Last night I had a version of my recurring nightmare. My recurring nightmare, which I have every couple of months or so, is that I’m back in law school (and that right there is quite enough to qualify it as a nightmare, trust me); so anyway, I’m back in law school, and exams are imminently approaching, and I realize that I somehow forgot I was in school and that I haven’t been to class all semester. Yet I paid for the semester, so I don’t want to just say screw it and no-show for the exams. So I’m studying like a maniac to test on subjects with which I’m not remotely familiar, and then I wake up as I’m sweating bullets through an exam I’m not at all prepared to take.
Last night was another version of the same thing. I was a contestant on “The Voice” – team Shakira! – and somehow I’d made it to the final show. By the way, this is even funnier if you’ve ever heard me sing. So I was prepared for all the ensemble numbers, but somehow I’d forgotten that I would have to do a solo, and I hadn’t prepped a song for it. I figured I’d have to wing it, but I was terrified because I didn’t even know the words to the song I’d been assigned. So I sang it onstage in front of a huge audience, and did the whole elementary school choir “watermelon” trick on the parts I didn’t know. Except that doesn’t exactly work on a solo… I awoke as Matt was trying to find a diplomatic way of telling me that it had really sucked.
I don’t know what’s going on with my subconscious. Sometimes it’s just better not to ask why. Did I mention that Rachael Ray was one of my competitors on Team Shakira? Yeah, I don’t want to know…
Like with this sandwich. I’d just as soon you didn’t ask why I felt compelled to take the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, one of the quickest and simplest sandwiches to make ever, and turn it into the single most complicated sandwich I’ve ever made in my life by making the whole thing from scratch. Because honestly, I don’t know, and finding out might be rather frightening. So I figure, best to just leave it be and enjoy the sandwich!
This was the typical PB&J, with only the three ingredients, but for whatever reason I insisted upon making all three elements myself, from scratch. I have to say, it was the best PB&J I’ve ever tasted; it’s amazing how much extra sugar and salt is added to store-bought peanut butter! I’ll definitely keep making my own nut butters.
And I suppose I’m glad I did this at least once. Enjoy this recipe, whether you decide to make all of it, none of it, or any one part of it!
WHITE SANDWICH BREAD:
Source: adapted from The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila
1 cup plus 2 tbs lukewarm water
3 tbs sugar
2 tsp active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 generous tbs kosher salt
4 tbs unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup nonfat dry milk powder
In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the water, sugar and yeast. Let it proof for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add the flour, salt, melted butter, and milk powder to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
Once the yeast has proofed, add the mixture to the stand mixer bowl. Turn the mixer on medium-low and let the dough hook knead the mixture for 5 to 7 minutes, until the dough becomes soft, pliable and smooth. If it’s too wet, add a tablespoon or so of flour, and if it is dry enough that it’s taxing the mixer, add a tablespoon or so of room temperature water.
When done kneading, cover the bowl with a clean, damp dish towel and let it rise for 1 hour, until about doubled in size.
Spread a thin film of oil or cooking spray on your rolling surface (counter or cutting board). Grease a standard loaf pan and set aside.
Transfer the dough to the counter and roll it into a 5×8-inch rectangle. Starting with the narrow end, roll it into a log and pinch the seam closed. Make sure the ends are tucked in nicely and evenly. Transfer the log to the prepared loaf pan. Lightly grease a sheet of plastic wrap, lay it over the dough and let it rise until it is 1 inch above the rim of the pan. This can take up to two hours, possibly longer. I got impatient and probably should have let mine rise more. Oops.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Remove the plastic wrap and bake in the center of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, turning the pan halfway through baking. It is done when the top is golden brown and makes a hollow sound when tapped. Turn over the pan to release the loaf immediately and let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.
Source: adapted from The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila
1 lb. shelled raw peanuts, preferably not organic*
½ tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
2 tsp honey, or more to taste
4 tbs canola oil
Preheat the oven to 350 F. spread the nuts on a baking sheet. Roast 10 to 15 minutes, or just until they begin to brown. You’ll smell them. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow them to cool slightly.
Place the peanuts, salt, and honey in a food processor. Blend for 20 seconds. With the motor still running, drizzle in the oil through the chute, and process for another 30 seconds. Stop the motor and check for seasoning. Add more salt and/or honey, then process for another minute or so to reach your desired consistency.
*Matt was reading the other day that organic peanuts have a fungus that naturally grows on them that can be harmful if consumed too often or in too high a dose. Best to be safer and buy non-organic, since those peanuts will be treated with an anti-fungicide.
Source: ‘wichCraft by Tom Colicchio
4 cups diced rhubarb
2 cups plus 1 tsp sugar
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp powdered fruit pectin
In a bowl, combine the rhubarb, 2 cups sugar, and lemon juice. Refrigerate overnight in a tightly covered container. The next day, in a small saucepan, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the pectin and remaining teaspoon of sugar. Temper it by adding small amounts of the hot rhubarb mixture and quickly stirring it. Add it to the rest of the rhubarb and return the saucepan to the heat. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and place into a clean container with a lid. Once it has cooled down, close the lid and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
This makes probably way more jam than you’ll need for a few sandwiches. Don’t worry, I’ll be sharing next week what you should do with the leftovers. And it’s really yummy, so don’t miss it!