The Queen of Tarts

by Donald Wilson on March 26, 2011

For the next three weeks (until April 16th) I will be only posting recipes and short anecdotes.  I have a major test to pass that is required by my school district and it will require many hours of study.  After the test, I am taking Andrew to visit my old home in Mexico and I will celebrate the end of the test and trip with weeks of traditional Mexican cooking.

Eat your heart out kellog
Pop Tarts…  Need I say more?

There are very few sweet junk foods that I couldn’t live without.  Now, I’m not talking about anything homemade that comes out of the kitchen.  Of course I couldn’t live without brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and the like.  Furthermore, I would never call them “junk.”  Although an indulgence, they are part of our family’s balanced approach to nutrition and all the makings for them are included in our apocalypse storage bin.   No, what I’m talking about is that certain “je ne sais quoi” conflation of chemicals that has produced some of science’s greatest gifts to mankind: the Slurpee, the peanuts at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks, Coco and Fruity Pebbles….   However, the apotheosis of all that is good and right in the world of chemical-induced-food comas is the Pop-Tart.  It is a miracle from the golden age of science that made us believe that Tang was a proper beverage for surviving celestial travel.  I defy anyone of a certain age to disagree.

My kingdom for a Pop-Tart any day.

Andrew would agree and I love him all the more for it.  So when I saw an article in the Los Angeles TIMES food section on homemade Pop-Tarts (March 3, 2011), I got that “I could have had a V-8” feeling.  I just can’t believe that it never occurred to me to recreate this icon of indulgences at home.

Andrew’s response to the homemade Pop-Tarts was to immediately slam down three of them with a large glass of milk.  He couldn’t get over how much he liked them “even better than store bought” and concluded with, “You know, having a gay dad definitely has its advantages!”  He may not think so when he’s heard Madame Butterfly blast across the house for the umpteenth time, but then again, who makes homemade Pop-Tarts!

____________________________________________________

The TIMES article is less of a recipe and more of a concept.  Basically, it says to use your favorite pie dough and get creative with the fillings.  Other than that, you just need a rolling pin and a ruler.  This is not a hard project, but do plan to spend a couple of hours to pull this off, as there is refrigeration time in between steps.  I started the night before with the dough (20 minutes), got up in the morning and rolled, cut and filled the tarts, (1 hour), ran off to the L.A. Marathon (to cheer for  our 15- year-old-friend Clara, not to run in the marathon), came back and baked the tarts. (30 minutes).  I add the times here to hopefully encourage and convince more people to try this at home.

My Favorite Pie Dough

This is an easy dough that comes together fast, but needs refrigeration time.  It’s flaky, buttery, and tender with just the right crunch.  Use it for everything.  If you want a savory version, just omit the sugar and vanilla.

2 cups flour

1 cup (2 sticks butter), very cold or preferably frozen

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

4 tablespoons ice water

2 tablespoons sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.  Slice the cold butter in thin slices and put in bowl.  If the butter is frozen, use a sharp knife to slice the butter.  Using your hands, work the ingredients until they form a mixture that resembles small pebbles mixed with cornmeal.  Beat the egg with the ice water and vanilla and add to flour mixture.  Mix with a fork until it comes together.  It will be a wet dough.  Knead it just long enough to form a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours or over night.

You might as well make two batches.  One batch makes eight tarts and that isn’t going to be enough.  Trust me.

When the dough is ready, pull it from the fridge and cut into two equal parts.  Put one back in the fridge while rolling out the first.

Roll the dough into a 9” x 12” rectangle. Have extra flour on hand to dust your work surface so the dough doesn’t stick.   The TIMES article says to press the ruler up against the dough to keep the sides and the angles true.  However, even using that method, it’s hard to get straight edges, so I’ve given a recipe that allows you to roll it out slightly larger and using a ruler, trim to the right size (see photo below).

 

Roll the dough slightly larger than you need and cut it down to size

Roll the dough slightly larger than you need and cut it down to size

Roll out the other half the same way.

Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, pressing the ruler down slightly so that you can see the lines.  Divide the each rectangle in half again and then each square again.  You will have eight 3 ½” x 4” shapes. (see photo).  Place the rectangles on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and place in fridge for a bit to cool again.

 

No need for to worry about squiggly lines. It comes together later, promise.

Make an egg wash, using 1 egg beaten.

Using a pastry brush, brush half the squares with the beaten egg, making sure to get edges.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each brushed rectangle, spreading it out a bit ensuring that you leave about a half inch on the edges. Cover it with an unbrushed pastry and gently press around the edges.

 

Putting the pop into the Pop Tart!

Using a fork, press around the edges of the tarts to make sure you have sealed them completely.  You don’t want filling spilling out during the baking.  Using a fork, poke holes on the top of the tarts to allow steam to escape.  Make different designs with the fork to help you remember which tarts have which fillings.

Place the filled tarts back on the cookie sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can go off and run a marathon, if you must, at this point.)

 

Coming and going from the fridge

Just before putting the tarts in the oven, brush the tops with some of the remaining egg wash.  Bake the tarts on a rack in the middle of the oven until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.  Cool the tarts on a rack.

 

Ready for your kids or the kid in you!

Fillings

Nutella is a great and easy filling, as is any of your favorite jams and preserves.  I used my French Vanilla Apple Sauce that is the base for my larger apple tarts and it was fantastic.

French Vanilla Apple Sauce

4 apples (preferably organic, I use Granny Smith, Fuji, or Jonathon), cored and coarsely chopped 6 tablespoons butter

¼ cup sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it)

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the apples.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until completely soft and sauce like.  This can take up to 30 minutes.  I mash them with a potato masher to help speed things up.  I also like to use my immersion blender to puree it, but like to leave it a bit chunky. You want the sauce to be on the dry side so it doesn’t dampen the pastry dough.  When the apples are sauce like add the sugar, salt and vanilla and take off the heat.  You have enough filling for about 10 tarts and some to eat by the spoonful.

 

Here’s another great filling that works as a base for a larger pear tart as well.

Pear Anise butter

4 pears,  coarsely chopped

6 tablespoons butter

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoon anise seed, coarsely chopped by hand or in a coffee grinder

1 tablespoon pear liquor (optional)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the pears.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until completely soft and sauce like.  This can take up to 30 minutes.  After 15 minutes, add the anise seed and continue to cook.  I mash them with a potato masher to help speed things up.  You want the sauce to be on the drier side so it doesn’t dampen the pastry dough. I also like to use my immersion blender to puree it, but like to leave it a bit chunky.  When the pears are sauce like add the sugar, salt and vanilla and take it off the heat.  Let cool before using.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Kriz March 27, 2011 at 1:45 am

OMG! Fabulous! I wanna come visit Andrew and his gay dad sometime just to bask in the gloriousness of it ALL! MmmmmGOOD!

And yes, I’d love “a nice Hawaiian Punch” to go with that!

Chao.

Miguelito

Reply

Yvette McNally April 10, 2011 at 7:24 am

Those look so good. And yes I know about Tang…LOL sat on the shelf right next to the Ovalteen.

Reply

Donald Wilson April 10, 2011 at 8:25 pm

I think I need to add Hawaiian Punch with that Ovalteen!

Reply

Flora Barndt December 29, 2013 at 5:57 am

Well, I guess my babies will have uncle Don’s Pop Tarts for Sunday breakfast.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: