Pop Tarts were my preferred choice of breakfast back in the days of high school. My mother was always concerned that I was not getting a healthy breakfast, but I was never an early riser and these were ready in a matter of minutes before I rushed out the door. After ten years, I no longer eat pop tarts, but I still rush out the door to head to work. Old habits die-hard.
I was looking to make a sweet pastry pie, so I bought Bubby’s Homemade Pies. (I will use any excuse to buy a beautiful cookbook). Sweet pastry pies are not very widespread in Australia like they are in the US. The only ones I find easily available are from Sara Lee in the frozen food section at the supermarket. Movies & TV Shows like Fried Green Tomatoes, Waitress and Pushing Daisies, have propelled my craving for this quintessential American dessert. When I got the book, I was very nervous about making pastry. I have never ventured that far in dessert-making, it seemed to be something that should only be left to the professionals and not cooking neophytes like myself.
I decided that I would make the Homemade Pop Tart recipe. I have never eaten a real hearty pie like the ones made in Pushing Daisies, therefore I would be going in blind when making it. The stakes were against me and the task seems too huge and risky, I would be so mad at myself if I screwed up and wasted all that lovely delicious fruit.
Suffice to say, the Pop Tarts were a roaring success. It filled the house with a beautiful buttery and floury fragrance. The little girl next door came knocking and asked what I was making. I told her Pop Tarts, she had a puzzled look on her face. To my disappointment I realised that pop tarts are no longer widely available and are only sold at specialty retail stores. This cute innocent asian toddler will not grow up with pop tarts… my poor little heart sank a little upon realisation. I invited her in and served her a strawberry pop tart with vanilla ice cream. It was a pleasure to see her sweet face gobble down my childhood treat.
Pizzaboy and Bunnifar are bewildered that I dare share the pop tarts and they are pestering me to make more.
Bubby’s Homemade Pies by Ron Silver & Jen Bervin
2 cups of plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
170g unsalted butter
5-6 tablespoons chilled water
1/2 cup of your favourite jam
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup water
1/ Measure out the water for the crust (with a bit of extra water in case you need a little more) and then some ice cubes. Chill it in the freezer.
2/ Measure out the flour (unsifted) by leveling off dry measuring cups, and add the flour to large bowl. Add the salt to the flour and give it a quick stir to combine evenly.
3/ Add the flour, salt and butter to the food processor and pulse it a few times. Do not use the continuous ON setting for pastry. To get the fat to cut evenly you must stop and angle the entire food processor to give its contents a jostle by shaking and tilting it every couple of pulses. Pulse the mixture until the larger fat pieces are the size of peas and the smallest pieces are the size of lentils. Do not overmix. Watch closely – it typically takes less than 10 quick pulses. Do not use the food processor to add the water to a pastry crust. Always mix in the water by hand.
4/ When adding the water, begin with a fully chilled flour and fat mixture and ice cold water. Be judicious, even stingy with the water. Do not add all the water at once; it must be dispersed into the mixture incrementally. Add water two or three tablespoons at first, quickly tossing the mixture with your fingertips after each addition. Work the dough as little as possible.
5/ Continue adding little bits of water at a time. When there are no floury bits anymore – just little comet-like cobbles that don’t quite cohere – slow down and sprinkle or flick water in at this point. One drop can make the difference and bring it all together. The balance can shift quickly from crumbly to wet.
6/ Test the dough for consistency, lightly pat together some dough the size of a tennis ball. If the ball crumbles apart or has lots of dry-looking cracks in it, it is still too dry; let it break apart. Add a drop or two of water to the outside of the ball and work it just a little. If it holds firm and supple, mop up any remaining crumbs with the ball – if they pick up easily, the dough is probably wet enough. The dough should be just a little tacky when you touch it.
7/ Wrap the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
8/ Whisk together the egg and 1/4 cup of water and set aside.
9/ Divide the ball of dough into 10 pieces. Roll out one of the balls of dough (refrigerate the other pieces in the meantime) to make a rectangle and is about 2mm thick. Trim the dough to make a nice rectangular shape.
10/ Spoon 1 tablespoon of jam in the centre of the rectangle, and spread it over one half of the pastry – leaving a 1 cm border.
11/ Lift the blank part of the pastry with a spatula and lay it over the side with the jam. Gently press down the border with your fingers to seal the pastry. Then take a fork and press it along the edges.
12/ Wrap the pop tart in cling wrap and place it in the freezer and move on to the next ball of dough. The pop tart should be in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before baking.
13/ Preheat the oven to 220 degrees (425 F)
14/ Spread some of the egg mixture on the pop tart and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake them for 10 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.
15/ Cool before serving – the jam gets very hot inside the pop tart.
Tips from Bubby’s Homemade Pies
* Wet dough may seem easier to work with, but the extra water in the dough overdevelops the gluten and will result in a tough crust. If your dough is stretchy, quickly retracts when you roll it out, is sticky to touch, chances are you have added more water than you need. It is better to throw it out and start over.
* The dough should be constantly cold. If the dough ceases to feel cool to touch or the butter pieces feel melty, soft and warm – put the whole thing in the freezer until it’s cooled down again. Approx 10 minutes.
Tips from the cookbookmaniac
* Unbaked pop tarts fare very well in the freezer for up to 4 weeks. They can be baked straight from the freezer to the oven. There is no need to defrost.
* Some of the jam from several of the pop tarts leaked during baking. When the jam cooled on the silicone baking sheet, they turned candy-like and were a surprise treat.
* I burnt my thumb on the hot jam when I was transferring them to the wire rack. It was very sore for a couple of hours.