Mexican-Style Paletas

Cooking with Beer by | Jul 2012 | Issue #66

Photos by Sean Z. Paxton

Nothing beats an ice-cold beer on a hot summer day. To take this idea up a notch, consider a frozen beersicle. Start with an IPA, Brown Ale, Saison, Sour, Stout, or Helles, then add ripe, sweet fruit or cocoa nibs, maybe some coconut milk, cream, and a touch of sweetener, and you have Paletas. Paletas are similar to a popsicles and are distinguished by their base—either water or cream. Here are a few recipes and ideas that will bring a smile to any beer lover’s face.

IPA Mango and Chili Paletas
The hops’ citrusy flavors of orange and grapefruit compliment the mango tropical essence, and to balance out the sweetness, a touch of dried chili is used. These Paletas are refreshing and therapeutic on a summer day.

Makes: 8 popsicles

2 oz simple syrup (see recipe below)
12 oz IPA, Ballast Point Sculpin or other citrusy IPA
1/3 – 1/2 cup mango, ripe, peeled and seeded, diced
1/2 tsp ancho chili, dried and powdered
1 pinch kosher salt

In a liquid measuring cup, add the simple syrup and top with the beer, mixing together until incorporated. Pour 1 inch of the beer syrup into each popsicle mold, and place into the freezer for 30–45 minutes to set. Remove from the freezer and divide the diced mango between the molds, then sprinkle in a pinch or two of the ancho powder and a few grains of salt. Fill the molds 3/4 full or to the fill line in the mold, add in the top or stick into each and put back in the freezer. Freeze until firm, from about 5 hours to overnight.

Apricot, Orange, Ginger, and IPA Paletas
This variation of the IPA Mango and Chili Paleta plays up the IPA’s flavor attributes. The tart yet refreshing apricot, mixed with the orange marmalade and combined with the gentle heat of the crystalized ginger, brings out new flavors in the IPA and enhances the flavor profile, making this a nostalgic treat for any IPA drinker.

Makes: 8 popsicles

12 oz Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA or other citrusy IPA
2 oz simple syrup (see recipe below)
2 tbsp orange marmalade
3/4 cup apricots, ripe, washed and chopped
1 tsp crystalized ginger, minced
1 pinch sea salt
8 each bamboo sticks

In a medium-size bowl, add the IPA, simple syrup and orange marmalade. Using a whisk, mix until the marmalade dissolves into the other liquids. Add the chopped apricots, ginger and sea salt, covering and placing into the refrigerator for at least an hour (or overnight) to marinate the fruit and fuse the flavors together.

Option 1: Strain and reserve the fruit from the liquid. Fill and freeze the first bottom inch of each mold. Divide the fruit and top each mold with the reserved liquid. Place sticks and freeze fully.

Option 2: Purée the mixture to a thick or thin consistency, depending on desired final texture (smooth or speckled with identifiable fruit pieces). Pour into molds, top each with a stick and freeze.

Rodenbach Grand Cru and Cherry Paletas
The fresh flavors from the cherries pop off the acid and the dried fruit flavor in the classic Flemish Red-style beer. The added cinnamon bark, used as a popsicle stick, brings out some of the phenolic characters of the yeast.

Makes: 8 popsicles

1 cup cherries, ripe, washed and pits removed
2 oz simple syrup, preferably made with Dark Candi Blonde Sugar (see recipe below)
1 oz almond slices, lightly toasted
1 pinch kosher salt
12 oz Rodenbach Grand Cru or other Flemish Red
8 each cinnamon sticks, about 3 inches long

In the pitcher of a blender, add the cherries, simple syrup, almonds and salt. Pulse the mixture to make a paste, then drizzle in the Flemish Red until the mixture is puréed into a fine liquid. Pour the mixture into the prepared molds and place in the freezer for about an hour. The mixture should be a slight slushy consistency. Add the cinnamon sticks to the center of each mold and place back into the freezer, chilling until solid, about 4–6 hours. Remove and serve immediately, or transfer to a sealable container.

Coconut Porter Paletas With Cocoa Nibs and Toasted Coconut
The taste of the islands are captured in this frozen dessert bar. The elements of roast and chocolate in this beer are further expressed with the textural elements in this icy dessert.

Makes: 8 popsicles

2 oz simple syrup (see recipe below)
3 oz coconut milk, shaken well
12 oz CoCoNut Porter, Maui Brewing Co., or other flavored Porter
1 pinch kosher salt
2 tbsp cocoa nibs
2 tbsp coconut shavings, toasted till golden brown (6–7 minutes) in a 325°F oven

In the pitcher of a blender, add the simple syrup, coconut milk, Coconut Porter and salt. Blend on high for 1 minute. Pour about 1 inch of the mixture into each popsicle mold, and place in the freezer for 30 minutes, just until icy. Divide the cocoa nibs and coconut shavings between the molds, and then top with the remaining mixture. Add in the sticks of choice and place into the freezer for at least 5 hours, or overnight until frozen solid.

Tips for Making Paletas/Popsicles
  • The alcohol content of the beer used will affect the texture and can inhibit the freezing of the finished popsicle. If the beer is over 14-percent ABV, use a few tablespoons less of the beer and substitute water, juice, coffee, or another liquid.
  • Sugar also inhibits the freezing process. Using too much will cause the popsicle to be more slushy; not enough sugar, and the popsicle will be more like an ice cube.
  • If the popsicles are too hard, melt them down and add a tablespoon of syrup. If the popsicles are too soft, add a few more tablespoons of beer and refreeze.
  • Try using plastic cups, dixie cups, or ice cube trays if a popsicle mold is not available.
  • Instead of using wooden popsicle sticks, try bamboo sticks, cool cocktail skewers, sugar cane cut into sticks or even cinnamon sticks. Try to compliment the theme of the Paletas with the right stick.
  • Check the freezer temperature setting and actual temperature. By setting the dial to the coolest setting, the popsicles will freeze faster.
  • If the Paletas are sticking in the molds, after frozen, dip them into a bowl or container filled with the hottest-possible tap water for 10–15 seconds to slightly melt the outside of the popsicle and allow it to release.
  • Once frozen, remove the Paletas to a Ziploc bag, wrap tightly in plastic wrap to prevent the popsicle from picking up any other freezer flavors, or layer the finished popsicles with wax paper and place into a sealable container. Do not leave the Paletas in the mold after completely frozen.
  • When using fruit, find the ripest fruit possible. The extra sugar from the ripe fruit will also help the texture and enhance the flavor in the final product.
  • Check the IBU (International Bittering Units) of the beer before using in the Paletas recipe. If the IBU are high, the resulting beersicle might be more bitter and lack a good balance of sweetness.

Simple Syrup
This syrup is a foolproof way to dissolve the sugar and prevent any crystals that will affect the texture. This simple syrup can also be used to make a sorbet base, granita (Italian ice) and many cocktails, beer or traditional.

Makes: around 5 cups of syrup

Simple Syrup Ingredients:
4 cups water, filtered, cold
2 cups sugar, organic

Simple Syrup Directions:
In a medium-size pot, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved and boil for 3 minutes on high heat. Remove from the burner and chill. This can be made in advance and will keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

This simple syrup can also be made with other varieties of sugar, introducing different flavor elements to the syrup, and in return, to the final flavor of the Paletas. The more unrefined the sugar, the more caramel and toffee undertones will be expressed, enhancing the crystal malt characters of certain beer styles. Try using jaggery (palm sugar), piloncillo (Mexican cone sugar), demerara, “sugar in the raw,” muscovado or turbinado sugars to enhance the syrup.

Honey, maple syrup, molasses, treacle, Dark Candi D/D2 syrup, agave syrup and golden syrup can all be used—just reduce the water amount by a half-cup to compensate for the residual moisture in the liquid sugar.