We never had Pop-Tarts in my house growing up - I know, right? Someone call CPS on my parents. But gosh, I wanted them. Walking down the cereal aisle always got my hopes up, hope that we would pass the generic cereal and oatmeal and stop in front of the blue boxes of Pop-Tarts, but it never happened. My cousin, Danielle, always had a box of brown sugar and cinnamon Pop-Tarts at her house and, God bless her, she'd smear some soft butter on them while they were still warm from the toaster. I raised an eyebrow at the time, but in hindsight, that's pretty brilliant.
I would pout quite a bit at the time, cringing when my Mom declared those sacred silver-wrapped pastries as "nothing but sugar," but that didn't stop me from asking for them every time we went grocery shopping. Sorry, Mom, I was a real nag. It wasn't until I worked at a summer camp my freshman year of college that stocked an endless supply of Pop-Tarts in the pantry for kids who hadn't eaten breakfast that I realized how wrong I'd been. I dug into a wildberry flavor one morning at the cafeteria table, sucked in by the swirl of blue and purple frosting and the crinkly wrapper only to find it utterly disappointing. It didn't taste of berries at all, the crust had the texture of compressed sawdust and the slick of red glue in the center posed as a horrible jam impostor.
Perhaps it's just the evolution of my taste buds that did it for me, but I haven't eaten another Pop-Tart since that morning. Occasionally, a box of the sprinkled blueberry flavor appears in the pantry, a sin I can only attribute to my cookie-squirreling father, but I never touch them. But somewhere deep in my soul, I knew there had to be a better way for Pop-Tarts, a life outside of that bright blue box and cloyingly sweet filling. Enter: Flour Bakery's Homemade Pop-Tarts. Now these, these are something different entirely.
They are not at all like the Pop-Tarts of my youth. For comparison's sake, they would be snuggled up next to Toaster Strudels - Pop-Tart's flakier, crispier, more inviting cousin. (Heck, there was even some healthy advertising rivalry back in the day.) You start with pâte brisée, which is really just a sexy way of saying "flaky pastry awesomeness," stuff it with your favorite jam (I used strawberry-rhubarb from the farm stand this summer) and pinch it together like a giant, fruit-filled ravioli. Once baked, they crisp up to a handsome shade of golden brown with a crust that shatters into a thousand little bits as soon as you bite into it. Yes, the evidence will be all over your shirt. You can contain it ever so slightly with a slick of vanilla glaze over the top, but you'd be wise to have napkins on hand.
The recipe is long, but don't be intimidated - it's fairly easy. You can make the pâte brisée ahead of time and roll it out when you're ready. The dough is a little fussy to work with if it warms up too much, so try and work quickly and keep your work surface floured and the dough moving so it doesn't stick.
Adapted from Flour
1 recipe Pâte Brisée
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup strawberry rhubarb jam (or any other kind you like)
Simple Vanilla Glaze
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons water
Rainbow sprinkles for sprinkling (optional)
Make the Pâte Brisée
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cold milk
Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or hand held mixer), mix together four, sugar and salt for 10 to 15 seconds, or until combined. Scatter the butter over the top. Mix on low speed for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or just until flour is no longer bright white and holds together when you clump it and lumps of butter the size of pecans are visible throughout.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk until blended. Add to the flour mixture all at once. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until the dough just barely comes together. It will look really shaggy and more like a mess than a dough.
Dump the dough onto the unfloured work surface, and gently work together any remaining bits of flour into the dough. Dots and streaks of butter should be visible throughout the dough.
Gather up the dough, wrap tightly into plastic wrap, and press down to flatten into a disk about 1 inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Make the Pop-Tarts
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it in half. Press each half into a rectangle (roughly). On a lightly floured surface, roll out each half into a 28-by-11 inch rectangle. (This is is the original recipe - I rolled until it was almost paper thin and it wasn't anywhere close to 28 inches across, it was closer to 15 or 16 inches, and I still got 8 pop-tarts out of it. Don't worry about the exact measurements here, just roll it until it's about 1/8 inch in thickness.) Using a paring knife, lightly score one rectangle into eight 3-by-5 inch rectangles (each about the size of an index card).
Brush the entire top surface of the scored rectangle with the egg. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the jam in a mound in the center of each scored rectangle. Lay the second large dough rectangle directly on top of the first. Using fingertips, carefully press down all around each jam mound so the pastry sheets adhere to each other.
Using a paring knife or a pizza roller, follow the scored lines, cutting the dough into 8 rectangles. Place the rectangles, well spaced, on a baking sheet.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the tops of the pastries are evenly golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.
To make the glaze: While the pastries are cooling, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and enough water to make a smooth, pourable glaze. You should have about 1/2 cup.
Once the pastries are cool, brush the tops evenly with the glaze and decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Allow the pastries to rest for about 15 minutes or until the glaze hardens just a bit.
The pop-tarts can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.