Choco-Chile Pops with Chipotle Spiced Nuts
Makes 10 pops.
These are the grown-up version of everyone's childhood favorite: fudge pops. They recapture the almost chewy texture of the original but are made with better chocolate and a hint of spice. The culinary adage what grows together goes together is true in this case — chocolate and chiles are great pals. Ancho’s rich, fruity flavor somehow makes chocolate taste more chocolaty, while chipotle’s smoke and heat add contrast and complement its richness.
The chipotle-walnut sprinkles are optional but they make the pops fancy enough for guests! The small amount of starch included helps to maintain a creamy texture.
For the pops:
4-inch piece dried ancho chile
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons tapioca starch or corn starch, optional
¼ teaspoon ground chipotle chile
For the spiced nuts:
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus a pinch more
¼ teaspoon (heaped) ground chipotle chile
Small pinch ground cumin
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1½ cup walnuts
Make the pops Working over the sink, break the ancho chile into large fragments, letting the seeds fall away. Put the fragments into a bowl and pour ½ cup boiling water over them. Let them soak for 10 minutes, drain thoroughly, and mince the softened chile very finely.
Put the coconut milk cocoa powder, tapioca or corn starch (if using), and chipotle into a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. As the mixture warms, whisk it gently until smooth, and creamy. Shut off the heat, add the condensed milk and ancho, and gently whisk to combine.
Pour the mixture into a pitcher or other spouted container. Set the molds on a small baking sheet (this makes moving them to the freezer much easier). Fill the molds, leaving about a ¼-inch head space, and transfer them to the freezer until they are ‘slushy,’ 40 minutes to an hour. Insert a stick into the center of each pop, then freeze solid, another 4 hours to overnight.
Serve Working one pop at a time, remove them from the molds (dip the mold briefly in warm water or warm it with your hands). Serve as is or coated the spiced nuts.
Make the spiced nuts Mix the sugar, spices, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt together in a small bowl. Line a cookie sheet with a piece of baking parchment. Set the spiced sugar and cookie sheet aside.
Put the oil into a large, non-stick skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the walnuts and stir frequently until they are lightly toasted and aromatic, about 4 minutes. Be careful not to burn the nuts.
Add ¼ cup of the sugar mixture to the pan, cook, stirring for 20 seconds. Add the remaining sugar and cook for another minute, stirring constantly. (The sugar should melt a bit but retain a sandy texture.) Scoop the nuts onto the prepared baking sheet and spread them out in a single layer to cool. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. When the nuts are completely cool, chop them finely, then transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.