July 5, 2018
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Peanut Butter on the Outside

What if a PB&J was made with the peanut butter on the outside, and it was a dessert?

A PB&J hand pie is my dessert-centric, adult answer to the sandwich that many of us still love in spite of having consumed hundreds, if not thousands over the course of our lives. The dough is flavored with both toasted ground peanuts and creamy peanut butter for a rich, nutty, and slightly sandy texture, and the filling is a brighter, more tart version of a jam from a jar (in a good way), studded with chopped berries, and the whole package fits comfortably in your hand like a Pop-Tart, resulting in a dessert that is just as delightfully portable as a sandwich, but so much more special (and grown-up).

To a sweets lover/pastry chef like me, who likes twisting and tweaking old-school desserts, or in this case, the oldest sandwich in the school, it doesn’t get much better than this. Yes, I could make a grown-up version of a PB&J sandwich, much more quickly and efficiently than making hand pies, by spreading freshly ground peanuts from Whole Foods on artisanal sourdough bread from my local farmers’ market, along with pricey homemade jam, as Allison Robicelli so eloquently reminds me.

But to my 10-year-old self, the archetypal PB&J sandwich consisted of (smooth) Skippy peanut butter, thickly spread on one slice of soft, white Wonder Bread (no need to cut off the crusts, as they are really just a lightly browned version of the bread itself), and grape (or strawberry) Smuckers jelly, thickly spread on the other. And truth be told, decades (ahem) later, the paragon is the same. Thus, with these hand pies, I aim to replicate that ideal PB&J sandwich of elementary school.

When I first started dreaming about “dessertifying” the sandwich, I imagined it would come via a scoop of peanut butter ice cream atop a slice of fruit pie. But the grocery store is sadly lacking in the straight-up peanut-butter-flavored ice cream department. And then it hit me: Skip the à la mode altogether and flavor the pie dough itself.

Yes, the combination of the PB dough and the jammy filling would make for an excellent nine-inch pie, but when riffing on a sandwich, it seems only right to keep things handy and compact.  The peanut butter in the dough is Skippy, and the flour is white all-purpose. The strawberries are sweetened just enough to remind you of your most cherished jam from a jar. The smell of the hand pies baking perfumes the kitchen with that same eau de PB&J that wafted from my opened Flintstones lunch box every single day of third grade.


  • For the Dough
  • 2 cups plus 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup raw peanuts, toasted and ground
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, chilled
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter (preferably Skippy), frozen
  • 6 tablespoons ice water
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, chilled
  • For the Filling
  • 6 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 3/4 tsp cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • For Finishing
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • turbinado sugar for sprinkling

These little pies pack a surprisingly bold PB&J flavor. The dough is a bit crumbly, due to the addition of creamy peanut butter and ground peanuts, but a little extra work spent chasing an errant crumb or two is a small price to pay for the dreamy PB-infused crust that results. The sweet strawberry filling is chock-full of strawberry pieces, with a slight tang from lemon juice, and is the perfect foil to its salty, nutty surround. Yes, these should be eaten out of hand, like a sandwich, but if you want to plate them up and serve them with scoops of vanilla ice cream (the equivalent of the sandwich’s cold glass of milk), I totally get it.

    For the Crust

  1. Combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and ground peanuts in the bowl of a food processer fitted with the metal blade and process briefly to combine. Cut the butter into cubes, add to the food processer, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Cut the frozen peanut butter into pieces. Dump the mixture into a large bowl and, using your fingers, smear the peanut butter into the dough.
  2. Add the water and vinegar and mix with a wooden spoon (or your hands) until a bit of dough can be pinched together between two fingers and hold its shape. This dough is quite crumbly—do not be alarmed. Using your hands, knead the dough in the bowl as best you can to try to incorporate all of the crumbly bits, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight.

For the Filling

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the strawberries, granulated sugar, cornstarch, salt, and lemon juice until sputtering, stirring frequently. Cook 5 minutes more, stirring constantly, until thickened. Bring to room temperature before using.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, if still a bit crumbly, knead it on your work surface until cohesive. Form 8 equal balls and using a rolling pin, roll each ball between two pieces of parchment paper until it is about 7 inches in diameter. Remove the top piece of parchment and place the dough round on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough, rolling each one out between two small pieces of parchment, and layering one on top of the other with the pieces of parchment paper between them. Refrigerate the dough rounds for 10 minutes before assembling the hand pies.

To Finish

  1. Combine the egg and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. For each hand pie, brush half of the edge of the dough round with the egg wash. Spoon a rounded 1⁄4 cup filling onto the center of the rounds. Gently fold the dough over, forming a half-moon shape, using the parchment to help you do so—the dough may crack a little, but that is OK. Pinch the edges together to seal. Use a fork to decoratively mark the edge of the hand pie. Using a paring knife, make 3 small slits in the top of the hand pie. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  3. Transfer the hand pies on the baking sheet to the freezer for at least 1 hour, or overnight, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. They will keep in the freezer for up to 3 days. Do not thaw before baking.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  5. Brush the tops of the frozen hand pies with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Remove the small pieces of parchment paper from beneath each hand pie and place each pie back on the prepared sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating at the halfway point, or until the juices are bubbly and the crust is nicely browned.
  6. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving with vanilla ice cream. Hand pies will keep on the counter, tightly covered in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.

Jessie Sheehan

Jessie Sheehan is a baker, food writer and recipe developer. She is the author of The Vintage Baker and the co-author of Icebox Cakes (both published by Chronicle Books). She blogs at jessiesheehanbakes.com, can be found on Instagram at @jessiesheehanbakes, lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn and has a soft spot for chocolate pudding.

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