March 27, 2017
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Peanut Butter Jelly Pie Time

The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is so deeply tied to our sense of nostalgia that we almost take it for granted. It is one of the only foods a child can make for themselves without screwing it up too badly, and the minimal labor involved makes it a repertoire staple of parents who just can’t even. This is a marriage of flavors that sticks to our soul like Skippy to the roof of our mouths. We’ll never be able to let it go, no matter how boring we become with age—slathering pieces of farmers’ market wheat with fresh ground peanut butter and $20 boysenberry preserves, sprinkling its open face with some chia seeds and calling it “toast.”

An admission: It’s hard writing about something as simple and ubiquitous as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There doesn’t appear to be much to say: Get some bread, slap some peanut butter and jelly on it, done. We can argue about peanut butter ratios, debate the nuances of different breads, make Supreme Court–worthy arguments for our jelly of choice. You can gild the lily by removing the crusts, and perhaps even cut it into little triangles—because it’s been scientifically proven that sandwiches taste better in triangle shape (never rectangles, that’s for heathens!). But in the end, no variation is that different from the next.

We grow up and we think about the sandwich less and less, though not because it doesn’t taste good anymore (no one, and I mean no one, could ever flat-out reject a peanut butter and jelly on wholesome American white bread!). You just don’t eat them as often because your relationship with the kitchen is different now. You’re allowed to cook and eat whatever you want. But if you’re looking for an adult way to upgrade a PB&J without making people want to punch you in the face, may I suggest the peanut butter and jelly pie?

There’s no need to bother with a fussy, hand-rolled pie crust, because the perfection that is the PB&J has already dictated that you need to be using white bread or else GTFO. Since saltines are more or less the white bread of crackers, a crumb crust made from saltines does the trick nicely. Give in to your urges and buy the bad-for-you peanut butter you ate when you were a kid, because you’re making a damn pie and this is neither the time nor place for that all-natural hippy claptrap. As for the jelly (or jam)—any kind will work, so listen to your heart (though I’m pretty sure grape is the right choice, and the Supreme Court will back me up on that.)

Ingredients

  • For the Crust
  • 1½ cups crushed saltine or Ritz crackers
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ⅓ cup light brown sugar
  • For the Peanut Butter Custard
  • ¾ cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ⅔ cups smooth peanut butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • For the Glaze
  • ½ teaspoon gelatin
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 cup grape jelly
  • ½ cup roughly chopped roasted peanuts

The combination of peanut butter and jelly has always been the gold standard when it comes to the contrast between sweet and salty; in pie form it gets even more exciting. Saltines make for a surprisingly crisp crust that’s not too sweet, leaving that job to the très fancy grape jelly “gelée.” The peanut butter is lightened into a creamy custard, and a few roast peanuts scattered across the top satiate those who identify as Team Crunchy. Serve, naturally, with a tall glass of ice-cold milk. 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the saltine crumbs, melted butter, and brown sugar together thoroughly. Press crust very firmly into the bottom and sides of a 9" pie pan. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool while you make the filling.
  2. Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add peanut butter, allow to sit for a minute to soften, then whisk until smooth.
  3. In a bowl, vigorously whisk eggs, sugar, and brown sugar until pale yellow, then begin to stream in the hot milk mixture. Pour custard into crust and bake until just set—about 30 minutes. Cool on the counter for 10 minutes, then refrigerate for another 30 minutes before glazing.
  4. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water and allow it to bloom. Mix with jelly in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to bubble. Pour over the cooled pie and refrigerate again to set.
  5. Garnish top with chopped roasted peanuts. Serve cold or at room temperature with a big glass of milk.

Allison Robicelli

Allison Robicelli is a D-list celebrity-chef chef, author, humorist, entrepreneur, general polymath, and all-around good time. You may remember her from such places as Food52, Eater, Food Network, VH1, and many other quirky corners of the food Internet. She is the author of the critically acclaimed cookbook/memoir Robicelli's: A Love Story, With Cupcakes, which has been called one of the funniest food-related books of all time. You should buy it.

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