I’ve been craving Pop Tarts since taking the ferry up to Alaska. They had them on the boat, but I couldn’t justify buying them, since we had plenty of snack food already. But it put the idea in my head, and every time I walk by them in the store I think about getting a box, before I remember I already have oatmeal at home. Finally, I decided the best way to be able to justify having Pop Tarts around would be to make them myself.
I loved having Pop Tarts for breakfast growing up. My mom usually got unfrosted brown sugar cinnamon, but every once in awhile, as a treat, she’d get frosted s’mores, which are to this day the only kind of Pop Tarts I actually like to toast. The rest of them, in my opinion, do much better right out of the package. But in scanning the internet for recipes, the most common ones available were brown sugar cinnamon (with icing), and strawberry. So I made a couple of both!
And, to be honest, I’m not really sure I’d want to try to make s’mores Pop Tarts from scratch. Some things are better store-bought.
But strawberry and brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tarts seemed easy enough to make on my own. Plus, there was the added bonus that I would have to be precise (thus giving me something to do for a LONG time) since you want the two halves of a Pop Tart to line up exactly. You could really make any filling you want for these, once you get the basic process down, but I don’t see any reason to mess with the tried and true.
Also, each filling recipe listed below makes enough filling for 9 Pop Tarts. So if you want to make a mix, make sure you adjust volumes.
First, to make the brown sugar cinnamon filling, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour in a small dish. Set aside. To make the strawberry filling, first whisk together the water and cornstarch in a small dish with a fork. Mix that with the strawberry jam in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until boiling, then simmer for two minutes before removing from heat to cool. Side note: I had way too much trouble trying to decide what jam-sounding word would get me the right result here. I don’t actually know the difference between jam, jelly, preserves, and fruit spread, but all four were available to me at the store, and I was paralyzed for awhile. In the end, I decided it probably didn’t make a huge difference, and went with preserves.
Back to the recipe. Next, you’ll make the pastry. And I think I may have finally discovered the secret to making the perfect pastry dough when you don’t have a food processor handy!
First, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Then, cut in the butter until all pieces are pea-sized. Next, in a small dish, whisk together the egg and milk. Add it to the butter mixture and stir with a fork until evenly moistened. Now here comes my new secret to pastry: converting the dry looking thing you see above into the dough ball you see below. No part of me thought it would come together in a ball when I turned the dry pile of flour onto a board. I was just a bit exasperated from having to hand cut the butter into the flour using two knives, so I decided I’d just go for it. I also got the inspiration from a sourdough bread I made earlier in the week in which kneading more than I thought necessary turned out to be exactly the thing to do.
So I kind of just tried to push together what I had into a ball, continuing to flatten it out, push it together, flatten it out, push it together until it started to become something. Then I got excited that it was working, and tried to knead at least the part that had come together, adding more of the dry crumblies from the board as I went. In the end, I got a ball of dough! Who knew that some hard work on an apparently hopeless cause could have such perfect results. I suspect this would also be a good strategy for scone dough, but I’ll keep you posted when I give it a try.
Anyways, split the dough in half, and roll one half out into a rectangle larger than 9×12. Then, using a ruler and a sharp knife, slice the dough into a 9×12 rectangle. Precision matters, because you’re going to be doing the same with the second half of the dough, and you want the dough halves to line up. Again using a ruler and sharp knife, slice the rectangle into 9 3×4 inch rectangles. Transfer the rectangles to a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray (or lined with parchment paper). Make a quick egg wash by whisking together an egg and 1 tablespoon of milk. Brush each rectangle generously with egg wash. Then, put about a tablespoon of filling in the center of each rectangle. Spread the filling carefully, leaving about 1/2 an inch around the outside edges for sealing purposes. Do the same roll-and-cut procedures with the second half of the dough, and place a rectangle on top of each existing rectangle. Seal the edges with your fingers before using a fork to flute the edges as well. Prick each Pop Tart with the fork a number of times on the top so steam is able to escape. Refrigerate the entire cookie sheet for 30 minutes. Then, bake the Pop Tarts at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. When Pop Tarts are cool, you can ice them. I’m including a recipe for the cinnamon icing, to be used on the brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tarts, but if you want to ice the strawberry ones (I didn’t), just omit the cinnamon.
Make the icing by mixing together the confectioners sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Spoon over each Pop Tart and allow to sit for around 30 minutes to set. And that’s it! Store them in an airtight container. The icing will harden enough to make stacking possible.
Brown Sugar Cinnamon Filling
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 4 teaspoons flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
- 3/4 cup strawberry jam
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter, cold and cubed
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Brown Sugar Cinnamon Filling
- In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Set aside.
- In a small dish, whisk together cornstarch and water.
- Combine cornstarch mixture with strawberry jam in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil and simmer for two minutes.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt.
- Cut butter into flour mixture until the size of peas.
- Use a fork to whisk together the egg and milk in a small dish.
- Add egg mixture to butter mixture and mix with fork until uniformly moistened.
- Turn dough onto surface and knead until dough comes together into a ball.
- Divide dough in half. Working with one half, roll dough out into rectangle larger than 9×12.
- Using a ruler and a sharp knife, cut dough into 9×12 rectangle. Cut rectangle into 9 3×4 inch rectangles. Transfer rectangles to greased cookie sheet.
- Make an egg wash by whisking together one egg and one tablespoon of milk. Brush each rectangle with egg wash.
- Spoon a tablespoon of filling onto each rectangle and spread, leaving about a half inch around the edges for sealing.
- Roll out second half of dough and make a 9×12 inch rectangle. Again, cut 9 3×4 inch rectangles. Place each rectangle on top of one on the cookie sheet.
- Seal the edges using your fingers and then use the tines of a fork to flute the edges. Pierce tops of each Pop Tart repeatedly to allow steam to escape during cooking.
- Place cookie sheet in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on wire rack.
- To make icing, use a fork to stir together brown sugar, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla extract in a small bowl.
- Spoon icing over each cooled brown sugar cinnamon pop tart to cover. Allow to sit 30 minutes to set.