Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pop Tarts: An Attempt

Homemade Pop Tarts: Check. 

There are a few tweaks I want to make on my next batch, and the final verdict won't be in until I can figure out if they hold up in the toaster. 
  • The dough was easy to work with and didn't require too much waiting time while it chilled (probably because my house is cold). 
  • The dough tastes good - not too heavy and dry, not too sweet. 
  • The filling is dead on - exactly like the brown sugar-cinnamon in a store-bought Pop Tart.
  • They sealed up well and no filling was lost to melting out in the oven - which is a good sign in terms of upright toaster reheating possibility. 
  • They look pretty close to the store bought Pop Tarts
  • The dough, while being easy to work with and good-tasting, is light and flaky, which to me is the opposite of store-bought Pop Tarts, which are dense and more like a cookie. More experimentation needed. 
  • Sort of a lot of work for nine tarts. In the future I would double or triple, since they're probably going to need to be kept in the freezer anyway. 
  • I didn't have any jam I wanted to open (my own fault, obviously), so I only made one filling. 
  • With the filling recipe designed for filling the full nine tarts, it wasn't easy to half it. This wouldn't be a problem if doubling the recipe, though. 
Unlike the homemade Doritos, I didn't have to cobble together a recipe based on the ingredients list of the store-bought product, and I already had all of the ingredients needed for this. As mentioned above, I didn't end up making any pop tarts with fruit filling because I didn't have any jam. Ok, that's not entirely true - I have a closet full of it that I made over the summer, including peach habanero (which I was excited to make into Pop Tarts, actually), but most recently I had opened a jar of clementine rosemary marmalade, which is still mostly full. We don't go through jam that quickly, and I didn't want to open a whole other jar just for a few tablespoons full. Next time, though.

So let's begin. I'm not going to bother re-typing the recipe up, because I didn't create it or really make that many changes, and it's just as easy to click through to The Smitten Kitchen and read it there - it even has a print version. The recipe can be found here.

This recipe, like all good pastries, calls for a lot of butter. The butter should be cold, and cut into pieces, and tossed into a bowl of flour, sugar and salt.

You have the option here of how you're going to incorporate the flour. I used my pastry cutter. I wonder whether that was responsible for the awesome, light and flaky and completely unlike store-bought Pop Tarts texture?

Once all that is mixed (but not too mixed), the dough divided in two and is wrapped in plastic and chilled in the fridge or freezer, depending on how much time you have. It can be refrigerated for up to two days. While that's chilling, you can mix up the filling. I mean, I guess you could technically do this any time, but why not use your down time, right? If you've already made the filling, I guess you could go watch tv, but good luck having the motivation to get up and finish the project...

Once the filling is made (or your tv show is over) and the dough is chilled, you can roll it out on a floured counter. What I feel honestly is that the dough is way easier to work with when it's a little warmer. If it feels too warm by the time you get it rolled and cut, you could always pop it back in the fridge or freezer before you assemble and bake.

Once you get these suckers rolled out, you have to get technical. I have a kitchen ruler for just the purposes. A lot of people scoff at my kitchen ruler, but it's come in handy more times that I can count. Anyway, you're going to roll this dough to 9" x 12", and about 1/8th of an inch thick. This always feels impossibly thin to me, but the kitchen ruler tells me I've nailed the thickness as well as the shape.

Ultimately what you're getting at here is cutting this dough into thirds both directions. You end up with nine rectangles about 3" x 4" each. Then you have to turn around and do the same thing with the other dough.

There's a catch here, though. To fill these tarts, you have to brush the insides with egg. These first four that I placed on the prepared baking sheet and brushed got awfully messy - egg was everywhere. I transferred them back to the counter and brushed them there, while they were all touching each other. This kept the egg on the dough. Once that was done, I transferred them back to the tray to pile on the filling.

The key, of course, is to get the egg all the way to the edges in order to help seal the lid. Once the lid is on, you can get as fancy as you want with the edges. I used a fork because it looked nice, but you could use anything. I wanted something, though, because I was afraid that just smashing them down with my fingers wouldn't make them stick.

Once you've finished this, you need to put some holes in these lids to let the steam escape. I used a toothpick. I should also note that before I did this, I brushed the remaining egg over the tops to make them shiny. The recipe doesn't call for this, but why waste the egg?

These are going into a pre-heated, 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. I was terrified that the filling was going to spill out, but it didn't! They came out golden brown, slightly puffed, shiny, and smelling delicious.

Once they cooled, I tried one, and I have to admit it was awesome. While the pastry was decidedly un-Pop Tart, the filling was dead on. I guess it isn't hard to get brown sugar and cinnamon right. When they were completely cool, I left one out for my husband and put the rest in a Ziploc bag in the freezer.