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I have a child who is about to be two years old. I have a lot of thoughts on the subject, but one thing I do not have a lot of thoughts about is a second birthday party. I could take it or leave it. For one thing, June doesn’t understand birthdays yet, so it doesn’t matter to her either way. Also, I am lazier than I let on. When your kid turns one, a party feels mandatory, because you kept a small human alive for an entire year and you survived it and bells must be energetically rung. Cake must be baked! BEERS MUST BE DRUNK! I am here to report, however, that a second birthday party feels much less urgent.

Still, it seems sad to not mark the occasion. My friend Natalie and I were talking about that sometime in July, because her Eero was born in early August and my June was born in early September and we were both feeling lukewarm on party planning. Then Natalie hatched an idea: we could throw a joint party. And: FUDGESICLES.

We split the difference in birthdates and threw the party in mid-August, inviting a bunch of friends to the park for a Sunday potluck lunch and popsicles. (I highly recommend, by the way, throwing kids’ parties in public parks, preferably ones that include playgrounds. That way, the kids can lose their minds on the slides and teeter-totters while the adults toss around frisbees, lie in the grass, whathaveyou. And: it’s FREE.) This particular park has a sloping lawn that points toward Puget Sound, and that morning, there was a dense fog hanging over the hill. We claimed a couple of picnic tables, hauled the coolers across the lawn, and hoped for sun. Natalie and Michael brought two big balloons, and I brought two strings of paper flags that Natalie made for Eero’s first birthday party last year and then bequeathed to me for June’s first birthday party a month later, after which my father-in-law carefully folded them into a Ziplock for safekeeping and I stashed them away in the kitchen closet, and now that I have typed all of this, I guess it could seem like a real bummer to reuse somebody else’s old party decorations?  I assure you, these are some really nice flags. We intend to use them until they fall apart.

Brandon and I bought a chickpea salad, a platter of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and a pile of blankets, and Natalie and Michael brought guacamole, Natalie’s famous cucumber dip, chips, water, and a croquet set. As our friends arrived, some with their own children and some without, they brought cheese and fresh fruit, lemon bars, noodle salad, Greek salad, so much food.

At at some point, I noticed that the fog had lifted and my child was running after a crow (GETTA BUHD! GETTA BUHD!) with a croquet mallet in her hand. Then somebody opened the coolers, and popsicles were happening.

We’d agreed that Natalie would make a batch of popsicles with stone fruit, and what she came up with was much more than that: peach with honey and chamomile. I made my usual raspberry yogurt pops (I cut the sugar back to ½ cup / 100 grams, though; not sure why I ever thought you’d need more than that) and, at Natalie’s suggestion, I made fudgesicles, too. She’d never had luck making them, she told me, and I’d never tried. But I like a challenge, or I sometimes like a challenge. I occasionally like a challenge. Anyway, I decided to work on a fudgesicle recipe.

There are a lot of them out there, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. It’s even fair to say that there’s a fudgesicle mini-craze going on right now: Food52, for instance, just ran a recipe for them. My goal was a chocolate popsicle that resembled, at least somewhat, the Jello pudding pops of my childhood. I wanted it to be silky, creamy, dense, and rich, and not even remotely icy, and I wanted the flavor to lean more toward chocolate than cocoa. What I wound up with posed almost no challenge at all, because it’s only a small tweak on Alton Brown’s recipe. (Thank you, Alton Brown.) It uses only five ingredients: chocolate, cream, milk, a small amount of cocoa, and vanilla extract. It also comes together in maybe 20 minutes.  As my aunt Tina, one of June’s namesakes, would have said, What’s not to like? June smelled like chocolate for the rest of the day, and secretly, I hoped she always would.

P.S. I am thrilled to announce that in late October, I will be teaching a four-day workshop on storytelling and personal narrative at the Oklahoma Fall Arts Institute. I was a writing student at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute as a teenager, so I am beyond, beyond all number of emotions, to be teaching at Quartz Mountain myself. (!!!) The fee is $605 for in-state participants and $1,005 for out-of-state participants, including meals and lodging. Scholarships and discounts are available for Oklahoma educators and members of arts organizations.

Adapted from Alton Brown

You will note that there’s no sugar in this recipe, which means that you need to be thoughtful about the chocolate you use, because that’s what will bring sweetness. Brown calls only for "bittersweet chocolate," but when I tried using 70% cacao chocolate, which I think of as a pretty standard percentage for bittersweet, it made for a very bittersweet popsicle. More bitter than sweet. Brandon loved it, and June ate it, but it wasn’t really my thing. I like to combine two types of chocolate for this recipe: Valrhona “Jivara” 40% milk chocolate, and Valrhona “Manjari” 64% dark chocolate. I use four ounces, or 113 grams, of each. (Yes, they are wildly expensive! I know. We buy them in 3-kg bags at the restaurant, and I regularly steal some for my home use. I am a lucky bastard.) If you don’t want to shell out like that, Scharffen Berger also has a good 41% milk chocolate, and my guess is that it would blend nicely here with either the 62% semisweet or the 70% bittersweet. Whatever chocolate you choose, I wouldn’t recommend going above 64%, at the highest.

And as for popsicle molds, I use these.

8 ounces (225 grams) chocolate, ideally between 45% and 65% cacao
1 ½ cups (355 ml) heavy cream
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
2 tablespoons (about 11 grams) unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Finely chop the chocolate, and put it in a medium bowl. (If you have a bowl with a pour spout, use that! Perfect.)

In a medium (2- to 3-quart) saucepan, combine the cream, milk, and cocoa. Whisk well to dissolve the cocoa, and bring just to a simmer, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat, let sit for a few seconds, and then pour it over the chocolate. Let stand undisturbed for 2 or 3 minutes; then whisk to combine well. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Divide between popsicle molds, and freeze until hard.

Yield: 8 to 10 popsicles, depending on the size of your molds.


Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, that fudgesicle recipe looks easier to put together than the one I use, so Yay! Also: MUST KNOW ABOUT CUCUMBER DIP. Happy 2 June!! xo

9:29 PM, August 28, 2014  
Anonymous sarah | little house pantry said...

Whoa, yum. I can't believe there's a chocolate dessert trend happening that I don't know about. Fudgsicles:kids::Rosé:grownups? Congrats on the Okalhoma class. You should teach classes out here in Seattle, too!

10:31 PM, August 28, 2014  
Blogger sweetbugfarm said...

Yay for mellow birthdays! We go into party mode for every other od year until nine,then every even year from ten on. It's working well so far! Always a cake at home though, no matter the year. Happy 2nd to June!

10:55 PM, August 28, 2014  
Blogger Isabelle Hulm said...

I have TWO birthdays coming up: 9 September (son, turns 7) and 10 September (daughter, turns 4). To be honest, it's giving me the jitters already. I'm also hoping to host parties outside, but the weather here is pretty unreliable. However, I AM eyeing those wonderful fudgesicles... xxx

12:11 AM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Jennifer Jo said...

My kids get their first party when they turn 10. They are so deprived.

But I'm a huge fan of grown-up parties! Every year we invite a couple hundred people over for homemade donuts. I spend the rest of the year recuperating and trying to not pretend that the next year's party isn't looming on the horizon. But then it happens and I love it all over again.

4:34 AM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Bridgit said...

It's true, second birthday parties are take or leave, but it sounds like you figured out the perfect way to take! happy birthday June!

4:45 AM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Dixya said...

Happy 2nd to June! Seems like a fun party and Popsicles - yes!!!

5:07 AM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Jess said...

Such a perfect day! Our two older kids have winter birthdays, but our baby (also 2) is in the spring. We hadn't even thought of taking it to the park for party time.
Also, hooray for fudgesicles!

5:15 AM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous olga said...

After testing pints and pints and pints of ice cream all winter, spring, and summer, I'm plum ice creamed out. I know - this sounds like blasphemy but at the moment, I have 14 pints of various ice cream flavors and if anyone wants to come and relieve me of these, I'd be much obliged. These, however, is exactly what I've been craving, but hadn't realized it until I saw the picture.. So - thanks! I know what I'm living off of this weekend!

6:50 AM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous maja said...

Never made fudgesicles, but they sure look scrumptious!

7:06 AM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What lovely memories you're creating, just by living your life in this fun-filled Summer, 2014! Thanks so much for the recipe and for pointing me toward the Popsicle molds you use. I now have many ideas for next Summer--garden parties with lots of different flavors of Popsicles, as well as other lovely food.

8:35 AM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger lucinda smith said...

agreed on the whole baby's 1st/2nd birthday party issue because really, they don't get it. it's definitly more for the family. my in-laws were SO excited for my sons first; about watching him blow out candles, eat cake for the first time, open gifts and 10 he hadn't yet mastered blowing on command 2) the cake's *tecture* was apparently far more impressive than it's taste because he enjoyed squishing it between his fingers instead of eating it and 3) wrapping paper is waaaay more fun than the toys inside. that said, i think you're right: it'd be sad not to mark the occasion in some way.
i love that you sahred the celebration with eero (great name, as is june's!). it's looks to have been a fabulous time.

8:55 AM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Queen Sashy said...

Public parks are a Godsend for B-day parties. Ours has a gazebo, which we turned into a fairy house once. Best move ever. However, it never occurred to me to serve popsicles, that is very, very clever! Thank you for the idea and a great recipe.

9:19 AM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous Sara said...

I think I need to try this recipe AND Alice Medrich's from Food52 so that I have a freezer full of fudgesicles. Also, it's nice to hear about someone being real regarding young children's birthdays.

9:34 AM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Heather Nelson said...

Molly, I absolutely love your blog. We just moved to Seattle a couple of months ago and we're in love. (Not a high school crush kind of love, but a long-lasting I-don't-want-to-live-anywhere-else-ever kind of love). Whew! That's a lot of hyphens. In any case - yes, please, cucumber dip! And a special thank you for "A Homemade Life", it helped me through the death of a dear father a couple of years ago. He was a fantastic cook and enjoyed your blog too.

9:38 AM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Katherine {eggton} said...

Ok, as l-o-v-e-l-y as the popsicles are:

I need Natalie's cucumber dip recipe. Is it like taziki? Will she give it to us??


9:41 AM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For anyone without access to budget Valrhona (lucky duck!), I highly recommend using Trader Joe's chocolate - $5 for the 17.6 oz "pound plus" bars, and it's actually relabeled Callebaut.

9:57 AM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Jill said...

Half birthdays are fun, too, especially if your child is born in the dead of winter!

10:04 AM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Because you kept a small human alive for a year..."
Yes ! How I remember THAT feeling !
Am 13 days away from celebrating our son's 21st. He wants a quiet dinner while I've told him that his father and I need to mark the occasion with a small brass band and baby elephants. Will settle for flags and beer with dinner and the mutual pleasure his Dad and I feel about keeping a tall human alive for 21 years ! Happy birthday, June and good joyous work , parents !

10:28 AM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I concur- cucumber dip recipe please!

12:17 PM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous Jennifer in Santa Cruz said...

Fudgesicles look great, but I echo above comment about wanting to know about cucumber dip also! Sorry to be greedy. Congratulations to all 3 of you on making it to two. May it not be the terrible twos for June.

12:55 PM, August 29, 2014  
OpenID curlygirlpress said...

Fudgesicles have SO been on my mind lately and I have two sets of molds because of it. So now - Hooray! As for the 2-year party, meh. I did a taco bar, he never even had a cupcake, and his favorite part was everyone singing Happy Birthday (3 times because he kept asking for more). I think a park sounds great for #3. = )

1:27 PM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2 books, 2 restaurants, 2 year old, and a 2nd trip to Quartz Mountain. You are so on a roll!


2:18 PM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Jenn Sutherland said...

A popsicle party - how brilliant! For the uber healthy crowd, I do mine by whipping up 4 bananas in a food processor with about 1/3 c cocoa, 1/4 cup peanut butter, and let it whirl away until smooth, then pour into molds. The PB isn't too forward, but it definitely has that jello pudding pop like feel. http://thewholekitchen.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/vegan-banana-chocolate-peanut-butter-popsicles/

2:23 PM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Unknown said...

Love this - I've been wanting to try fudgesicles. Sounds very good.

On the birthday party issue my family had what I think was a very sensible approach. Every other year there would be a party of some note with lots of other kids, invited, perhaps an interesting venue. In alternate years there would be some festive type family-based celebration.

In this time of raising children with an attitude of entitlement and conspicuous consumption (this doesn't seem to be your style at all btw), this would seem to be a measured game plan. For your consideration.... there are alternatives

What you did this year sounds lovely and fun. Yay for June.

2:59 PM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Beth said...

Two things: you photograph your family with such love, and I actually remember the cake I had on my second birthday (it remains my favorite), so I'm glad you had a celebration for June. Maybe fudgesicles will be her favorite birthday dessert. :)

3:05 PM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comment about June not understanding birthday parties took me back a few years. I made a masterpiece birthday cake for my daughter's first birthday, the proverbial large one year summer party bash, and as we all joyously sang Happy Birthday one of the kids suddenly up and ran right through that cake! For her second birthday in an effect to put year 1 devastation behind us, I made an amazing Humpty Dumpty cake - a labor of much love. In hindsight perhaps I should have checked first but she had not one clue who Humpty Dumpty was - not one!

Oh, by the way, I am sure June understands fun so whether you wrap it in a party bow or not is almost incidental!

4:02 PM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous Lindsey Riddle said...

Hi Molly! OK resident here and the workshop (!!!): Best news I have read all week. Is there a deadline to sign up? I'm looking on the OAI website but am not seeing any information. So exciting!

4:09 PM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger mimi rippee said...

Thank god that these parties weren't popular when my kids were little. I would have been very challenged. The fudgesicles look fabulous for both parents and kids alike. Hey - I live in Oklahoma!!! Congrats!

4:11 PM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes! Cucumber dip please!

4:33 PM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Teej said...

Jello pudding pops were the essence of summer as a kid (although there was a 50% chance my mom would buy pistachio pudding mix instead of the obvious choice of chocolate). Thank you for posting this--what a nice way to cap off the summer season!

5:14 PM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous maggielynne said...

Happy 2nd Birthday, June! You have the most extraordinary head of hair...Signed, Fine Hair cut in a pixie! :)

5:43 PM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Kelli Samson said...

Happy Birthday, June! Happy Birthing Day, Molly!!

5:47 PM, August 29, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if that isn't a perfect 2nd birthday party, I don't know what is (really, I don't). I didn't see any dogs in the pictures though, which, to me, would make any party in the park perfection. It's possible I just didn't look closely enough. Happy 2nd June and Eero!

6:53 PM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Eileen said...

I think reusing party decorations sounds like the opposite of sad. It's not like they're only fun once and then you put them in a box forever! Also, yay fudgesicles!

7:15 PM, August 29, 2014  
Blogger Christine said...

I am also curious about the cucumber dip. For some reason, that stuck in my head during the entire post. Maybe because I knew the fudgesicle recipe would be forthcoming and was therefore free to focus elsewhere. Anyway, share? Also, great party. I am a HUGE fan of reusing decorations until they fall apart. And once they fall apart, letting the kids use them for art projects. No shame.

6:51 AM, August 30, 2014  
Anonymous Christina said...

I totally get the 2nd birthday conundrum. Our 2nd celebration was much less... um, festive?... than our first, but still fun. Just in a less themed kind of way if that makes sense. Fudgsicles, as always, are a good choice for a 2nd birthday. :)

8:31 AM, August 30, 2014  
Anonymous Karen said...

I second the cucumber dip. Think your friend will part with the recipe?

8:56 AM, August 30, 2014  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

I second needing to know about the cucumber dip, if at all possible.

And if you ever need to make a fudgesicle for a dairy-free friend, I just froze Oh She Glows' chocolate-banana-avocado-pudding (about half the milk called for) and they were delicious: http://ohsheglows.com/2012/05/07/crazy-woman-chocolate-blender-pudding/

3:24 PM, August 30, 2014  
Blogger rb and jaw said...

Longtime blog reader and Delancey eater here, LOVING your book! Might even plan a winter trek to Pizzeria Bianco. I am taking a storytelling workshop in October (in Portland), but please teach one locally (Seattle) soon. Ever considered Hedgebrook on Whidbey? I'm an alum!

7:16 PM, August 30, 2014  
Anonymous Magda said...

I love the fact that you didn't use sugar Molly. I have to try these as soon as possible.
Happy birthday to your June, albeit a little early but I can't resist since I saw your party :)
What a beautiful park!

10:07 AM, August 31, 2014  
Anonymous Danielle said...

Just took my one and only to the airport to go back to college for junior year. Just yesterday she was June's age. Some of our best memories are her birthday parties--all completely homemade and never spent more than $70 despite living in an area where parents spend hundreds on ball pits, entertainers, etc. We both agree that the best one was the puppy party where we made felt puppy ears sewn to elastic headbands, served a puppy food cake baked in a large stainless steel dog bowl, and the main activity was barking. Dd's birthday was late November, so parks weren't an option. When you're going through it you're.tired all the time. When it's over, all you remember is the fun.

10:28 AM, August 31, 2014  
Blogger Clara Parkes said...

My eye slipped right past the delicious fudgesicle pictures and fell on June's glorious purple sweater! Acquired by chance, or created by someone who loves her very much? Either way, it's beautiful! Happy birthday, June!

12:22 PM, September 01, 2014  
Blogger Maura V. said...

Cucumber dip?!?!!!! Please, please, please share that!

7:45 PM, September 01, 2014  
Blogger Kate Ramos said...

Neither of my kids has a 2-year-birthday party aside from me making them a cake and then eating most of it myself. Sounds like your celebration was a little nicer. Happy Birthday June!

7:29 PM, September 04, 2014  
Blogger Suzi said...

Molly, I just made this and it's very grainy, maybe from the cocoa powder??? Is that how yours come out?
Otherwise it taste really good.

4:52 PM, September 05, 2014  
Anonymous Mukta @ MumMumTime said...

I liked your idea of having a combined party and that too in the park. I didn't bother having a large party till my kiddo turned 3. Till 2 it was only a family affair. :)

8:31 PM, September 05, 2014  
Blogger Molly said...

Suzi! That's so weird - and maddening! I've made the recipe three times, and mine have never turned out grainy; they're actually really smooth. What brands of cocoa and chocolate did you use?

1:33 PM, September 06, 2014  
Blogger Suzi said...

I used all Ghirardelli. Milk chocolate and 60% bittersweet chocolate baking bar- maybe this is the reason? Doesn't baking bar have some weird property? Like needing to be tempered in some situation? I don't know the science of it at all but I think I heard somewhere there's difference between bars and the chips... Maybe I shouldI have used chips I wonder...
Anyway, it is very interesting. Also it is comforting to know that it is actually supposed to very smooth! I should make it again maybe with chips next time. I thought it was so weird how grainy it was and thought this couldn't possibly be the thing! I'll keep you posted.

2:19 PM, September 06, 2014  
Anonymous Katherine (eggton) said...

I just remembered: some kids dig finding a gummy worm in their popsicles. I usually put one in apple popsicles, so that it's like an apple with a worm in it, but wouldn't it be equally fun (and appropriate) to put a gummy worm in the mold for a fudgesicle? It'd be like a worm in the (delicious, chocolaty) dirt!

8:25 AM, September 07, 2014  
Blogger Veronica Quincy said...

What fun! My son turned three in August and we had an ice cream themed party. He's obsessed with ice cream trucks! I'm looking forward to trying this fudgesicle recipe. Happy birthday, June!

2:56 PM, September 16, 2014  
Blogger the juice of the cow said...

I noticed the flags right away in the picture and was happily admiring them. I would have kept them too and used them again and again.

12:41 PM, November 06, 2014  

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