C’mon guys: it’s October. We all know this could be a pumpkin post, and yet IT IS NOT.
What do I think of when the weather starts to turn chilly in the mornings as I eagerly add my sweaters and boots back into regular rotation? I mean, yeah, pumpkin things, but also, peanut butter and jelly. Why? Because here, the onset of crispy fall weather reminds me of school. It has for years, and I haven’t been in school for…well, let’s say awhile, shall we?
Scientists who study this sort of thing say that each time you actively think about a memory, you distort it in some way; that it gets degraded, or more fuzzy, or skewed toward what you want it to be. That may be true, generally, but I like to think my own treasure trove of autumnal back-to-school memories are accurate. At some point this month, at just the right temperature and with the sun at just the right point on the horizon, I will feel my heart swell with so much joy that I’ll begin to tear up, memory upon memory tucking in all around me – I refuse to believe there’s anything but truth in that.
And that right there was a huge lead-in to a humble, unassuming peanut butter and jelly muffin. Should have saved it for something more elegant, perhaps, but hey: the Baked, Occasionally project I do with Natalie seems to be the only thing keeping this blog’s little heart pumping recently. My fault, as usual: I got to Thanksgiving all the things for Feast this year, which means my kitchen has been a flurry of ingredients, typing, edits, and photo shoots. The feature will be in the November issue (obviously), and I can’t wait for you all to see it. It is my heart on a plate (actually several plates), this one.
Back to these muffins! This was my choice for the month – my birthday month, so quite fitting. We toyed with doing a pumpkin thing, and we may still jointly do it later this month, but I choice the PB & J situation mostly b/c it’ll give you a little break from Pumpkin-tober. Let’s discuss.
What it is: it’s a peanut butter batter with toasted peanut crumble – like a crumb cake streusel with nuts – and a surprise jelly filling inside. the cake is dense but not heavy, and not too sweet: you could eat these in the morning and not feel as bad as you would chowing down on a glazed donut, for sure. I’m a savory person for breakfast 99% of of the time, so for me, this would make a perfect dessert muffin. Bonus points for smelling very much like a peanut butter cookie during prep and bake times.
Prep Feels – We had tickets to the matinée of Once: the Musical, and I managed to squeeze these in prior to leaving – I am certified crap at being on time – which means they were really easy to throw together. The most tedious part of things was the batter-jelly-batter layering, but even that didn’t take a large amount of time. I didn’t like the way the book did it: the whole “2 Tbsp batter, then gently do the thing, then like 2 tsp more” and so on. Here’s what: just use this:
One scoop, do the jelly, one scoop on the top. Boom, done. Why it has to be any more difficult than that, I don’t know: I have no time for teaspoons of thick batter. Also, I firmly believe that anything with a crumb benefits by making that crumb and subsequently storing it in the fridge as you make the main event: it firms up and stays crumbly versus getting sandy and breaking down.
Flavor/Final Product Feels – I solidly like these: they go right into the “would make again” category of life for me, with one caveat – I’m not sure that I would *always* make them with the jelly inside.
I am almost always against filled things (Hostess cakes being the exception; vive la Ding Dong!). I just never see the point, really. Are these muffins really good? Yes. Do they benefit from jelly on the inside as opposed to slathered on the outside? No, unless you’re strictly speaking 1. portability or 2. kitsch factor. I wouldn’t say it detracts from the muffin itself, although Natalie and I both agreed that with the three jelly flavors we tried, baking the jelly in the muffin seemed to dull the flavor of the jelly itself, to varying degrees. So if you’re going for cute, or you need an on-the-go grab, do it, by all means. If you’re not, I would suggest baking these sans jelly and then serving it on the side. Another benefit of the side-jelly is that the muffins themselves will keep longer than the dreaded “eat within 24 hours” time frame. If I wanted that sort of limitation, I would have just baked a scone.
These have lovely, toasty-peanut butter flavor, and the crumble really makes the muffin exciting, in my opinion. I’m almost positive the book makes the crumble for 24 muffins: the measurements are way too big for 12 muffins, easily double if not triple, and both Natalie and I piled it on pretty generously. For that reason, in my recipe you’ll see what amounts to a half-batch of the crumble when compared to book quantities. Believe me, you’ll have more than enough.
Natalie has some strong opinions about these muffins as well: head over here to see how hers turned out (awesome, as per usual) and read up on what she thought about them.
Listen, you guys; I’m really happy it’s fall, and I’m really ready for all it brings with it. If I sound abstractly pumped for the season, I am. Who knows if anything will come of that here, but I hope so. I have the best of intentions, but right now, I have these muffins.
Adapted from Baked Occasions: Desserts for Leisure Activities, Holidays, and Informal Celebrations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.
Peanut Butter + Jelly Muffins
- 1/4 cup lightly salted peanuts, dry toasted
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 Tbsp cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and warm
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup sour cream (not low-fat)
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (natural is fine here)
- 1⁄3 cup grapeseed oil (or other flavorless oil)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup grape jelly
Place the peanuts in the bowl of a small food processor and pulse until finely chopped (a few coarser crumbs won’t hurt), or finely chop them by hand.
Transfer the chopped peanuts to a large bowl. Whisk in the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Drizzle the butter over the mixture and use a rubber spatula (or your very clean fingers) to fold and cut the ingredients together until the mixture is crumb-like; use your hands to press it together in clumps. Transfer to fridge to firm up while you make the muffins.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C). Butter each cup of a standard 12-cup muffin pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, both sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt, breaking up any lumps of brown sugar if necessary. Set aside.
In another large bowl, whisk together the milk, sour cream, peanut butter, oil, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well, and fold until just combined.
Using a 2-oz ice cream scoop, drop one level scoop of batter into each cup of the prepared muffin pan. Use the back of a clean, lightly oiled spoon to flatten the batter out. Place 1 rounded teaspoon of grape jelly onto the muffin batter in each cup, trying to keep it in the center of the cup, if possible. Top the jelly with another level scoop of muffin batter to cover the jelly completely, using the back of a spoon to gently spread the batter into an even layer. The muffin cups should be not quite full. Cover the surface of each muffin cup with a small handful of crumbs, pressing the mixture ever so gently so that it adheres to the top.
Bake, rotating halfway through the baking time, until the crumb topping turns a golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes. Check them; if a toothpick inserted into a muffin near the edge (avoiding the jelly center) should come out clean (disregarding any topping or jelly that might stick), bake them for a minute more—these muffins might sink in the middle if not baked all the way.
Let the muffins cool almost completely in the pan on a cooling rack. Gently lift the muffins out of the pan and try to avoid squeezing them (because unstable middles due to jelly), using a thin-bladed knife to assist.