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[Photograph: Lee Zalben]

Oh, PB&J, how we adore thee. How we love to take your combination of sweet and salty, fruity and nutty, rich and creamy, and inject it into foods beyond your namesake sandwich.

At the Peanut Butter & Co. sandwich shop in Manhattan, we serve a PB&J Sundae as well as a PB&J Shake. Doughnut Plant does PB&J doughnuts, and many cupcake shops across the country have come out with a PB&J flavor.

One of the problems with adding peanut butter to baked goods is that it gets sublimated in the batter and you lose that strong peanut buttery flavor that you're expecting when someone tells you, "Hey, try these peanut butter muffins!" Adding more peanut butter gets you more flavor but the addition of more fat and fiber means the other ingredients will need to be adjusted quite a bit.

Cookies seem to be the most forgiving in this respect. Cakes, muffins, scones require a lot of planning and testing. Unless you cheat a little...

Walking through the grocery store the other day, I came across something I had never seen before: Jiffy Raspberry Muffin mix. We're all familiar with Jiffy's cornbread; I've even made their blueberry muffin mix. But raspberry was new to me. My mind went immediately to PB&J (obviously).

I brought the mix home and prepared it as indicated on the box, filling muffin liners with the batter. Then I took one cup of peanut butter and placed it in a ramekin and warmed it in the microwave until soft. I added a tablespoon to each of the muffins and marbled it in. Sure, some of the peanut butter got mixed into the batter, but much of it stayed pure peanut butter, which provided more of a flavor punch and affected the overall chemistry of baking less.

The result? Quite delicious. Sure, the Jiffy mixes have some ingredients (like animal shortening, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, and Red #40 and Blue #2) that I don't love to consume on a regular basis. But for a quick, fun, tasty way to dress up an otherwise humdrum box mix, this recipe is tops in my book.

Do you add peanut butter to any off-the-shelf baking mixes to make them your own?

About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.

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