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PB&J Popsicles

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PB AND J POPSICLES
Marisa Churchill

After last week's trip to the villages of Zagorohoria I have been obsessed with using the local honey I purchased. If you happened to read last week's post about my traipsing up a goat path in search of local honey, then you can probably imagine why I'm putting it in everything. I'm getting my effort's worth out of that jar! The fact that the flavor is amazing, light with a nutty citrus finish, is further adding to my honey obsession.

So this morning, I was drinking my coffee on the balcony and enjoying the summer sun, when I started thinking about popsicles. Specifically what kinds of tasty popsicles could I sweeten with honey? I came up with a long list, from basics like white peach with honey, to more sophisticated pairings like apricot with chamomile and honey. But in the end I was intrigued with the idea of creating a peanut butter and jelly popsicle. Although it might sound complicated, the popsicles were simple to prepare and only required a handful of ingredients: fresh berries, Greek yogurt, natural peanut butter, a pinch of sea salt, and (of course) honey.

I'd picked up several baskets of gorgeous blackberries at the local farmers' market.

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They had a special deal, buy two baskets and get the third basket free. You can't resist a deal like that! So I took the berries home, ate half, and put the rest in the freezer. My PB&J popsicle idea seemed like the perfect way to put the frozen berries to good use.

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Now just to clarify, the popsicles pictured above were not made with blackberries. They were made with strawberries. I made the popsicles twice, and explain why later in the post. There's a method to my madness, so just keep reading!

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I settled on the Greek yogurt and peanut butter combo for a variety of reasons. One, I LOVE Greek yogurt! It's the perfect consistency, and has great flavor without being overwhelmingly tart. I also thought that the thickness of the yogurt would create more of a semifreddo texture. That creaminess would nicely contrast the classic icy popsicle texture from the berries. With the honey as my muse, I tossed the berries and half the honey into a pot and began to slowly cook them down. While the berries cooked, I got out my food processor and blended together the yogurt, peanut butter, some sea salt (to make the peanut butter flavor pop) and the rest of the honey.

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I pureed the mixture and transferred it to a piping bag. At this point the berries began to break down, and the liquid turned syrupy.

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I tossed the berries, and their juice, into the same food processor (no need to clean the food processor first) and pureed them until almost smooth.

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Because the peanut-yogurt mixture and the berries were both nice and thick, I realized I could easily layer them without the colors running together. So I piped the peanut butter filling into the molds, spooned the pureed berries on top and then topped it off with another layer of the peanut butter filling.

I put the popsicles into the freezer for three hours. Yes, only three hours. Now you might notice that in the recipe below I tell you to freeze them for 6 hours. This is one of those cases of do as I say, not as I do. Unless of course you are horribly impatient like me, then you should do exactly as I did, and cut the waiting time in half! After three hours they are sufficiently (although not completely) frozen. You can manage to carefully pull them out of their molds. But it's definitely an easier process if you let the popsicles freeze for 6 hours before unmolding.

Once I unmolded the popsicles I noticed that they were not completely smooth. OK, I'll be honest. They looked like a cat had gotten into the freezer and tried to nibble at them. This was due to the creation of air pockets in the molds when I piped in the peanut butter filling. Oops! You see, even a professional pastry chef makes mistakes in the kitchen!

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To prevent this from happening, give the molds a firm tap against the kitchen counter between piping the layers. The tapping will release the air pockets and help the filling settle; that way you have nice and smooth popsicles. Of course the fact that my popsicles had "character" didn't make them any less appealing to eat! But I did decide that perhaps this meant I should make another batch, and this time tap the molds! So please don't let me extra effort go to waste.

Take a look at those pictures again... notice how much smoother the strawberry PB&J popsicles are? Because I was making a second batch, I decided I might as well try another peanut butter and "jelly" combo. Of course, I could have just remade the popsicles with blackberries and never told you about my culinary faux pas. But that didn't seem fair, so I decided to try making them with the classic peanut butter and strawberry combination. It's difficult to say which batch was more popular (more attractive, no contest, but taste is more subjective). I ate two of the PB&J popsicles with blackberry jam the first day I made them. I offered a few to the neighbors, both went for the peanut butter and strawberry. But in the end, despite their less than perfect look, the peanut butter and blackberry combo was the bigger hit. I'm now out of PB&J popsicle. So it's off to the farmers' market again. Maybe this time I'll try making them with boysenberries!

PB&J popsicles

Makes 6
1 heaping cup of berries (such as blackberries or strawberries)
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoon honey, divided use
2/3 cup reduced fat plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
¼ cup smooth natural peanut butter
¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt

Place the berries, water and one tablespoon of honey into a stainless steel pot and cook over medium heat. Stir occasionally to break up the berries. Cook until the mixture is thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes. In the meantime, place the yogurt, peanut butter, salt, and remaining tablespoon of honey into a food processor, blend until thoroughly combined. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag or bowl. Once cooked, place the berry mixture into the same food processor (no need to clean the food processor first). Blend the berries into a puree. Place a little over half of the peanut butter mixture into the bottom of the six popsicle molds. Give the molds several firm taps on the counter to release any air pockets. Divide the berry mixture evenly over the top, and tap the molds again. Spoon or pipe the rest of the peanut butter mixture on top of the berries. Place the popsicle sticks into the center of each popsicle and transfer the popsicles to the freezer. Freeze for at least 6 hours before unmolding.