Sunday, November 1, 2009

Peanut Butter and Jelly Pie: Warning - Not for the Faint of Heart


As I've mentioned before, our street has to be one of the friendliest in Chicago. From progressive dinners to impromptu cocktails and playgroups on the street, there always seems to be something going on and Halloween is no exception. After the trick-or-treaters have gone home to admire their loot, the adult treats come out in a meal contributed by multiple households, including ours.

With a benefit for Healthy Schools Campaign on Thursday night, a tour of school lunch programs on Friday, and the Evanston farmers' market Saturday morning, I needed a relatively simple dish to make (or so I thought).

I had a left over pie crust and some Concord grapes from Wednesday's farmers' market. I remembered that Martha Stewart's book Pies & Tarts had a Grape pie recipe. I've had the book for years and all of recipes I've made have been simple and delicious.

Returning home around 2:30pm, I pulled out the book. Going through the recipe, it seemed easy enough. I've got all the ingredients: grapes, sugar, cornstarch and a pie crust. I rolled out and crimped my crust, leaving extra dough for garnish. Then, I turned my attention to the filling instructions. The recipe starts out telling me to halve and pit the grapes. Now anyone who's worked with Concord grapes knows that they aren't like olives or cherries. They don't have a single pit, but several. Moreover the flesh is soft and gooey, making it difficult to extract the pits. Ugh. There's no way that I wanted to spend any afternoon pitting grapes, much less Halloween. Had I not already made the crust, I probably would have bailed on this folly and brought some cheese or something. Everyone loves cheese.

Deep breath, let's proceed. I roughly chopped the grapes in the food processor and strained the grape juice. In doing so, I got about 1/2 cup of grape juice. Heating that up, I whisked in 3/4 cup cornstarch and boiled it for about 4 minutes until thick. So far, so good.

I stuck the pot in a ice bath to cool it quickly. I then scraped it into the baked and cooled crust. The color is gorgeous, deep purple and glistening. Taste is pure grape. One itty, bitty, tiny problem, it only came up about half way up the pie crust. What to do?

Sitting down, I think about what stands up to the mighty Concord grape? Why peanut butter, of course. How about a peanut butter mousse? I recalled a recipe from another of my favorite cookbooks, The New Basics. I reviewed it, the ingredients are peanut butter, cream, cream cheese and sugar, simple enough. Mix them together. I add a touch of salt. My son tasted it and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up. Spreading it in the pan, I garnished it with the grape cluster that I've made with the extra dough, complete with pastry tendrils.

Not for the faint of heart, this was a pie meant for tiny slices. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the individual slices, but our crowd scarfed it down before I had the opportuntity.

Pie Dough
Makes 2 crusts

2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
¼ - ½ cup very cold water

Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly, like coarse cornmeal. Pour the water through the feed tube and mix until the mixture just comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or freeze.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Fit it into a 9-inch pie tin. Crimp the sides. Reserve the scraps for garnish. Prick the pie crust with a fork. Cover with aluminum foil and set another pie tin, pie weights, or dried beans on top. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the weights and foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the crust is golden. Let cool on a rack.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Pie
For 10-12 generous servings

1 9-inch pie crust
1 quart Concord grapes
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup cornstarch
1 pinch kosher salt
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream

Chop the grapes in a food processor. Push through a strainer. Discard the seeds and skins. Strain the resulting juice through a fine mesh strainer. You should have about 1 ½ cups grape juice. Pour the juice into a large saucepan. Add sugar and cornstarch. Bring the juice to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat and set the pan in a bowl of ice water until the grape filling comes to room temperature.

Mix together cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar and heavy cream in a stand mixer until smooth.

Fill the cooled crust with the grape filling. Slather the peanut butter mousse on top. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until cold and set.

Kids' Cooking Tips
There's little that kids can't help with in this recipe. Measuring, mixing, pressing, rolling and spreading. Sticky fingers galore!

This recipe is neither for the faint of heart nor the true locavore, but delicious nonetheless.
Butter and cream from Organic Valley (WI)
Grapes from Klug (MI)
Sugar from Wholesome Sweetener
Peanut butter from Skippy
Cream Cheese from Philadelphia Brands (in honor of those going up again the Evil Empire. Go Phillies!)


  1. Hi,

    I make Concord Grape pie from time to time. The technique involves squeezing the grapes to release the pulp.

    Boiling the pulp releases the seeds, which come to the top. Of course there are always a few who don't pop up. I capture these by using a sieve to capture all remaining seeds.

    You then add the skins to the deseeded pulp to continue cooking.


  2. Hi Cathy,

    That sounds like a great trick. I'll have to try it next time. The decadence of this made it at the least a once a year treat.

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. It was like a giant PB&J, except no bread. Very yummy. The Little Locavore wanted more, but we left the pie for others to enjoy.


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