The Taste of Childhood

My sister ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches virtually every single day from the time she was 5 years old until…well, just this week she told me she made one at her law office! I just read an interesting statistic on the Skippy website that said the average American child will eat 1,500 peanut butter sandwiches by the time he or she graduates from high school. Unbelievable! Growing up, I thought PB&J was okay but it wasn’t a fave. I was more of a deli meats girl: bologna, salami and something our local delicatessen (my mom was the only mom who ever said “delicatessen”!) called “turkey roll”. I even liked liverwurst in elementary school!

But anyway, back to PB&J. I think it was the texture – or lack thereof – of creamy peanut butter that kind of irked me. PB&J with creamy peanut butter is a mushy sandwich. And if you’ve read any of my earlier posts, you know that I have a real issue with mushiness. A lot of people love it this way, I’m just not one of them. And it’s sticky! Remember that old “Got Milk” ad where the guy calls in for a radio trivia contest and he’s got the winning answer, “Aaron Burr!!” but no one can understand him because he’s just eaten a peanut butter sandwich without a glass of milk. It’s problematic! SO, as I prepared to adapt PB&J into a panini version for the first installment of the Panini Happy Classics series I wanted to focus on utilizing the grill to improve the texture of this childhood classic. Want to skip ahead? Click here for the final recipe.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Panini – Attempt #
  • Bread: Seeded multigrain artisan bread
  • Meat: None
  • Cheese: None
  • Condiments: Chunky peanut butter, strawberry preserves
  • Goodies: Fresh strawberries

THE CONSTRUCTION: I have to preface this by saying I can’t believe I’m about to discuss how I went about building a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Man! Oh well…here goes. So as I mentioned, my goal for this panini-style PB&J was to give it some texture. I started with the bread. Wonder Bread and later whole wheat sandwich bread – once mom caught onto that – was de rigeur for PB&J as I remember it from the ’80s. Both are too soft to press on the panini grill, so I turned to a thicker, heartier variety: a seeded multigrain loaf from my local market. Baked fresh hours earlier, it already had a seedy crunch without any grilling so it looked to be a great foundation for my texture-ful sandwich.

Next was the peanut butter itself. That was an easy one: go chunky. It turns out that most people (60%) prefer creamy over chunky, according to Skippy, and that East Coasters prefer creamy while West Coasters prefer chunky. Perhaps that explains my peanut butter disconnect, as a California kid living with New York parents! Anyway, Skippy Reduced-Fat Super Chunk it was.

Which leaves the J. It takes an otherwise mouth-cementing bite to a whole other sweet level. Strawberry has been my favorite as long as I can remember, as much for its bright sweetness as for its bold, bright color. Now, technically you’d have to call my sandwich a PB&P because I used strawberry preserves rather than jelly (I’ve read about the various distinctions, but it still has me confused). I thought it would be nice to add a layer of fresh strawberry slices for even more – you got it – texture. Plus, we’re starting to get some nice strawberries in the grocery store.

To give the bread that nice crisp, toasty crust I like so much, I brushed a little melted butter on the outside of each slice. I flipped them over and began applying my fillings – Super Chunk peanut butter and strawberry slices (so pretty!) on one side and preserves on the other. I closed up the sandwich and grilled it on medium-high (375 degrees) for about 3-4 minutes until it was nicely toasted on the outside and the peanut butter had melted into a semi-gooey wonderfulness.

THE RESULTS: Where have you been all my life? If a PB&J like this had been placed in my lunchbox back in the day, I’d still be eating them all the time today like my sister. There was definitely no mushiness to be found – texture abounded. Crunch came not only from the peanuts but also the crispy grilled buttery bread and the seeds with dotted the crust. The hot, melted peanut butter was incredibly satisfying. And the fresh strawberries helped up the balance of fruit-to-peanut butter such that the sandwich on the whole wasn’t too bread-y. A new way to enjoy PB&J and a great excuse to bring out the panini grill!

Get the final recipe!

Check out more from the Panini Happy Classics series:


KathyPanini Happy, online since 2008, is more than just a sandwich blog. Here, you'll find hundreds of my original panini recipes, my guide to choosing a panini press and a whole lot of other creative uses for the panini press.
~ Kathy Strahs
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  1. Julie wrote:

    I’ve had peanut butter with banana, but never thought to add strawberries. It was great! Perfectly satisfying.

    Posted 3.16.08 Reply
  2. Kate wrote:

    I can’t stand that commercial. His mouth-full-peanut-butter attempt to talk fills me with revulsion. I also can’t stand “messy eating commercials” in general — like Carl’s Jr messy hamburgers and taco salad. Is this appetizing to anyone?! Ugh!

    Posted 3.22.08 Reply
  3. michelle @ the smackdown wrote:

    only 1500 sandwiches? i must have eaten more than that. my favorite pb&j varietal is the Ugly American.

    Posted 3.23.08 Reply
  4. PaniniKathy wrote:

    Julie: Thanks for giving it a try!

    Kate: I hear you! You gotta give it to the ad agency, though – we still remember it this many years later!

    Michelle: OMG – I just might be crazy enough to try that! The American cheese/peanut butter combo really is giving me pause, I’ll be honest…

    Posted 3.23.08 Reply