I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write this post. A few weeks ago, my college roommate Sarah was in town visiting. Even though it took us awhile to figure out some of our other daily activities (sometimes a challenge to choose an summer activity in Texas that does not involve heatstroke), we obvs knew for sure that we would be baking something.
I flipped through cookbooks before she got here, but nothing caught my eye. We scanned Pinterest. We racked our brains trying to think of the perfect baking project. We decided on some lemon-raspberry things, which is great and all, but it was missing something and we couldn’t fully commit.
It was missing our main life ingredient: peanut butter. For 4 years in undergrad, we lived and died by all things peanut butter. Or nutella. And especially peanut butter AND nutella together. On a spoon. Or on some bread. Or on a marshmallow. Your basic food vehicles.
We’re 3 years removed from college though (and by 3 years I mean WHAT THE EFF), and it’s time for us to develop a more mature relationship with PB. So we decided to make a PB&J…completely from scratch. The bread, the jam, and obvs the peanut butter.
Did it take kind of a long time? Yes. Did we have to hull a lot of strawberries? Yes. Do we wish we could eat only this homemade sandwich for the rest of our lives? Yes.
In the process, we discovered a great recipe for white sandwich bread, which neither of us had ever made before. We also discovered that it’s not totally necessary to “spoon the foam off the top layer of the bubbling jam” as Martha asked us to. (We’re just making refrigerator jam here people, not entering any state fair contests with the stuff.) And finally, we discovered that making your own peanut butter is possibly the easiest thing. Ever. But you probably already knew this.
American Sandwich Bread
Makes one 9-inch loaf (enough for about 5 sandwiches)
3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 cup milk (we used 2%), warmed to about 110F
1/3 cup water, warmed to about 110F
2 TBS unsalted butter, melted
3 TBS honey
1 envelop instant dry yeast (check the expiration date!)
1. Put an oven rack in the lowest position, and preheat the oven to 200F. Once the oven reaches 200F, leave the oven on for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.
2. In a glass measuring cup (at least 2-cup), combine the warmed milk and water, melted butter, honey, and yeast. Stir gently to combine and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine 3 1/2 cups of flour and the salt. Mix on low speed just until combined. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the milk mixture. As the mixture starts to come together, turn the speed up to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky, for about 10 minutes total, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. If after 5 minutes of mixing, the dough is still too sticky, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour a little at a time. You want the dough to look smooth, but it will still stick to your fingers when you touch it! Remember you’ll be adding a little extra flour later when you shape the dough, so you don’t want to add too much.
4. Lightly oil a large bowl. Turn the dough out into the oiled bowl. Shape the dough gently into a ball and turn to coat the sides with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in the preheated (and turned OFF) oven until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
5. (During the 1st rise, get started on the jam, recipe below.) Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. Turn the risen dough out onto a well-floured surface. Shape the dough into a rough 8×8-inch square (about 1 inch thick). Starting at the side closest to you, roll the dough tightly into a cylinder, almost like you’re making cinnamon rolls. Use a dough scraper or a thin spatula to scrape up the dough if it sticks to the surface. Pinch the seam together to seal.
6. Place the loaf, seam side down into the prepared loaf pan. Gently press the dough into the pan, trying to fill the corners. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm area for about 25 minutes. (We just put it back in the preheated oven from before. No need to preheat it again, it should have retained its warmth.)
7. Place one oven rack in the lowest position and another in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350F. (Make sure you take out the rising dough if you only have 1 oven!) Boil 2 cups of water in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Pour the boiling water into a rimmed baking sheet and place on the lowest oven rack. Place the loaf pan on the middle oven rack and bake for 40-50 minutes. The bread is done when either an instant read thermometer in the middle of the loaf reads 195F OR when the crust is brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
8. Let the bread cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Turn the loaf out and let cool completely on the rack before slicing. (We did not do this. We waited no more than 15 minutes and it wasn’t the easiest to slice, but it was still amazing.) Store bread tightly wrapped at room temperature. It will keep for a few days, but it probs won’t stay around that long.
Easy Strawberry Jam
Makes 5-6 half-pint jars (48 oz of jam)
*Note: we did not do the whole canning process with these, so we made refrigerator jam. We’re not canning experts, so we didn’t include instructions for that part. The Pioneer Woman has a good tutorial on canning here!
4 pounds strawberries, tops removed and hulled, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch pices
5 cups granulated sugar (ours turned out a little sweet with this amount of sugar, so taste your strawberries!)
1. Place a small plate in the freezer. (We’ll use this later.)
2. Place strawberries in 10-qt stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir in 1/4 cup sugar. Cook while stirring until berries are juicy, about 5 minutes. Stir in a cup of sugar at a time, cooking and stirring briefly after each addition until all sugar has been added.
3. Bring the mixture to a full boil and cook at the same temperature while stirring for about 10 minutes. Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the mixture thickens, about 30 minutes. (If you have a candy thermometer, cook until the jam is 220F.) You can turn down the heat slightly during this time if the mixture keeps bubbling up too much.
4. Remove the plate from the freezer and spoon a small amount of jam on the plate. Return to the freezer for 1-2 minutes. After 2 minutes, the jam on the plate should feel and look like gel.
5. Pour the jam carefully into clean jars. Let cool to room temperature before putting the lids on and storing in the fridge. Jam will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Makes 1 1/2 cups peanut butter. (We double this batch easily because we felt the need to have 3 cups of peanut butter.)
1 lb shelled/skinned roasted unsalted peanuts
1 tsp salt
Directions: (Ready? This is hard.)
1. Pour the peanuts and salt into a food processor fitted with the normal blade attachment. Process on high speed until it reaches the consistency of peanut butter, stopping to scrape down the sides once or twice. Should take about 4 minutes of processing.
2. Store peanut butter in a tupperware or jar in the fridge. The peanut butter will thicken considerably in the fridge, so if you’re making sandwiches it’s best to let it sit at room temperature for a little bit beforehand.
Now…Make the dang sandwich!
1. Cut 2 thick slices of bread. Spread one slice with fresh peanut butter. Spread the other slice with cooled jam. Put the slices together. Don’t fret if some peanut butter and jelly escapes out the side. It’s natural.
2. Serve with cold milk.
This was such a fun, satisfying project. Now we’re out to develop new flavors of peanut butter and think of other things we can make from scratch! Thanks for reading, happy baking!