Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Homemade Pop Tarts!

When I was a child, my mom used to send me to elementary school with congee in my lunch box -- congee! -- when what I desperately wanted was to have what all the other kids were having: Squeeze-Its, fruit roll-ups, and PB&J sandwiches.

What I wanted most of all, though, was to have pop tarts.  I would pine after them, and I would see them everywhere . . .  at the supermarket, in other kids' sack lunches, in advertisements . . . everywhere but my own hot little hands.  And that's pretty much Joanne Chang's memory too.

As she writes in her Flour Bakery cookbook:

I took the bus to elementary school every day with Linda, my best childhood friend and next-door neighbor. We always sat together in the third row and shared our breakfasts-on-the-go. Most of the time I had buttered toast or a traditional bao (Chinese white steamed bun)—pretty boring. Linda’s mom often sent her with foil-wrapped packets of Pop-Tarts, which I could never get her to trade with me. She shared bites with me occasionally, but I longed to have my own, and I could never convince my mom to buy them. When I started baking professionally, I dreamed of all the things I would offer at my own bakery. Those childhood tarts were high on my list, and I thought if I made them from scratch, they could surpass the packaged supermarket version I remembered. I was right.

I love visiting Flour Bakery, so I was pretty excited when the cookbook came out.  And of course the first recipe I tried was the homemade pop tarts.  I followed Joanne Chang's instructions (below), but used lemon curd (jarred, from Trader Joe's) instead of jam, and made my tarts in the shape of circles instead of rectangles.  They were quite a bit of work, but I assure you that it's worth the effort.

Joanne Chang's Homemade Pop Tarts Recipe

Pâte Brisée (please see recipe below)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup (340 grams) raspberry jam

Simple Vanilla Glaze
1 cup (140 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons water
Rainbow sprinkles for sprinkling (optional)
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. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each half into a 14-by-11-inch rectangle. Using a paring knife, lightly score 1 rectangle into eight 3 1/2-by-5 1/2-inch rectangles (about the size of an index card).

Brush the top surface of the entire 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 knife, a pizza roller (easier), or a fluted roller (easier and prettier), and following the scored lines, cut the layered dough into 8 rectangles. Place the rectangles, well spaced, on a baking sheet.

Bake for 40 to 45 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, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and enough of the water to make a smooth, pourable glaze. You should have about 1/2 cup. (The glaze can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.)

When the pastries have cooled for 30 minutes, brush the tops evenly with the glaze, then sprinkle with the rainbow sprinkles (if using). Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the glaze to set before serving.

The pastries can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Pâte Brisée

Makes about 18 ounces dough, enough for 8 pop-tarts or one 9-inch double-crust or lattice-top pie

1 3/4 cups (245 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks / 228 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cold milk

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), mix together the flour, 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 the 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 out onto an unfloured work surface, then gather it together into a tight mound. Using your palm and starting on one side of the mound, smear the dough bit by bit, starting at the top of the mound and then sliding your palm down the side and along the work surface (at Flour we call this “going down the mountain”), until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the dough comes together. Do this once or twice on each part of the dough, moving through the mound until the whole mess has been smeared into a cohesive dough with streaks of butter.*

Gather up the dough, wrap tightly in 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.

* This process is best attempted after watching the following Youtube video.  I had NO idea what any of these instructions meant until I saw Joanne Chang making the dough.


Try Anything Once Terri January 20, 2011 at 7:56 AM  

Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I think it's cool that you wenty to school with congee although I am sure the kids in your class had a lot of questions about it. :) I met Joanne Chang once. she was nice. I do miss Flour Bakery from when I lived in Boston. These look absolutely delicious.

Medifast Coupon January 20, 2011 at 12:38 PM  

The grass is always greener in another lunch box! This recipe looks better than any pop tart could ever be! Nice post.

lavenderpug January 20, 2011 at 1:09 PM  

oh wow that looks like quite the tasty treat. i'm totally amazed!

charms January 20, 2011 at 2:31 PM  

um those look amazing! i'm gonna have to try that recipe sometime soon. also i facebooked you but i think whole foods is coming to JP! its gonna replace stanky hi-lo grocery store. :)

Stacy January 20, 2011 at 9:51 PM  

LMAO! I'm dying here that your mom packed you congee for lunch. You poor thing.

BigAppleNosh January 20, 2011 at 10:34 PM  

Congee! Ok, I guess I don't feel so funny that my mom sent me to school with a char siu bow in a ziploc.

By the way, in my teenage years, I "rebelled" by buying poptarts and eating them in my room. Yes, wild times.

Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul January 21, 2011 at 12:47 AM  

Pop Tarts bring up so many childhood memories for me too. I would eat them EVERY SINGLE DAY! My mother didn't cook, and apparently wasn't aware that the store bought Tarts aren't the healthiest breakfast option. I haven't had one in years. I'd love to try this recipe, and make Cinnamon Brown Sugar Pop Tarts, or Apple Cinnamon :)

Karen January 21, 2011 at 5:43 AM  

Such a poignant & charming story. Of course you wanted PB&J & Poptarts like all the other kids, but, of course, it was the congee & dealing with being different that made you special; made you who you are today.

Karen, Ramat Gan

Katie January 21, 2011 at 7:42 PM  

Wow - these look amazing! I absolutely loved Pop Tarts as a kid...I still find myself tempted to buy them when I peruse the grocery store sometimes!

lynne January 22, 2011 at 2:00 AM  

I've been meaning to make these! Thanks for the push!

Sandy January 23, 2011 at 4:03 PM  

they look wonderful! i'm a big fan of pop tarts and i'd love to make my own...

Micah and Catherine March 8, 2011 at 11:37 AM  

I want to make these I've been thinking about it for a few weeks

Jessica Thelander January 26, 2012 at 1:07 PM  

Hi Joanne,

I'm working for the site I've been perusing your website, and I really enjoy your recipes! I’ve linked to one of them. You can view it here:

Do we have permission to link in this manner from this post as well as your current blogs in the future? In addition, we would similarly like to use this recipe and its accompanying photo in our e-mail newsletters and eCookbooks. Often, for instance, we develop and promote blogger eCookbooks. All of this would drive traffic to your blog. *You would receive credit for your recipe with these links.
You can view a past eCookbook to see how we credit bloggers:

As you'll see, we do not post the recipe in full, but rather link out to it just as we do on the site. Please let us know what you think!

You can contact me at jthelander [at] primecp [dot] com.

Thanks so much!

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