Even when it was released in the middle of December, the Zoku struck me as an ingenious idea. I was in no mood for popsicles back then—not in the middle of blizzards and Christmas decorations—but if I thought it was ingenious six months ago, I think even more highly of it now that I've gone through several weeks of playing with it. See, the Zoku isn't your ordinary popsicle-maker—it's a compact three-pop mold that claims to freeze its contents in just 7 to 9 minutes.
Personally, I have sporadic fruit cravings that don't fit into nice little plastic-wrapped packages in the freezer section. Even if I could buy a box of passion fruit popsicles, they'd probably grow freezer-burn by the time I made my way through the lot. Meanwhile, my boyfriend is content to eat through an entire box of popsicles in a sitting (the only thing stopping him is the fact that a box of six costs about $6 here in New York City). No matter which side of the spectrum you fall on, the Zoku makes sense. Craving a popsicle? Make just one and eat it while you want it, or make a whole bunch—the machine stays cold enough to make three batches in a row. At just $50, you'd spend just as much within a few weeks of hitting the supermarket, too.
Surprisingly, the Zoku works almost exactly as it claims: though it takes 9 to 12 minutes on average (rather than the 7 to 9 minutes advertised), it's extremely fun to use and allows you to get as aesthetically creative with your popsicles as you could get with Easter eggs. Fill the wells partially before adding a second liquid and you'll get clearly defined layers; prop the Zoku on a book or cutting board, and those layers will set on the diagonal. Use a straw (or flavor injector!) to slurp up the unfrozen middle of a popsicle and refill it with something else to create creamsicle-like treats, or get creative with pudding, yogurt, and chunks of fresh fruit. The possibilities are virtually limitless (strawberry-studded fudgesicles, anyone?).
It's worth noting that substances literally freeze on contact, which means that making perfect-looking popsicles is a precise art form (and an extremely satisfying one, at that). Equally important: the Zoku is only compatible with its own sticks, but extras are available for separate purchase (6 for $11.95 at Zoku Shop). No matter—in theory, you'll be eating these pops as quickly as you make them.
My only gripes? The Zoku needs to freeze solid to work, which means two things: It constantly takes up space in the freezer, and you can't quite clean it without thawing it (which clearly delays the next batch). Though pops occasionally stick to the mold, little tricks—like tapping the machine to ensure that dense pudding or yogurt fill the molds thoroughly—become intuitive fixes. In all, they're small complaints for a machine that works perfectly almost every single time—and that continually makes me feel like a kid all over again.