Homemade Pop Tarts

Kellogg’s Pop Tarts have been a convenient breakfast treat for many Americans growing up.  Adults turn nostalgic at the mere mention of them, usually recounting days when they ate their favorite flavor on the bus on the way to school.  I know it may be shock for many of you, but I didn’t have my first Pop Tart until after I got married.  Chris used to love the Chocolate Pop Tarts and he would eat them with ice cream.  I tried one, but I didn’t really care for the dry, cardboard-like pastry covered in super sweet icing. A couple of days ago, while perusing one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen written by Deb PerelmanI stumbled on her entry for homemade pop tarts.  Those pop tarts looked so cute, especially naked without that coat of icing. I knew that I had to make them this weekend.

I followed Deb’s recipe, which she adapted from King Arthur Flour, with a couple of tweaks.  The “warm kitchen warning” at the end of the recipe was a very helpful tip since it was hot in my kitchen today.  I had to keep putting the dough in the refrigerator to keep it from being too soft and fragile.  The fun part of this baking project was deciding on the filling and there were so many possibilities. Yesterday, I assembled a few test samples, some filled with Bon Maman’s Cherry Preserves and some with Nutella Hazelnut Spread.  When it came time to do this morning’s batch, Chris requested that I combine the cherry preserves and the Nutella together.  The results were absolutely delicious!  The crust was flaky and buttery, nothing like the Pop Tarts I had before.  The cherry preserves and Nutella were a like the modern-day peanut butter and jelly, with the tartness of the cherries balancing the sweetness of the Nutella. Thank you, Chris, for making the suggestion!  I cut the dough into 3″x4″ rectangles and managed to get 12 pop tarts, despite what the recipe states.  I must have rolled the dough thinner.  I must confess, in my haste to put these in the oven, I managed to forget to brush the egg wash on top of the assembled tarts before baking…both times! They still browned nicely, though.

Homemade Pop Tarts
Adapted from recipe from Smitten Kitchen
Yields 9-12 3″x4″ pop tarts

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)

Filling
1 cup Bon Maman brand Cherry Preserves
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
Nutella Hazelnut Spread, to taste

To make the jam filling: Mix the jam with the cornstarch and water slurry 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.

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, 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. (I was able to cut 12 pieces.)  Since I cannot ever roll dough into any shape but free form, I cut an index card into a 3″x4″ template and used that as a guide cut the dough with my pastry cutter.

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 spoonful of the cherry preserve and then the Nutella 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. Brush the remaining egg wash on the top of the dough to give the tarts a glossy, brown surface.  Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes.

Bake the tarts: Preheat your oven to 350°F.  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.

Warm kitchen warning: Place the dough in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes if the dough becomes too warm or soft, to keep the butter from melting.  You might need to do this a few times while rolling or cutting the dough to make it easier to handle.

They look like lovely little pillows, don’t they?

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