Friday, October 15, 2010

Homemade Pop Tarts: How I Ruined Everything For My Daughter

I have wanted to make pop tarts--or toaster pastries (I really should ask the Devs if there's copyright infringement problems if I use the "common name" for them?)...huh? sorry, I'm back...I've wanted to make these silly things ever since I saw Alton Brown (love love love) covered them in one of his books....because every time Alton makes something, I suddenly want it without self control.

However, there's all this "life stuff" going on around me and it wasn't in the "need it now" category of my life so it went on the list I keep in my head of things to do in the vague, distance "sometime." Can you have a "bucket list" for food? Could I use any more quotation marks in one paragraph?

Thing 1 is newly addicted to pop tarts. Not that I buy the radioactive colored ones in the official name brand boxes. I pick up a box of off-brand ones to fill in the gaps for morning breakfast when I can't be, you know, like my mom (who cooked us hot breakfasts everyday before school--except Fridays; say it with me, siblings "Monday, pancakes. Tuesday, French Toast. Wednesday....") We were sooooo spoiled.

So I am a firm believer in the importance of breakfast-especially for little minds that use lots of energy learning and being a dinosaur. But sometimes, that means a pop tart while I shovel rice cereal and peaches into Thing 2's mouth.

And now that she's hooked, I naturally had to see if I could make them. Which, it turns out I can--albeit, I need a bit more practice at making them look nicer. So after the wee babes were safely in bed (although, not really and I'll explain that in a bit), I rolled out the dough I had made earlier in the day and baked up a batch of nosh-worthy pop tarts. And they are so so so much better than those pieces of cardboard in the shiny wrappers that barely have a smear of icing on them.

After looking at various recipes, I went with one from smitten kitchen, who, in turn, adapted it from a recipe from the King Arthur Flour Company.

The dough is simple enough and not at all sweet so I am contemplating some savory maybe cheese and mushroom or bacon.

The dough:
2 cups of AP flour
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, cut in pieces and slightly cooler than room temp
1 egg
1 oz milk (2 tbs)

1 egg for egg wash

In your mixer bowl, blend the dry ingredients together. In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the egg and milk. At a low speed, drop in half the butter. Let blend just until you have large chunks, then add the remaining and let blend until you have crumbly pie crust looking dough (pea sized chunks of butter). Add the egg/milk mixture and blend briefly just until it comes together.

Scrape out of the bowl and divide into two equal blocks. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. I will say, this dough gets soft and sticky quickly so if it's a super hot day in your kitchen, don't say I didn't warn you.

When the dough has chilled, remove one block and roll out on a well-floured surface. I found that rolling the dough out on a flour-dusted silpat which they would eventually be baked on helped reduce a mess on my counter tops and made moving the dough much easier.

One block of dough is your top and one is your bottom, from which you should get 9 pieces each. For this reason, pull out a ruler and make sure you have two 9x12 pieces. I used my bench scraper to keep my edges sharp and also to cut the rectangles out with (3x4). A pizza cutter would work well too but please don't try to eyeball this or you will find you have irregular pieces that don't fit on top of other irregular pieces and then you'll be standing in your kitchen somewhere, cursing me and my stupid need to make everything. I can't handle that. Measure the dough.

When the dough is cut, place it on a baking sheet and return it to the fridge to firm up a bit. Repeat the process with the second block of dough. If you decide this block is your top, dock the centers of each rectangle evenly with a fork so steam can release from the filling without exploding through the sides.
Chill second sheet of dough.

While you are chilling the sheets, you can decide what filling you want.
Cinnamon sugar?--Mix 1/2 cup of brown sugar with 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 4 tsp of flour.

Jam?--put 3/4 cup of jam into a small saucepan and thicken with a tablespoon of cold water mixed with a tablespoon of cornstarch. Bring to a boil and stir until thickened slightly (it will continue to thicken as it cools) the way, this is what I used only I make my own jam and I found that it still wasn't thick enough for me so I had oozing jam from the sides of my pastries. Rats.

OR a bit of nutella or other wonderful concoction. Basically, you'll need a tablespoon per tart and you don't want the substance to be too runny. I still think sauted mushrooms with a bit of bacon and sharp cheddar is the money.

Regardless, get ready to smear a bit of stuff on the center of the bottom layer, careful to not cover any of the 1/2 inch perimeter of the dough.
Using the remaining egg, whisk it with a bit of water and brush around the edges with your egg wash.
Now place the top over the filling and press down with your fingers, then with a the tines of a fork to create a seal.

Chill again for 30 minutes. Like I said, this dough is not made for a warm kitchen.
Preheat the oven to 350, Gertie, and when the dough is chill, brush with more of the egg wash.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

When they have cooled completely, you can ice them with a mixture of powder sugar, water, a dash of vanilla and a bit of corn syrup. Easy with the moisture with your icing because the sugar will absorb it quickly and pretty soon you're adding more sugar to balance it out, then more water, than more sugar and pretty soon, you've got 2 gallons of glaze....which you can keep in your pantry for other projects....not that I've ever had to do that. Ahem.

So, yeah, the rest of the story is that while I was glazing these (and talking to my youngest sister on the phone) Thing 1 popped into the kitchen-which made me squeak from surprise. Turns out she had a spider in her room (something we don't take lightly) and I needed to squish it. As we were walking up to her room, she asked me what kind of pop tarts I had made for her and I said "Blueberry with some of the blueberry marmalade jam I made."
"What? you said you wanted blueberry, right?"
*sullen* "Yes."
"What's wrong?"
*whining now* "These are gonna have REAL fruit in them, huh? gross."

Yes, your poor, well-fed child. They have REAL fruit in them. And icing that goes all the way to the edges unlike that half-assed smear on the store bought ones. And blue sprinkles just because I know you like blue. And a flakey crust that doesn't require a gallon of milk to wash down your gullet.

Life's hard in the big cruel world. I hope she can pick up the pieces of her shattered life and move on before something bigger comes along and eats her.

1 comment:

Joanne said...

That's fucking hilarious!