Saturday, April 30, 2011

Goes together like...

First of all, I have to say thank you so much Shay Bocks at Dumplin Design Studio for this fabulous new template for my blog!

Shay is one of those awesome women who is balancing a career as a web designer with being a mom. If anyone is reading this blog and looking for a 'new look'  for their own website, check Shay's studio out.

And even if you're not, for a truly 'I can't click my mouse fast enough' read, check out her story on her own blog about giving birth to her second son.  Let's just say that it tops the story of my own birth, as described by my mother--and I was over 9 pounds, 17 days late--in sweltering July.  Shay's story also involves hot wings.

As well as designing, I'm sure that Shay, like many mothers, makes quite a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Upon contemplating the subject of peanut butter--something I do quite often....I decided it was time to make a pbj recipe....

My life's peanut butter obsession has remained constant despite--or perhaps because of--the fact that I've never had a normal peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

My mother did not believe in white bread, so she made my pbjs with Skippy creamy, using grape or (to be very daring) strawberry or blueberry jam on rye, seeded bread. If she hadn't used Smucker's jam her pairing of an intensely bitter bread with this American classic might be considered daring.

However, my reaction to this sandwich was predictable.  I'd take a bite, grimace at the mouthful of seeds (when she used seeded strawberry jam, the paucity of peanut butter was particularly noticeable) and deposit my entire lunch in the trash basket. I'd take a longing look at Katy Ash's perfect half of a white Wonder Bread, Jiff, and grape jelly concoction, and then buy some ice cream.

Later, for a snack at home, I'd secretly devour Reece's Pieces by the handful, and in the absence of any sweets to mooch, I'd happily spoon chunky pb an inch thick on cinnamon raisin bread, topping it with orange marmalade. But the regular pbj sandwich always eluded me, and now I'm far too much of bread, peanut butter and jam snob to go back and try 'the classic'


Of course, the absence of a normal peanut butter and jelly sandwich is just a symbol of so much in my life.  For example, what movie did every kid see in the 1980s?  E.T.--and they ate Reece's Pieces while doing so! My parents took me to see Victor/Victoria, presumably thinking that the movie's theme of the transvestite 'Mary Poppins pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman' plot would go over my head and I would just really enjoy the songs and the popcorn.  Which I must confess I did....

My parent's weren't unconventional at all, and were actually quite overprotective.  But it didn't seem to register to them that I wasn't a miniature adult.  This did wonders for my development in reading and knowledge of cinema.  Not so much for learning how to play kickball and make boys like me...

I'm afraid this post won't end with my consuming and loving a slice of Skippy-slathered Wonder Bread. Instead, I have to share with you my twist on a recipe by Ina Garten.  Because of my traumatic no-E.T., no-Wonder Bread, no-seedless strawberry jam childhood, the perverse baker in me decided to tamper with even an Ina recipe--but I was very pleased how it turned out....

Additionally, for those kids who can't consume wheat and have a 'normal' bready childhood, this recipe is wheat-free and uses oat flour for a nice, healthy twist.  All of Ina's original ingredients are given a bit of a crunchy spin to suit my hippie sensibilities, but it's still chocked with peanut buttery, buttery, and jammy goodness...

Wheat-free Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars


1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), softer than room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large, beaten egg
1 cup creamy, all-natural peanut butter
1 1/2 cups oat flour (you can also use white whole wheat or all-purpose, if that is what you have and a gluten-free diet is not of concern)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cups natural fruit spread (I used strawberry--seedless of course)
1/3 cup salted peanuts
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and line a 9X9 or 8X8 square pan with parchment.
2. Cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the vanilla, egg, and peanut butter.
3. Sift the oat flour, baking powder, and salt, and slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet.
4. Spread 2/3 of the mixture into the pan, top with the fruit spread, and then 'dollop' the rest of the dough over the jam. Ina notes that not all of the remaining mixture will cover the jam--the effect will be more like that of a 'crumble' than a perfect covering.
5. Sprinkle the peanuts on top.
6. Bake for 45 minutes until golden. Cool for several hours, then chill the bars overnight if using the oat flour.

These bars will be slightly more crumbly than bars made with wheat flour, so I strongly advise chilling overnight before serving to 'set' if you're not using wheat flour.  Chilling will also make the natural fruit preserves less runny.