Forget holiday cookies. Fry this PB&J Hand Pie alternative from Chef Rob Connoley

As an undergraduate at Loyola University in New Orleans, chef Rob Connoley vividly recalls his obsession with the local favorite Hubbig’s Pies. Fried fruit pies were once available at “most gas stations”.

Connoley said: “Coming from St. Louis, which is located in the extreme north of the South, donuts weren’t really part of my upbringing. “But in New Orleans, they’re everywhere, and I’m really addicted to them, especially the lemon ice cream and some berries.”

Unfortunately, to the great sadness of Nola residents, a fire shut down Hubbig’s Pies nearly a decade ago. So when Connoley opened Bulrush in St. Louis in early 2019, he decided to pay homage to this beloved fried snack by offering a variety of seasonal hand-baked pies.

One of the most popular dishes is the grape cake, which he added to the menu about a year and a half ago. “We focused on early 19th-century Ozark food, but we gave it an ultra-modern style,” he said. While planning dishes for the restaurant, he started learning grape cake recipes during his research. He knew the late-summer fruit, which had a long history in the region (Missouri was once the top wine-producing region in the US), was the perfect ingredient for donuts.

Before long, a version of the portable dessert was born, called seedless black currant with a touch of Portuguese Madeira. Although it has been loved by diners, Connoley has not stopped tinkering with the recipe. He recently decided to add a peanut butter icing, an effective way to turn dessert into a decadent twist on the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“I thought about how much fun it would be to hold that classic grape cake and spread some peanut butter on it,” he said. “I just think it’s a classic, laid-back combination.”

The best part? These fried PB&J cakes are super easy to make at home. Read on for Connoley’s recipes and tips for making delicious food.

Although this cake is called a homemade pie crust, fear not. Connoley’s beginner-friendly crust recipe uses only flour, salt, butter, and water. Use your fingers to mix all the ingredients.

“I want people to go back to making their own crust,” says Connoley.

Connoley’s PB&J fritters may be based on a childhood classic, but the inclusion of Madeira gives it an adult flavor all its own. The acidity of the wine is balanced, he says, with the deep sourness of the seedless black currant in the filling.


The wine will quickly turn off, leaving only the typical Madeira flavor. But if you like, give up alcohol altogether. Either way, you just need to add some creamy peanut butter to the pie crust circle (and even a spoonful of fluff marshmallow to take it to the “next level”) before coating the grape mixture on top and wrapping. private.

Once your cakes are assembled, you have several options: Fry them immediately or toss them in the freezer for future enjoyment.

“You can easily make a bunch of these, freeze them and then you can have them whenever you want,” he said. Just let them warm up for about half an hour before frying them. Also, make sure the cupcakes are sealed thoroughly. If the dough doesn’t stick together, dip the dough in water and press it together with your fingers. Then, with a fork, press against the edge again – this strengthens the tightness, so the viscous filling doesn’t escape.

It only takes about three minutes to fry each cake. They are then covered with a simple glaze of powdered sugar, butter, and a little Madeira. “I wanted to reinforce the Madeira taste,” says Connoley.

Madeira Grape Fried PB&J Pía Cake


For the dough:

  • 2 cups less than 3 tablespoons Bread Flour
  • .5 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks, less than 1 tablespoon Butter, unsalted, chilled and cubed
  • .25 cups Water, ice (add if needed)

For filling:

  • 2 cups Seedless Black Grapes
  • .25 cups of Sugar
  • .5 teaspoon salt
  • .25 cups of Madeira
  • .5 teaspoons cornstarch
  • Peanut butter ice cream

To make the frosting:

  • 1 cup Powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons Madeira


For the shell:

  1. Beat flour and salt in bowl of stand mixer. Add butter and flour balls for coating. Apply each avocado ball between your thumb and index finger. Continue buttering the dough until no large chunks of butter remain. Transfer to freezer for 30 minutes.
  2. At speed 2 of the stand mixer, equipped with a stirrer, begin to mix the dry ingredients. Slowly pour cold water into the bowl and mix until the dough begins to clump. Be patient and don’t rush this step. Depending on your flour, you may need to add more water to combine. The goal is not to create a uniform smooth dough, but a coarse dough with transparent butter crumbs.
  3. Remove dough from mixing bowl and form into a 1-inch-high circle. Wrap tightly in cling film and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and overnight.
  4. On a floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Punch 6-inch-long circles, cover with parchment or wax paper, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

For filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 450ºF / 232ºC.
  2. Place the grapes, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl until the grapes are coated with the seeds. Place in bread pan and add Madeira. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes or until the grapes begin to soften and release juices. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Drain liquid into a small saucepan. Whisk the cornstarch into the liquid and cook over medium-low heat until the liquid thickens, whisking constantly. Return the thickened liquid to the softened grapes and toss them on top.

For Assembly and Fry:

  1. Heat the frying oil in a large Dutch oven to 325ºF/162ºC.
  2. Place a plate of dough on the counter and let the dough become pliable but not soft. Dip your finger in the water and stroke around the edge of the dough circle. Spread 1 tablespoon of peanut butter cream on the center of the dough plate. Add a small spoonful of grape filling in the center and fold the dough in half. Use your fingertips to press the dough seams together making sure there are no gaps. Finally, take a fork and fold the edge of the seam you just pressed.
  3. Fry in oil for 3 minutes or until golden brown as needed to cook all parts of the pie.
  4. Transfer to a cooling rack placed on a baking tray.

To make the frosting:

In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, melted butter, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of Madeira. Mix until there are no more lumps. Pour yeast over the pies. Let them cool. Enjoy. Forget holiday cookies. Fry this PB&J Hand Pie alternative from Chef Rob Connoley


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