As a kid, I often brought my own lunch to school. My mom would stock my lunch box with amazingly tradeable snacks like mini bags of Doritos, packets of Gushers, and Capri Sun to drink, but the main course was often comparatively lackluster: a nearly unidentifiable smooshed peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a soggy and sad brown lump in a Ziploc bag at the bottom of my lunch box. So when I grew up and started making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for myself at home, I was suprised to realize that they can be great. Using no-sugar added peanut butter, fancy preserves or homemade jam, and pillowy-soft bread turns what was once the bane of my lunch box into a totally craveable treat. But when I saw a recent peanut butter and jelly sandwich posted on Instagram by Ina Garten, I was totally taken aback by one detail that my adult creations have been missing: she toasts her bread!
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The issue with the PB&Js of my youth was that the soft bread would immediately absorb the liquid from the jelly and turn into a mushy mess. But Garten, who made her PB&J sandwiches to take on a trip to the beach with her husband Jeffrey, toasted the bread. Why did I never think of this before? This is why even though I religiously read all of Garten’s cookbooks (Modern Comfort Food is a new classic, IMHO), I also sort of social media stalk her. You never know when she’s going to blow your mind with a little tip like this.
Even though the sandwich won’t be warm by the time you get around to eating it, toasting the bread helps protect it against the moisture of the fillings, so it doesn’t turn mushy or fall apart while it’s waiting to be eaten.
Garten also uses thick slices of bread instead of those floppy slices you get in standard grocery store bagged bread, so if you want a PB&J that can actually stand the test of time, it’s probably worth springing for a heartier loaf.
Toast the bread, then add a thin layer of peanut butter on both slices before adding your jam, jelly, or preserves, which will also help protect the bread from getting soggy.
The result? A sturdy PB&J that you can actually take with you without having to face the scorn of your peers at the lunch table (or the disappointment of your taste buds). Leave it to Ina Garten to give me the biggest culinary “Duh!” of my adult life. Toast bread…bread doesn’t get soggy. Sometimes the simplest tips are the most important!
Before you go, check out Garten’s best dinner recipes below: