Monday Fun: Pop-Tarts

It’s Monday morning, which means today’s post is going to be a bit lighter than usual. Last week, I came across a post on Serious Eats about Pop-Tarts ice cream sandwiches. I don’t know about you, but Pop-Tarts were a real treat in our house growing up. We weren’t allowed to have a lot of sugary, processed foods–something I’m really grateful for now–so the occasional on-the-go breakfast was something we could get excited about. If you’ve never had a Pop-Tart, they’re basically like miniature flat pies filled with fruit or chocolate and topped with icing. When thrown in the toaster, they get crispy and melty and are pretty delicious (albeit kinda gross).

I never liked the fruit-filled varieties. If you’re going to eat something so bad for you, go big or go home with something like s’mores or cinnamon brown sugar. As a sidenote, Kellogg’s now makes all kinds of varieties of “healthier” Pop-Tarts–whole wheat, low fat, etc.–but when it comes down to it, there are plenty of things you probably should choose to eat before you pick up a box of Pop-Tarts (or Toaster Strudels, or whatever).

Photo Credit: isithalal.blogspot.com

Anyway, apparently Pop-Tarts make delicious ice cream sandwiches, and I imagine you could use them to make pie crusts, sundae toppings and a number of other dessert dishes. I was curious, though, how to make homemade Pop-Tarts. Deb, a New Yorker and lead blogger at Smitten Kitchen, came to my rescue. Here is her recipe…be sure to check out her site for an infinite number of variations!

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk
  • 1 additional large egg (to brush on pastry)

Cinnamon Filling (enough for 9 tarts)

  • 1/2 cup (3 3/4 ounces) brown sugar
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to taste
  • 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, to brush on pastry before filling

Jam Filling

  • 3/4 cup (8 ounces) jam
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water

Directions

To make cinnamon filling: Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and flour.

To make jam filling: Mix the jam with the cornstarch/water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool. Use to fill the pastry tarts.

Make the dough: Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter with your fingers, pastry blender or food processor until pea-sized lumps of butter are still visible, and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. If you’ve used a food processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Whisk the first egg and milk together and stir them into the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive, kneading briefly on a well-floured counter if necessary.

Divide the dough in half (approximately 8 1/4 ounces each), shape each half into a smooth rectangle, about 3×5 inches. You can roll this out immediately (see Warm Kitchen note below) or wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Assemble the tarts: If the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″. [You can use a 9″ x 13″ pan, laid on top, as guidance.] Repeat with the second piece of dough. Set trimmings aside. Cut each piece of dough into thirds – you’ll form nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.

Beat the additional egg and brush it over the entire surface of the first dough. This will be the “inside” of the tart; the egg is to help glue the lid on. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, keeping a bare 1/2-inch perimeter around it. Place a second rectangle of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around the pocket of filling, sealing the dough well on all sides. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Repeat with remaining tarts.

Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.

Charming tip from King Arthur: Sprinkle the dough trimmings with cinnamon-sugar; these have nothing to do with your toaster pastries, but it’s a shame to discard them, and they make a wonderful snack. While the tarts are chilling, bake these trimmings for 13 to 15 minutes, till they’re golden brown.

Bake the tarts: Remove the tarts form the fridge, and bake them for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Cool in pan on rack.

In summary, Pop-Tarts out of a box aren’t exactly a glamorous brunch option, but if you take the time to make your own, they can be a great weekday treat or part of a leisurely weekend buffet. Do you have a favorite flavor?

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