If you have a moment, make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Use nutritionally void soft white bread. Eat the crusts off first. Then look at what you’re left with. Examine it objectively. Close your eyes and take a bite. It’s tender but toothsome with just the right amount of ooze. It’s soft and sweet. It’s creamy and tart. Be honest. It’s not really a sandwich, is it? It’s more like a perfect little layer cake. Dessert masquerading as lunch. And it’s really delicious. This exciting discovery has changed my life and my fridge.
These days you’ll find 2 to 4 jars of jam and 3 to 6 jars of peanut butter in our fridge at all times. All open. All half eaten. All sticky. I blame the glut on New York’s inclement weather. With every predicted snowpocolypse my reflex is to hoard the classic duo, no matter how much I have back at home.
Hurricane Irene started it all. Like too many other panicked New Yorkers, I headed to the supermarket just before the storm hit. The lines snaked around the entire store. The shelves were bare. I had no idea what to buy. The kale was already gone. I looked at what was left. Water. White bread. Peanut Butter. Jam. Too sugary for the other storm troopers so I stocked up. The next day, when the power went out, I found myself eating PB&J’s by candlelight and loving every bite. A wonderful rediscovery. It counts as a meal. But it tastes like dessert! Without the internet, eating PB&J's was the only thing I could think of to do. I ate six that day. And the obsession stuck.
Since then the recipe has evolved. I buy peanut butter without added sugar. Sometimes I splurge on almond butter. I look for the more natural jams. Maybe a good whole wheat bread. But really, it’s still just dessert for dinner and I like it. My new beloved solo meal treat in any weather.
I’m assuming that you don’t need a recipe for a perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’m also assuming that like me, you may let this cake-for-dinner thing get out of hand. While extra peanut butter goes down easy with a spoon, jam does not. Don’t let extra jam go unloved! You could do like my dad and make lasagna, turkey, and jam sandwiches. Or maybe these cute sweet rolls with jam and cream cheese instead.
2/3 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the bowl and the tin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds (removed from the pods), lightly crushed
4 to 6 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup jam (I used cherry), warmed slightly
confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling
1. Prepare the dough: Bring the milk just to a boil over medium heat in a small pot. Remove from the heat and add the butter to melt. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let cool to between 105°F to 110°F. Add the egg and stir to combine.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and cardamom. Add the milk mixture and mix until just combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on low speed until it is smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes. (You could do all of this by hand. You shouldn’t need to add extra flour.) Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to double. (At this point you could wrap the dough well and set it in the refrigerator overnight.)
3. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Beat the cream cheese and egg yolk together until smooth. Then add the confectioners sugar and beat until smooth. Butter a 12-cup non-stick muffin tin (the cups and the top) really well.
4. On a very lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about a 12 x 15 inch rectangle. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the dough. Then spread the jam evenly over the cream cheese mixture. Roll the dough up into a tight coil, then cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. (The dough will be squishy and messy but don’t worry. You can’t really mess this up.) Set a piece of dough, cut side up, into each cavity in the muffin tin. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and set aside to rise.
5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Once the dough has puffed up about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch above the edge of the pan, pop the tray in the oven. Bake until golden brown and set, about 18 to 22 minutes. Let the rolls cool in the pan for about 15 minutes then transfer them to a rack. (A small offset spatula is helpful for lifting the rolls out of the tin.) Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar to serve warm or at room temperature.