giving an oddly loose consistency, which is a bit disconcerting when it happens in your mouth. You're better off replacing the cornstarch with tapioca starch or arrowroot starch, which won't give your pops that odd texture.