The Mastery of the PB & J

Words: Robyn Paterson

The PB & J, a simple sandwich — three ingredients, nothing fancy, yet the mastery of the PB&J knows no bounds. A timeless, virtually unchanged masterpiece that transports you straight back to the comforts of childhood, while simultaneously making you feel like you’re indulging in something surprisingly sophisticated. We explore the culinary masterpiece that is the humble peanut butter and jam sandwich.

Sweet, Salty, Crunchy

That’s the winning combination. How you get there is your choice, but most people opt for the simple route of crunchy peanut butter, strawberry jam and a soft, thick-crusted white bread. Some prefer to use creamy peanut butter and crush their own salted peanuts to add a fresher crunch. Some even scrap the peanut butter altogether and instead, opt for a more umami route of roasted pecans and miso, like this pecan-miso butter by Chris Morocco.

Whatever you choose, you’ll never end up straying too far from the original flavour and that’s the beauty of this classic. You have room to play knowing you’re safely held by this age-old combination of simple ingredients.

The Essentials

What to play around with depends on the type of sandwich you’re looking for. Are you a heavy-on-the-peanut-butter kind of person? Then make sure to generously spread both slices of bread and perhaps add a small handful of crushed salted peanuts as well, to really heighten that earthy flavour.

If you’re a jam lover with some time on your hands, try making a homemade berry jam with whatever seasonal berries you can find. It will bump up the acidity and really make the nuttiness of the peanut butter shine through. As for the type of bread you decide on, a richer loaf like brioche or milk-bread will add a luxuriousness to your sandwich that could make it double as a dessert. Simple is good too though, just make sure your bread is strong enough to hold its own and keep the thick, gooey PB&J safely together.

Don’t Mess Around Too Much

As much as there’s room to play, there are some non-negotiables when it comes to making this delicacy. Firstly, if you’re using peanut butter, make sure it’s creamy and unsweetened. You don’t want to use an overly sweet variety that will throw your flavours off balance. The sweetness comes from the jam and the nutty, earthiness comes from the peanut butter. Make sure each ingredient stays in their lane.

Secondly, adding a few sprinkles of flaky salt to the finished product will only make your sandwich better. It will heighten both the sweetness and the nuttiness and make all the flavours sing. Lastly, if you prefer toasted bread, toast it properly — in a pan with salted butter on both sides. You won’t regret it.

Unlike many (most) things in life, the PB&J doesn’t let us down. You always know what you’re going to get and it’s always going to be delicious, even when you decide to play around a bit and mix things up. Even if you ditch the sandwich vehicle all together and make something like these Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies you’ll still end up with an incredible combination of salty, sweet and crunchy goodness.

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