I’ve been wanting to make pop tarts for a really, really long time – really, ever since I saw them on The Arugula Files more than a year ago. I love the Pop Tarts idea because it’s one of those “let’s take a kitschy food item and update it” trends that are so much fun – like oatmeal cream pies, or ice cream sandwiches, or even cupcakes.
Now, I didn’t actually make Pop Tarts, which are a trademarked brand of Kellogg and only apply to those sickly sweet foil-wrapped monstrosities masquerading as a breakfast food. No, I made hand pies – the crisp fruit-filled pastries that Pop Tarts evolved from. No weird foil wrapping, no sticky frosting – just pastry dough and fruit.
The more I bake, the more I’m convinced that the simplest desserts are also the best. Ice cream with hot fudge sauce. Pain au chocolate. Chocolate truffles. Simple items that rely on excellent ingredients and skilled execution.
And yes, that includes the Pop Tart. Or, rather, the “Pop Tart.” To start, I made a strawberry jam with strawberries I bought from the farmer’s market. I didn’t want it to be too sweet, so I cut some of the sugar in Ina Garten’s jam recipe, and upped the amount of lemon juice (to help the jam set). For the pastry I used my favorite pastry dough recipe – the pie dough from Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking.
The end result was lovely – the jam turned out tart and bright, and the pastry was incredibly flaky and buttery. Together, they made a dessert that really showcased the flavor of the fruit and the butter in the dough, the way a hand pie should. It kicks the ass of any store-bought Pop Tart, if I do say so myself. And I’m already plotting on all the different flavors I’ll be making with all the summer fruits and berries at the Farmer’s Markets.
Strawberry “Pop Tarts”
Adapted from The Food Network and Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Makes 6 4×3 inch hand pies
Note – you’ll have strawberry filling left over. I don’t really see a problem with this. You can use it to fill more hand pies, or just spread it on toast. Be creative.
For the strawberry filling:
2 pints strawberries, washed, hulled and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
In a medium saucepan, combine strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook over low heat – the strawberries will cook down and release their juices and the mixture will slowly boil. Skim any foam from the top of jam with a ladle or spoon. Cook until the strawberry juices gel on a cold plate, or on a spoon set in a glass of ice water (it took me about 20 minutes before my filling gelled). Carefully pour into a heat-proof container and let cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
For the pastry dough:
2 cups flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp sugar (plus more for sprinkling)
12 tbs unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
4 tbs shortening, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 cup ice water
1 egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Freeze the flour mixture, butter, shortening, and the processor blade for 1/2 hour before using. Fit the blade on the processor, and then add the flour mixture, butter, and shortening to the bowl. Pulse a couple of time, in five second bursts – until the butter and shortening are the size of small peas. Add the ice water through the feeder tube – and pulse until the dough just comes together. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll the dough into a square, and cut into 12 3 by 4 inches rectangles with a pizza cutter or very sharp knife. Place six squares on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place 1 tbs of strawberry jam on each of the six pastry squares and spread with a small offset spatula or knife, leaving a 1/4 inch border along the edge of the pastry. Top each filled squares with a remaining pastry square. Crimp edges of pastry with a fork, and lightly score the top of each pastry with the tines of a fork or slash with a sharp knife. Lightly brush the pastries with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack.
“Pop Tarts” are best served warm.