When I was a kid, my parents kept our home relatively junk food- and sweets-free. We weren’t allowed to have the “cool” sugary cereals, no fruit rollups, no potato chips, no pop. You get the idea. So naturally, no Pop-Tarts. But all of these rules flew right out the window when we got to sleep over at my grandma’s on Saturday nights. Like most doting grandparents that spoil their grandchildren and give them the things that their parents won’t, this is where we ate the “fun food”. And fun food included Pop-Tarts. They were pretty much a Sunday morning staple for me when I stayed at her house. My favorite flavor was brown sugar cinnamon; I loved to toast it and then spread peanut butter on the non-frosted side. (The more I write and the more peanut butter comes up, the more I think I might need some type of support group.) While many kids love Pop-Tarts, let’s face it – they’re not exactly in the upper echelon of pastry treats. That is, unless you make them at home. And then they become something in another stratosphere. The pastry crust is flaky and buttery, little pieces breaking and fluttering off when you take a bite. Each little pastry pillow is full of sweet strawberry or cinnamon brown sugar (the two flavors I chose), all warm, slightly melted and a perfect companion to the pastry.
These are just slightly time consuming (they take about an hour to prep and assemble) but are not very difficult. You can make the pastry dough easily by hand and it is simply rolled out and cut. Nothing too advanced like laminating the dough is required and the only equipment you need is a mixing bowl. This would be a great project to involve kids in – they will love creating their very own pop-tart for breakfast! And if you have house guests, imagine how surprised and charmed they would be to wake up to homemade pop-tarts – better than any toaster pastry they’ve ever had, for sure!
You could fancy these up with some glazes if you’d like, but I thought they were perfect as-is. If I were to do anything, I might drizzle a simple powdered sugar and milk glaze over the strawberry ones and brush a brown sugar glaze onto the brown sugar cinnamon ones. Also – no toaster required! These are perfectly crisp and flaky without needing to be popped in the toaster. Whether you make them for kids or adults, you will certainly feel like a kitchen goddess for whipping these up and sharing them!
One year ago: Better-than-Brownies Chocolate Cookies
For the pastry crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks, or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
2 tablespoons milk
For the cinnamon sugar filling:
½ cup light brown sugar
1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
For the strawberry filling:
¾ cup strawberry jam (or whatever flavor you'd like)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
1 egg, lightly beaten (to brush on pastry)
1. Prepare the cinnamon sugar filling by whisking the ingredients together.
2. If using the strawberry filling, prepare by whisking together the cornstarch and water, and then combine with the jam in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool.
3. To make the crust, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work in the butter until it is the size of peas and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. Whisk together the egg and milk and add to the dough. Mix together with a fork until everything is evenly moistened. Knead briefly on a floured surface, if necessary, until the dough comes together.
4. Divide the dough in half. (At this point you can wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.) If you refrigerate the dough, let it come to room temperature for about 15 minutes before rolling out. Roll out one piece of dough to about 1/8-inch thick, in a 9½ by 12½ rectangle. Using a sharp knife, pastry wheel or bench scraper, trim the rectangle to 9x12 inches. Cut the sheet of dough into nine 3x4 rectangles. Using a spatula, transfer the rectangles to a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Brush the lightly beaten egg on each of the rectangles. Spoon a tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, leaving a ½-inch of space around the edges.
5. Roll out and cut the second piece of dough in the exact same manner as you did the first. One at a time, place a second rectangle of dough on top of the nine assembled ones. Using your fingers, press around the seams of the dough to make sure they are sealed. Press the tines of a fork around the edges of the rectangles. Prick the tops of the rectangles in multiple spots to allow steam to escape.
6. Refrigerate the pan with the pastries (you don't need to cover them) for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool slightly before serving. Store pastries in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.
* Note 1: Each filling recipes makes enough for a whole recipe (9 pop-tarts). If you make to make a few different filling, just scale back the amounts for the fillings.
* Note 2: Some additional filling ideas: Chocolate chips, Nutella, different jam flavors, dulce de leche, etc. The possibilities are endless!
* Note 3: If your kitchen runs on the warm side, you will need to refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out so that the butter doesn't start to melt.