Peanut butter and jelly (or jam) sandwiches are icons of American childhood. In fact, the average American kid eats more than 1,500 PBJs before graduating high school and will consume almost 3,000 over their lifetime. The PBJ is a perennial favorite in school lunches and after-school snacks because it's delicious, quick, simple, and cheap to make. But it can be so much better with homemade brioche bread!
If you were like most kids, the sandwiches you grew up on were made with highly-processed, store-bought bread that was...unremarkable. Let’s be honest; the bread was just there to help get the jelly and the peanut butter into our mouths.
Well, it’s time for the PBJ to get an upgrade. Our Brioche Bread PBJ uses a rich, buttery bread that makes the perfect complement to the sweet and nutty goodness inside. And all of it—the bread, jam, and peanut butter—can be made at home fresh from scratch.
The star of this next-level PBJ sandwich is the brioche bread.
Brioche is made with eggs and butter, which puts it in the family of breads called viennoisseries, along with baguettes, croissants, Danish pastries, and sweet rolls. It’s so delicious that it’s practically a dessert sandwich! (In fact, this brioche dough can also be used to make mouth-watering doughnuts.)
A word of warning: before you tackle brioche, we strongly recommend using a stand mixer. Brioche dough needs to be kneaded a lot. The butter and egg yolk fat that give brioche its rich flavor also interfere with the ability of yeast to make the dough rise, so the dough is too sticky and thick to be kneaded by hand unless you’re looking for a major workout! Don’t even try using an electric hand mixer or you’ll risk burning out the motor.
Ingredients for Brioche (makes 1 loaf)
- 6 oz. water
- 1.2 oz. milk
- 0.5 Tbsp yeast
- 0.9 oz sugar
- 1 large egg
- 10 oz. bread flour
- 1 oz. all-purpose flour
- 0.75 tsp salt
- 1 oz. melted butter
Instructions for Brioche:
- Add flours, sugar, yeast, and salt to a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment.
- In a separate container, mix the milk, butter, and water. Stir and add the eggs. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl.
- Mix on first speed until combined, then continue mixing on 2nd speed for 20 more minutes or until the dough clings to the paddle and the sides of the bowl are clean. Check the consistency of the dough. It should still feel a little bit tacky and have a smooth, glossy surface. You may have to add a little extra bread flour if the dough is too soft.
- Flour your hands, then place the dough on a lightly floured flat surface. Shape the dough into a single loaf or, if you want to make bun-style sandwiches, divide the dough into six equal parts, then roll each portion into a ball. If you want to give your brioche loaf a weave or other decorative design, place your covered dough in the fridge and let it chill until it can be handled easily. Then you can shape in into whatever beautiful design strikes your fancy.
- Place the dough into a greased loaf pan or, if you want roll-style sandwiches, divide it into six even dough balls and arrange them on a greased cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place as the yeast does its magic! In 1-3 hours, the dough should at least double in size.
- To give your brioche a gorgeous golden sheen, beat one egg and brush the egg wash lightly over the top of your dough.
- Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue baking for another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and firm.
The jams we make take advantage of the natural sweetness of fresh fruits that are in season. Practically any berry or fruit will do, so feel free to experiment!
Ingredients for Jam (makes 2-3 cups)
- 8 cups fresh fruit—cleaned, seeded, and peeled
- 2 cups granulated sugar (Depending on how fresh and sweet your fruit is, you’ll want to use between 1/4 and 2/3 cup of sugar for each pound of fruit.)
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice (Fresh lemons vary in acidity, so it’s best to use bottled lemon juice.)
You can add pectin, but fruits already contain pectin naturally and will gel on their own. Add pectin if you like your jam to be thicker. (But if you add pectin, use a higher temperature to cook your jam so that the pectin will activate.)
Instructions for Jam
- Place fruit, sugar, and lemon juice into a large pan. Heat on medium low, stirring to prevent scalding.
- Continue to reduce jam until desired consistency is reached. At the right consistency, foam will stop forming on the surface of the jam. The best way to make sure your jam is done cooking is the frozen plate test.
- Cool before use. Unused jam can be placed in labeled containers and stored in freezer or fridge. If you use glass jars, make sure the jars are heated or the jam is cooled before it’s poured into the jars.
Pro Tips: You can speed up the cooking process by using high heat, but you’ll need to stir constantly. Mashing the fruit in advance will also cut down the cooking time which also preserves more fresh flavor.
For peach jam, add 2 tsp cinnamon. For apple butter, use apple juice and add 1Tbsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ginger, and 2 tsp cloves, then simmer and puree.
You probably won’t save any money making your own peanut butter versus buying it at that store, but if you’ve come this far making homemade PBJs, don’t you want to go all the way?
Besides, our peanut butter is simple and delicious. A word of caution though: we recommend using a food processor, not a blender. Grinding peanuts into butter will heat up a machine’s motor, and most blenders aren’t up to the job.
Ingredients for Peanut Butter (makes 2-3 cups)
- 2-3 cups dry roasted peanuts (Don’t use more than 2 cups of peanuts unless your food processor is 7-cups or bigger)
Instructions for Peanut Butter
- Make sure that peanuts are roasted and their skins are completely removed. Also remove the hearts of the peanuts, those tiny nubs between the two halves of the nut. They have a slightly bitter taste.
- If you want your peanut butter to be chunky, place 1/3 cup of peanuts in food processor and pulse into small pieces. Set peanut pieces aside.
- Place remaining peanuts into processor and run for 1 minutes. Do not add water. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Repeat this process until you reach the desired consistency.
- Pay attention to your food processor’s motor. Don’t let it overheat! Give it a break as often as needed to let it cool down.
- You’ll see your peanuts turn into a powder, then a dough, and then a paste. Don’t worry. Roasted peanuts will release their own oils, so be patient. Eventually, you’ll end up with smooth, creamy butter!
- Once your butter is fully processed, you can add a pinch of salt to taste.
- If you want even creamier butter, you can add a little vegetable oil to your processor. If you want your peanut butter chunky, remove your fully-processed butter from your food processor and gently stir in your peanut pieces from step 2.
Pro Tip: Some people love to add 1 ½ tsp honey. Or you might want to experiment with adding a little cocoa powder and powdered sugar. It’s your peanut butter; you’ve earned the right to go wild!
Best wishes for the new school year and all the school lunches ahead.