A good PB+J was hands-down my favorite childhood sandwich. What’s not to love? Creamy, sticky peanut butter. Sweet, fruity jam. We were a Jif and white bread family. And I always went for the grape jelly. Unless there was a jar of my grandma’s homemade strawberry preserves in the fridge. Smucker’s just can’t compete with that.
Throughout elementary school, the only sandwich I’d allow my mom to pack in my lunchbox was a PB+J. By the time noon rolled around, it had inevitably gotten squished inside its Ziploc bag due to rough contact with a juice box or an apple. Wonder Bread’s not really known for their sturdy slices after all. But I LOVED the squishing. It turned my sandwich into a PB+J pancake – flavors mashed together, jelly oozing out the bread pores. I loved it so much that I began to do some deliberate sandwich squishing. When my packed sandwich wasn’t squished enough. When I ate at home with no opportunity for naturally-occurring lunchbox squishing. I thought I was genius. Still think so.
My peanut butter and jelly taste has matured over the years. Though I still partake in squishing from time to time, my current PB+J of choice is made with whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter and honey. Much healthier and deliciously satisfying. I’m still a huge fan. So when Hayley suggested I make some PB+J bars, I was all over it. She directed me to Ina Garten’s recipe, I made it Sweet + Natural and here you go…
My version of Peanut Butter + Jelly Bars:
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup natural peanut butter
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup 100% fruit strawberry jam
Preheat the oven to 350*F. Spray an 8 x 8-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, cream shortening and turbinado sugar for about 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract, egg and peanut butter and blend until well-combined. In a separate bowl, mix together whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend until just combined. Spread 2/3 of dough into prepared pan. Top with jam. Drop globs of remaining dough evenly over jam. Bake for about 45 minutes. Makes 16 bars.
Why yes, that is gooey peanut butter and jelly goodness!
These bars rocked. Perfectly peanut buttery and the jelly melted right into the cookie-ish layer. No squishing necessary! Be forewarned though…they may be made with natural and wholesome ingredients, but they are definitely a rich indulgence. I’m already thinking about making a lighter version sometime in the near future…
Do you have a soft spot for PB+J? Have you ever made a peanut butter and jelly treat?