Of all the foods I loved as a kid, few were as simple and pleasing as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The combination of protein-rich, salty, sticky peanut butter and sweet, cool, fruity jelly (or jam) is so satisfying, and I still love it today. My personal favorite way to enjoy this kid-friendly classic is fried, exactly like a grilled cheese sandwich—this preparation seems to elevate a PB&J sandwich into something more suitable for, ahem, grownups. I guess I’m still trying to be one. And, as I learned last week, the flavor combo also translates nicely to summer’s favorite dessert.
When National Ice Cream Month rolled around this year, I already had a long list of flavor ideas to try, but some of them will have to wait because July is slipping away. This one, however, is too fun to let slide, and I’m even willing to make an exception to my “trying-to-eat-healthier” summer. After all, what could be more fun than PB&J ice cream???
The ice cream base is literally one of the simplest I have ever made. It is only four ingredients, including the fat-free version of sweetened condensed milk that I discovered when I made my Reduced-Guilt Vanilla Ice Cream at the start of this month. This was such an exciting discovery, because the fat-free condensed milk still provides the texture that makes ice cream so addictive. The rest of the base is whole milk, a slight amount of light cream and a smooth, natural peanut butter.
For full disclosure, I confess that this is not my usual go-to style of peanut butter; I prefer the type that is nothing more than ground peanuts and sea salt—you know, the kind you have to stir and keep in the fridge—but most of those have a slight grittiness that would not play well in this smooth ice cream base. After much label perusing, I went with this Skippy brand “natural” peanut butter, which is smooth like the Jif of my childhood. It does not contain partially hydrogenated oils, but it does have some amount of palm oil, a somewhat lesser crime. It keeps the peanut butter mixed, silky and spreadable—exactly what I needed for this recipe. I also considered one of the peanut butter powders that have become widely available, but I’ll save that experiment for another day. Though it may not be my favorite peanut butter for sandwiches, we can always use it up by making a batch of Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies!
My base has plenty of peanut butter flavor on its own, and with addition of a pinch of sea salt, the contrast of salty-to-sweet is exactly what I wanted. But then I went wild and added more peanut butter, in the form of a ribbon made of salted, crunchy peanut butter. I layered it with the frozen base, and after some time in the freezer, the ribbon has a texture that is almost like peanut butter chips. Finally, the “J” part of this PB&J ice cream—and for this, I brought my childhood favorite flavor of Welch’s grape together with my current-day favorite of French mixed berry preserves. Together, they were soooo good!
Mixing up this ice cream was so easy, and I’m honestly starting to wonder why I ever went through the trouble of making a custard base. Besides being crazy creamy and having fewer steps, this egg-free type of ice cream base is also ready for freezing in less than half the time as custard ice creams. Just whisk together the condensed milk and smooth peanut butter (I used my handheld mixer for this task), then add the milk and cream. I did not add vanilla because I wanted a pure peanut butter flavor. Chill it down in the fridge for an hour or two.
When you’re ready to churn, give the ice cream base a quick whisking to reincorporate any ingredients that may have settled. Pour the base into the ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions for freezing. Measure out the chunky peanut butter and the preserves-jelly mixture into separate, small zip-top bags. This will make it easier to layer them in ribbons throughout the frozen base. Put both bags on standby in the fridge until the freezing is completed.
When the ice cream reaches the desired consistency, splash in a tablespoon of vodka (assuming only grownups will be eating it), to ensure a smooth scooping texture, straight from the freezer. Transfer the ice cream into an insulated freezer container and snip the corners of the peanut butter and jelly bags, making it easy to squeeze ribbons of PB&J into layers of peanut butter ice cream.
Don’t worry about swirling the ribbons—doing so will only make the ice cream look muddy. Just lay the ribbons down in a criss-cross kind of way, and trust that the swirls will happen on their own when you scoop out the finished ice cream.
And don’t worry if you have a little extra PB&J in the squeeze bags because—wait, what are you doing, Love?
PB&J Ice Cream
This ice cream is the very best of two childhood favorites, all swirled together in one easy, creamy bite!
- 14 oz. can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup light cream
- 1 Tbsp. vodka (optional, mixed in at the end for improved texture)
- 3 Tbsp. crunchy natural peanut butter
- 2 Tbsp. each grape jelly and mixed berry preserves
- In a large pitcher bowl, whisk together condensed milk and smooth peanut butter until completely smooth. Stir in sea salt to boost the salty peanut flavor.
- Whisk or stir in milk and light cream. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour or two, until fully chilled.
- Set up the ice cream maker and give the base mixture a quick whisking to re-blend any ingredients that have settled. Pour into the ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. During the last minute of churning, blend in the vodka (unless serving kids or non-drinkers, of course).
- While the ice cream is churning, measure out the chunky peanut butter and the jelly combination into separate, small zip-top bags. Refrigerate until ready to layer.
- Transfer the frozen ice cream to an insulated freezer container, about one-third at a time. Snip a small corner off each swirl bag. After each partial layer, squeeze a ribbon of peanut butter, alternating with a ribbon of jelly/preserves.
- Finish the ice cream with a final layer of ice cream base. Cover and freeze several hours for best scooping texture.