Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pop Tarts: Dilemmas and Options

Unlike the homemade Doritos, there seems to be no shortage of others out there online who have attempted homemade Pop Tarts before. Not just a string of individual bloggers, either. Even Bon Appetit and King Arthur Flour are in on the game. There are a lot of options out there, but the King Arthur dough recipe seems to be the most common recipe.

The concern that I have with this is that in all of the photos on the various recipes, the dough looks puffy and flaky and delicious... and that is essentially the opposite of an actual Pop Tart. The store bought Pop Tarts have a crumbly crust that almost reminds me more of graham crackers than of flaky pastry. I don't know whether this is because they are mass produced, or because they're full of preservatives, or because they're never actually fresh, and I don't know if that particular type of crust is possible to recreate or not. That could very well be. It is also possible that everyone assessed the situation and thought, well, you could make it like the store bought product, but why bother?

So I'm going to start with a recipe from one of my favorite cooking blogs: The Smitten Kitchen. This recipe is adapted from the King Arthur recipe, but differs primarily when it comes to the fruit fillings - King Arthur doesn't have one listed. This fruit filling notes that you should mix it with corn starch in order to thicken it. Not doing so causes it to seep through the edges of the pastries.

I have yet to come across a recipe that purports to result in a pastry that can actually be put in an upright slot toaster. I'm sure all of these would be fine in a toaster oven, but I'm not sure whether I'm willing to potentially wreck my regular toaster trying. Another thing to note is that most of the recipes that I came across indicate that if you want to freeze these pastries, you should do so before you bake them, which kind of defeats the purpose of a pre-baked snack that you just pop into your toaster. I think I'll bake them all and freeze half to see how they handle later on. Most likely I'll reheat them in the oven, but I may also try the toaster by laying it on its side.

Initially, I'm going to follow the recipe exactly, but I'm thinking that maybe in a later batch I would swap in some whole wheat, or white whole wheat flour. I'll initially try a jam filling and a cinnamon-sugar filling (why mess with the classics, right?), but I'll think of some more flavor combinations as I go.

Well, what are we waiting for? Get to the kitchen!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pop Tarts: A Brief History

According to the good folks at Wikipedia, Pop Tarts started out as an idea that the Post company had for a side to accompany breakfast cereal, and as a way to showcase a method of preserving food in a foil pouch, which had originally been designed for dog food. They apparently screwed up the timing of the release of the product, though, which gave Kellogg the opportunity to develop their own version six months later in 1964. The Kellogg version was so popular that they could not keep up with demand.

The original version was no frosted, due to a concern that a frosting could not withstand the heat of the toaster. Three years later, someone figured out that frosting could, in fact, hold up in the toaster, and a frosted version was released. The first Pop Tarts came in four flavors: strawberry, blueberry, brown sugar cinnamon, and apple currant. It seems that apple currant fell out of favor, probably because no one knows what currants are anymore. Today, as we know, there are a variety of flavors, some of which seem slightly ridiculous.

Unlike some of the lawsuits that plagued our previous project, the only noteworthy legal drama that Pop Tarts had to deal with was a claim that the pastry caught fire in the toaster. Apparently, a university professor later performed an experiment proving that the Pop Tart could, in fact, produce a flame of up to one foot if left in the toaster too long. Consequently, Pop Tarts now have a warning on the packaging reminding you not to leave them unattended in your toaster.

There are also complaints from heath groups with criticize the product of falsely claiming any kind of health benefit because some of them are filled with "fruit". In times following this, the company has removed, and then added again from the packaging that Pop Tarts are made with real fruit. Personally, I'm not sure why anyone would be particularly offended to find out that a baked good, which is meant to be stored for a long period of time without refrigeration, is not actually good for you, but that's just me.

But I get the appeal. It's like a baked pastry any time of day or night. You can eat them without heating them up, you can carry them with you. They're just as good as a dessert or a snack as they are for breakfast. I don't think for a second that my homemade version will be as convenient, but it's worth trying them out, anyway.