You know that friend you had as a kid? The one with cupboard upon cupboard of cookies, chips, packaged foods, desserts and a freezer full of pizza, french fries, and chicken fingers? Yes, we all had that friend. But I was not that friend.
In hindsight, it’s probably best that we didn’t have cupboards overflowing with salty, sweet, incredibly over processed foods, but if you’d asked me when I was younger, I would have told you I was deprived. Missing out on a life of Fruit Roll Ups and Dunkeroos in exchange for cheese and apples. Needless to say, I was not at the top of the “Would like to trade snacks with” list.
Grocery shopping with my dad was one of my favourite weekend activities. He was, and still is, predictable in a good many of his purchases. Especially when it came to the snack aisle. I remember my sister and I would occasionally try to swing one by him, tucking a box of Pop-Tarts or Dino-sours underneath the ever-present bananas or hot mortadella. But my good ol Dad, knowing exactly what should (and shouldn’t) be in that cart, would pluck it out and place it back on the shelf with a smug grin. He must have known that he was paving the path for our future eating habits. As much as I hate admitting when my parents were right…
I’ll leave it at that. I don’t want you getting a big head or anything, Dad. [OK, you were right. There, I said it.]
I think more so than actually enjoying the sweet packaged snacks, it was thrilling to be able to eat them. Whether it was at a friends house, or with a few allowance dollars, it felt like getting away with murder. The only problem was how terrible they actually tasted. Take a much sought-after Pop-Tart, for example, with it’s sandy crust reminiscent of cardboard, ’fruit’-filling containing about as much fruit as a jelly doughnut and topped with an icing that likely contains at least 20 ingredients, with not one them being sugar. Not exactly the type of snack that seems worthy of a child’s lust. But of course, that didn’t stop me from cramming perfectly measured square after square into my gob.
Fast forward 15 years. Though you may find the occasional bag of chips, and maybe some processed cheese slices, a well-known guilty pleasure of mine and my sisters, I have very little in the way of snack food. Likely a result of my well-meaning parents. But when I came across Deb from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Homemade Pop Tarts [sound of simultaneous jaw dropping to the floor + head exploding], I knew my house was about to get a little snackier. Hey, it’s homemade so it’s cool. Right?
[I made a little homemade jam for extra delicious tarts. My favourite is David Lebovitz’s Berry-Rhubarb Jam. Recipe here.]
Though, as always, I was a little intimidated by the shortbread-like crust, I pressed on and was amazed at how simple these adorable little filled-pastries were. Fill them with whatever you have on hand. I did three different varieties; Mixed Berry, Peanut Butter & Jam, and Nutella filled. Honestly, my favourite was the simple jam-filled ones. It helps keep them moist, and the tart jam was a nice flavour contrast to the sweet flaky dough. If you’re looking for a nice breakfast treat for guests, or even a sweet lunchbox surprise for your kids, these will win over even the pickiest of snackers.
Homemade Pop Tarts
recipe from Smitten Kitchen
2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 1/2 All Purpose + 1/2cup whole wheat flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk or water
1 large egg (for brushing tops of pastry)
Mix the flour, sugar and salt. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the dry ingredients until there are no bigger than pea-sized lumps of butter. It should hold together if you squeeze it.
Whisk the egg and milk (or water) together. Stir them into the dough until evenly combined. Knead once or twice on a well floured surface, if needed. Cut dough in half and form into a rectangle. I opted to chill mine for 30 minutes before working with it as my kitchen was warm, but you may roll it out from this point into a large rectangle (about 9x12” in size, 1/8” thick). This is not an exact science, folks. Pop Tarts are supposed to be fun. Cut the rectangle into 3” x 4” rectangles. You should get about nine of these.
1 tbsp of jam, Nutella, nut butter, caramel, dark chocolate, or other filling of your choice per tart
Place your filling on one rectangle and top with another. Dip the tines of a fork into flour and press around the edges to seal the tarts. Using the tines or a toothpick, poke a few steam holes in the tops of the tarts. Give your addition egg a quick whisk in a small bowl. Brush the tops of the tarts with the egg wash. This will help make them shiny and golden brown on top.
If you’d like, and I trust you will, you can top them with some coarse turbinado sugar for extra crunch.
Place the tarts on a baking sheet and place in the fridge for 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350.
Once chilled, bake tarts for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Note: if you’d like to do a savoury tart, omit the sugar and cut the salt in half in the dough. Some filling ideas I received from Twitter followers were: Bacon & Egg, Marinara & Mozzarella, Parmesan & Basil Pesto, and Cheddar & Apple. Really, the possibilites are endless. What wouldn’t taste good in a shortbread crust?! The answer is nothing, guys. NOTHING.