In my head paleta de batata con coco (sweet potato and coconut popsicles) and summer are indelibly connected.
When I was a kid I spent many a summer in the Santo Domingo neighborhood of San Carlos, where one of my aunts lived. Back then it was the kind of old-fashioned middle class neighborhood you see in movies depicting the Spanish Caribbean. It was a quiet place of tranquil streets and colorful old houses that lent itself to childhood exploration.
Besides the memories of Hurricane David pounding Santo Domingo into a pulp, the other clear memory I have of those days was walking every afternoon to buy helados de potecitos (homemade ice cream in baby food jars) at a neighbor’s house.
In the Santo Domingo of today, full of apartment buildings, not only has San Carlos become unrecognizable, but these childhood treats are probably long gone.
Of all the flavors available in those days -some not very healthy – batata (sweet potato) was my favorite. Some time ago I decided to recreate my favorite childhood treat.
Once I embarked on this project, I noticed that this is a very good option as an afternoon treat for the little ones. If you keep in mind not to overdo it with the sugar, it can be fairly nutritious.
As the Dominican saying goes: “Cuando el hambre da calor, la batata es un refresco” (when hunger makes you hot, sweet potatoes are a cold drink). And if it is this insane heat to blame for it, make yourself a sweet potato popsicle.
- 1 lb [0.45 kg] of batata (sweet potato), peeled
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 2 cups of milk (whole or skim)
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup of sugar (may not be used all)
Cut the sweet potatoes into small pieces. Boil until they are very soft, having added the salt to the water. Remove from the water, discard water and let the batata cool to room temperature.
Mix sweet potatoes, milk, coconut milk and vanilla and blend to a liquid state. Add sugar to taste. Pour into the popsicle molds (or plastic cups) and place the stick.
Dominican batatas are technically sweet potatoes, although a different variety from the orangey one available in most countries. You can read more here.
You can use almond milk, or other milk substitute if you wish. Instead of sugar, use sweetener of your choice if you like. Substitutions may change the flavor, so keep that in mind.