Sunday, September 15, 2013

You're Doing Everything Wrong: Pop Tart Edition

This is not a post about pop stars. Some people call pop stars "pop tarts" but that's not something I do. Mostly because the word "tart" is a bit offensive when using it to describe a person. Unless you're describing 1970s Rod Stewart - he was a total man tart. Anyway, this post is about pastries, specifically pop tarts.

I don't have children. This is probably abundantly clear if you've read just one of the posts on this blog. According to one of my friends (who shall remain nameless), I tend to do things that a mom would do and on occasion, end up treating my friends like children. This is most evident in two characteristics:
  1. I carry incredibly too much stuff in my purse including things that no one really thinks they  need but eventually someone does need (like a tape measure and snacks)
  2. I bake a lot of things that parents would probably make for their kids
I can't disagree with either statement: I do carry a ton of stuff in my purse. It is probably not necessary to have a pen case (with about 10 pens) and a small sewing kit with me at all times but that's how I roll.

The second point is also very true. I'm an avid baker and I believe that part of the fun of baking is in fact having fun with what you're baking. Yes, I can have fun while I make an Italian Orange Cake (which takes 3 days to make) but that particular cake is also one that takes a lot of concentration and some of my more refined baking skills. So I like to balance serious baking projects with baking that is a bit more whimsical. If that means that I occasionally treat my friends, family, and co-workers like children, well, they'll just have to deal with it. I'm sure that the prospect of eating homemade graham crackers and marshmallows is better than somehow being offended by the idea that I'm treating you to the adult version of snack time (bourbon marshmallows aside).

Which brings me to pop tarts. I have been a fan of Pop Tarts (the Kellogg's breakfast treat) since middle school. My three favorite flavors are strawberry frosted, brown sugar cinnamon, and s'mores. I actually prefer them cold and not for breakfast. Having a Pop Tart as a snack is lovely. About two years ago, I received my latest issue of Food Network Magazine and discovered a recipe for breakfast tarts. Since Pop Tarts is a trademarked phrase, breakfast tart is what FNM came up for this recipe.

The result? Awesomeness.

First batch - so delicious

My co-workers in the Oakland office loved them and I started keeping track of a list of variations on the filling and frosting. I eventually made Nutella raspberry tarts and s'mores tarts. Both of these varieties were also very good.

Nutella Raspberry

My favorite Pop Tart is brown sugar cinnamon. I think it tastes like fall and comfy pjs and a good book. I haven't made this variety yet because I didn't like any of the recipes I found. I've been working on my own version but hadn't figured out the frosting (I call this the frosting conundrum when telling my friends). Then, about a week or so ago, I had an idea. I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep but was having trouble turning off work stuff so I was wide awake. I was not thinking about baking or breakfast tarts when all of the sudden, it hit me. I could use the brown sugar frosting from my pumpkin cookies on these pop tarts! This is the kind of frosting that you want to eat with a spoon it's so good. And it's perfect for these pop tarts.

And then came another revelation: I've been making my version of pop tarts (or breakfast pastries if you don't want me to be sued by Kellogg's) wrong.

Now, I don't mean to say that the recipe is incorrect or that I missed an ingredient. No, I've been making the little tarts by hand using a pastry wheel (effective for cutting) and a fork for crimping the edges to seal all the deliciousness in. This method is both time consuming and horribly messy and ineffective for sealing the tarts. As hard as I try my hand cut pastries aren't always even so when assembling the tart, the sides don't always match up. This leads to a melty mess of Nutella or jelly escaping onto your pans. Not pretty.

I've resisted buying a pastry press to do this even though a friend sent me a link to an inexpensive but highly rated version at Williams-Sonoma. I was a fool to wait so long to buy this press. Now I have two.

Making the tarts was so much easier - I knew how many I would get out of each roll since the press makes for more even cut outs. Yes, I could use a ruler to measure when I'm using a pastry wheel but it's not the same. The press portion also helps create a much better seal than my fork ever did. For the strawberry tarts, there was less jelly on the pan so clean up was much quicker. The pastry press was the best 97 cents I've ever spent. It was also the cheapest thing I've ever purchased at Williams-Sonoma.

And now to the final step - the frosting and decorating. I made two kinds of frosting for today: brown sugar and vanilla. Both of these frosting/glaze recipes are ones that I've made before and have perfected. This is an important part of baking anything. Once you've made a recipe (or a box mix) once and it turned out well, perfect it and make it yours. The brown sugar frosting is one I make for pumpkin cookies. I've changed the recipe slightly (I cannot tell you what I changed) and now the frosting is perfect. It's going to be a wicked awesome compliment to the brown sugar cinnamon tarts. The vanilla glaze is from my king cake recipe. I use both almond and vanilla extracts for this one and it makes it a little more special on something like a homemade pop tart.

I guess the real verdict will come tomorrow when my co-workers get to try the new addition (brown sugar cinnamon) and the old standard strawberry. They certainly smell good!

I follow the FNM recipe for the strawberry version except that I use my own glaze instead of the orange glaze they suggest (although I should try that one day). I've made the recipe using homemade pie dough and store bought. I don't find that there's much of a difference in taste and the baking time is the same. Pie crust can be intimidating for casual bakers so use the store bought if that makes you feel more confident. You won't be doing anything wrong - you're making homemade pop tarts!

The brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts are my own recipe with the addition of the brown sugar frosting from a Harry Potter website (no joke - a friend sent it to me and it's awesome). The filling is a mixture of dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, and flour. An egg wash gives the pastry the brown crispy look.

You can reheat the pop tarts just make sure to keep an eye on them while you do. You can either microwave (10-15 seconds on medium) or toast (10-20 seconds on the lowest setting).

Rod Stewart photo from
All other photos by me

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