Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pop Tarts

Have you seen that commercial that tries to argue that Toaster Strudels are better than Pop Tarts? Sorry Pillsbury, but I'm not buying it. There's just something about a Pop Tart. The gooey filling. The icing. The sprinkles. Pop Tarts are legit. And by that, I mean legitimately delicious, in a street savvy kind of way.

I had no idea how much work would be involved in making these unassuming toaster pastries. Alton Brown made it seem so simple with his illustrated step-by-step directions: make the dough, form it into a roll, cut it into circles, reshape the circles into rectangles, add the filling, assemble, and bake! No problem. Well, this ended up taking over three hours. By the time I got to the actual shaping and assembly of the pastries, I was beyond tired. At that point, I just wanted to eat them! Did I mention all of this was taking place at 11 p.m. on the last day of my work week?

The point in all of this is that my pop tarts did not turn out very pretty at all. First of all, they ended up being squares rather than rectangles. Secondly, they were huge. . . probably twice the size of a normal pop tart! Now, we all know that I don't have a problem with oversized baked goods, but I had envisioned posting pictures of adorable pop tarts that looked just like the ones you buy in a blue box on the cereal aisle. . . only better. Instead, I found myself with haphazard square pop tarts with frosting that came out neon pink instead of baby pink.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending! My oversized, aesthetically-challenged pop tarts were amazing! The fillings I used were strawberry jam, cinnamon and brown sugar, and Nutella. All three were delicious, but unsurprisingly, cinnamon and brown sugar was my favorite. I was also pleasantly surprised by how good the pastry itself was and how authentic the taste was to an actual Pop Tart. I can't say that I'll be whipping these up every time I want a Pop Tart, but I can say that my homemade version definitely wins over any toaster strudel or store-bought Pop Tart I've ever had!

Pop Goes the Tart
Yield: 8 pastries

1-1/8 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup jam, fruit butter, or preserves
Egg wash: 1 large egg + 2 tablespoons milk


1. Assemble the dough via the creaming method, alternating 3 doses of the dry mixture with 2 doses of milk.

2. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Get out several of your favorite jams, preserves, and butters--as in apple butter.

3. Place the dough onto a sheet of waxed paper--about 13x17 inches long--and fold the end of the paper over. Roll the dough into a log. Remove the waxed paper, slice the dough into 2-inch rounds (you should have 16 pieces), place on a sheet pan, cover and chill for 1 hour. (I abridged these instructions because I got really confused, even with the pictures in the book!)

4. Once the dough has chilled, dust a round with flour and place it on one half of a piece of waxed paper. Fold the waxed paper over (like a book) to cover the round.

5. Roll the round out to 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Use the paper to fold in the edges, turning the round into a rectangle.

6. Dust with flour, close the book, and roll again, until the dough rectangle is about 5 to 7 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. (Is it just me, or does the word "diameter" only apply to circles? Or is diameter also the name of the diagonal of a rectangle? Leave me a comment if you have an answer to this!)

7. Stack the waxed-paper-enclosed dough pieces one on top of the other until you've finished all of them.

8. Take a look at your pieces and try to pair them up. Mix up your egg wash.

9. To make each pastry: Place the filling on the bottom piece and apply the egg wash to the edges. Don't let the filling get out to the edge. Place top piece onto bottom piece, and use a fork to seal the edges. Gently dock top with a fork. Don't pierce the bottom piece.

10. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to brown. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Store in a zip-top bag for about a week or wrap them individually and freeze for up to a month.

Brown, Alton. "Pop Goes the Tart." Recipe. I'm Just Here for More Food. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2004. 202-207.

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