Maker: Betty Alatorre de Hong, Owner of Paletas Betty
Homebase: Gilbert, Ariz.
The Scoop: When Betty Alatorre de Hong moved to the United States, she found herself missing the flavors of her native Michoacán, Mexico. She would satisfy most of her cravings on frequent travels home, but there was one she could never get enough of: paletas. Inspired by this longing, as well as a desire to share these fresh fruit, ice and cream pops with her new American neighbors, she decided to open Paletas Betty.
To launch her paleteria, Betty didn’t train in culinary school. Instead, she drew on her mother’s and grandmother’s kitchen expertise and relied on her instincts as a natural-born chef with an insatiable sweet tooth. The menu balances traditional flavors, such as Mexican hot chocolate and arroz con leche (Mexican rice pudding), with fresh twists like Key lime pie and watermelon with fresh mint. Betty is 100-percent committed to cooking from scratch and uses only the best seasonal ingredients.
We were curious: How does Betty manage to grow her business (two locations in less than two years!) and keep things as fresh as ever?
What inspires you?
BAH: I’d have to say my mother’s and my grandmother’s cooking, and also traveling and experiencing new flavors. For example, to make our arroz con leche paleta, I knew it wouldn’t be right until I’d captured the flavor of my mom’s arroz con leche. And our limón [lemon] is very Florida – it’s not a traditional paleta, but it’s delicious.
What's the difference between a popsicle and a paleta?
Mexican paletas traditionally are very fresh and don't contain the artificial colorings or flavorings often found in American popsicles. The flavors and textures also vary more in paletas. They have a wide range of flavors from sweet to spicy, and the texture can be creamy, chunky or icy. But the most important thing is freshness. Traditional paletas are often found in open-ended wrappers because they’re meant to be eaten shortly after being made. No protective packaging or preservatives are needed.
Unfortunately, the distinction between popsicles and paletas is becoming blurred. Most paletas in Mexico are now being mass-produced and shipped all over the country. While there are still places in Mexico that make excellent paletas, many are not the same quality I remember. At Paletas Betty, we try to recreate the quality and freshness I grew up with.
How do you “make it happen”?
A couple different things, I think. For one, I really feel a strong drive to share paletas with the rest of the world. I would love for everyone to cherish them as I do. And secondly, I don’t cut corners. I have to put out a product that I believe in, and has my heart and soul in it. People can tell when you’ve put love into something, and they can also tell when you’ve cut corners. So I never do! You have to be true to yourself. Don’t deviate.
How would you describe your approach to making?
Simple and authentic. You’ve got to know where everything comes from, and you need to know your ingredients inside and out. Ripen fruit until it’s ready to use, that sort of thing. I don’t compromise on quality, and I always try to have fun with what I’m doing. Oh! And stick with it. Not everything works the first time around.
What shortcuts, gadgets or other life-savers do you swear by?
Honestly, my favorite tool is the stick that goes into the paleta. I use it for everything. It’s great for tasting, cleaning and leveling ingredients. It’s very handy.
Who are your favorite makers?
Again, I’d have to say my mother and grandmother. They give everything 100 percent, no matter if it’s making a simple cake or elaborate meals for the whole family. They make every single meal from scratch – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Can you imagine? They always get it done. And it’s not only their cooking. Their dedication, love and passion is evident in everything they do.
Any Pillsbury® products or recipes in your rotation?
We use Pillsbury biscuit dough to make fried pies. I fry the dough with fresh fruit fillings inside and top it with powdered sugar. Combining ready-made and fresh ingredients is great for quick desserts at home.
What are some of your other loves?
I absolutely love my dogs! Our two dogs are our constant companions. And I love being outside. It’s hard to get away from work, but I try to get outdoors whenever I can.
We’d love to keep growing -- we’re always looking for more places to share paletas. I want everyone to have an authentic paletas experience.