In the past six months or so I've been trying to improve our eating habits. We're not on a diet, just trying to be more conscious about what we put into our bodies. I've been removing as many of the prepackaged foods as I can from our house. We're still holding on to a few things but overall, the situation has improved. For the record, I haven't bought Pop Tarts in years, but not because I didn't want them. I used to eat Pop Tarts all the time when I was younger and I loved them! My favorites were the blueberry and the brown sugar and cinnamon (both unfrosted so I could toast them and then add butter). If I happen to walk down the cereal aisle in the grocery store, the Pop Tarts still tempt me but the responsible little voice in my head always wins, convincing me to keep walking.
So needless to say I was pretty psyched to open Google Reader a few weeks ago and find a recipe for homemade Pop Tarts on Deb's site. I may not be able to justify store-bought Pop Tarts, but I can definitely splurge occasionally on the homemade variety. Since they came with Deb's stamp of approval, I was fairly certain they'd live up to my expectations. Plus, the original recipe came from King Arthur Flour and I've had great luck with their recipes. I've been meaning to make the Pop Tarts basically since the minute I saw them, and I finally moved them to the top of the to-bake list this week.
The recipe is fairly simple if you're comfortable making pastry dough. I made mine mostly in the food processor, but you could definitely do it by hand or in a stand mixer if you wanted. I found the dough a bit finicky to work with, but not impossible. It wasn't that warm in my house the day I made the dough yet it still warmed up fairly quickly and once it was soft, working with it became increasingly difficult. I popped mine in the fridge once or twice and that did the trick. The recipe makes 9 Pop Tarts (though there's nothing stopping you from cutting the rectangles smaller to make more) and I filled 5 of mine with a cinnamon sugar filling and the other 4 with the remainder of my rhubarb jam. Note that the recipe below includes instructions for both the brown sugar and cinnamon filling and the jam filling and each recipe yields enough to fill all 9 tarts. So if you want to do multiple fillings, just scale back accordingly. An egg is used as the glue to seal the dough together and keep the filling inside and I found it easy to close all of the tarts up. Even better, none of them popped open while they were in the oven and, much to my surprise, none of the filling leaked out!
My mom stopped by after work and was actually the first to try the Pop Tarts. I made the mistake of not marking which tarts were filled with the brown sugar and cinnamon and which got the rhubarb jam but luckily they were fragrant enough that we were able to figure it out. She sampled one with the brown sugar and cinnamon filling and loved it! Encouraged by her positive review and unable to wait until the next morning, I ate one for dessert later that night. The verdict? Delicious! The pastry is incredibly flaky and buttery and I loved the rhubarb jam filling. The jam filling was quite thick as prepared, which kept it from leaking in the oven and also from being too wet and making the inside of the Pop Tarts soggy. The homemade version is a huge improvement over the store-bought variety and certainly worth the effort. These are a definite repeat in our house, though not too often as it takes an awful lot of butter to make them so tasty! I love that there are so many possibilities for the filling and I'm already contemplating all of the options for next time...
Homemade Pop Tarts
from King Arthur Flour, as seen on Smitten Kitchen
2 cups (8 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg, to brush on the pastry before filling
Cinnamon Filling (will fill 9 tarts)
1/2 cup (3 3/4 oz) brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to taste
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Jam Filling (will fill 9 tarts)
3/4 cup jam
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
To make the pastry: Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the pieces of butter are about the size of peas and the mixture holds together when squeezed. Transfer the contents of the food processor to a large bowl. Whisk the egg and milk together in a small bowl then add them to the dough, mixing with a fork just until everything comes together. You may have to knead the dough briefly on a lightly floured work surface to pull it together.
Divide the dough in half; each half will weigh about 10 ounces. Shape each half into a rectangle approximately 3" x 5". The dough can be rolled out immediately or wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
To make the cinnamon filling: Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and flour.
To make the jam filling: Combine the water and cornstarch in a small ramekin. Add this mixture along with the jam to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
To 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. Roll one piece of dough on a lightly-floured surface to form a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick - you want the rectangle to be large enough that you can trim it to measure 9" x 12". Set aside the rectangle once trimmed. Roll the second piece of dough to form a rectangle of the same size as the first. Cut each rectangle into thirds lengthwise and widthwise to form nine 3" x 4" rectangles (so 18 total rectangles).
Use a fork to beat the second egg, and brush it over the entire surface of nine of the rectangles. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, leaving about a 1/4 to 1/2-inch border around the edge. Top each of the filled rectangles with a second rectangle of dough. Use your fingers to press firmly around the filling to seal the dough on all sides. Press the tines of a fork around the edges of the rectangle. Repeat with the remaining rectangles to form 9 filled tarts. Use a fork to prick the top of each tart multiple times, which will allow the steam to escape while they bake.
Transfer the tarts to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate the tarts for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350 F.
Remove the tarts from the fridge, and bake them for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they’re a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool on the baking sheet set on a wire rack.
Yields 9 tarts