In college, when I didn't really have a full kitchen to myself, but I was so very sick of dining hall food, I'd grab a few things I could microwave in my dorm room to change it up. Not so much a favorite, but a standby, I usually had Hot Pockets around. I also enjoyed pop tarts, but rarely let myself buy them. After all, they're "awful for you". (I conveniently ignored this same reasoning with the Hot Pockets.)
Fast forward to a couple years ago, when I'd had my own kitchen for awhile, and hadn't really resorted to either product in quite some time. A cookbook came out, one I kept seeing reviews of on other sites. It's called The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making. On the cover, none other than pop tarts. Purely aside from the fact that Alana Chernila, the author, was clearly leading with a great recipe, it had never really occurred to me that pop tarts were something you could make. They were, in my mind, in that category of highly processed, not real food category, and were fairly well off limits for me, who goes crazy around too much sugar. Looking at this recipe though, the filling could be as sweet, or not, as I chose, and the crust was simply pie crust. I could handle that. There was even a suggestion to fill them with tomato sauce and cheese, and make a sort of pizza pocket. SOLD. I bought the book, intrigued by this and many other recipes, and have not regretted it for a moment.
While I've yet to make the hot pockets, I did take the time to make the pop tarts, partly as a treat to my son for starting first grade, and partly just because I wanted to see how they'd turn out. They were great! I've got a few tweaks in mind for next time, mainly in my assembly method, but the recipe is solid. I even tried the recommended pie crust recipe to go with it, and I'm glad I did. I probably won't stop making my mom's recipe, but this is a great recipe to have in the freezer for when I need some pie crust readily available, or when I'm just not in the mood to make some right then. The pie crust is flaky and delicious, and, as pop tarts, worlds better than the original inspiration. I filled mine with homemade strawberry jam and lemon curd, but the options are endless.
Toaster Pastries, from The Homemade Pantry, by Alana Chernilla
The longest step in this recipe is making the pie crust. You can skip it if you want, and go with store bought, but this recipe makes GREAT pie crust, and it's easy.
For the pie crust:
1 cup cold, unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (I ran out, so I subbed in whole wheat pastry flour for the last 1/2 cup or so, and these turned out great for me)
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup water
For the toaster pastries:
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
flour for the counter
One of the fillings suggested below, or your own
Opt. powdered sugar or frosting of choice for topping
Sweet: Jams, Curds, Nutella, cinnamon sugar, puréed fruit, chocolate
Savory, pizza sauce and cheese, pesto, cheese
Both: Peanut butter and jam/jelly/honey for an 'uncrustables style' sandwich
To make the pie crust:
Make sure you have space in your freezer for a mixing bowl and a measuring cup. You'll need it in a moment.
Cut the butter into 1/2 in. squares and combine with the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using your hands, toss the mixture to coat the butter in the flour. Put the bowl in the freezer. In a measuring cup, combine water, vinegar, and salt. Stir until the salt is dissolved and then put the measuring cup in the freezer as well. Freeze everything for 10 minutes.
Take just the mixing bowl out of the freezer and blend the mixture on low speed with the paddle attachment until it starts to become the texture of crumbly meal. Take the measuring cup out of the freezer and, with the mixer still running on low speed, slowly pour the wet ingredients into the bowl. The dough will be crumbly, then after about 20 seconds, it will come together in a ball. Stop the mixer.
Turn the dough out onto the counter and press it into a large disc. Cut the dough in two equal parts, wrap each piece in waxed paper (I used saran wrap) and press into a disc. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and up to 3 days. (You can also freeze at this point, in a freezer bag for extra protection. It'll be good for about 6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before rolling.) From here you can make the toaster pastries, or you have great pie crust ready for a pie!
For the toaster pastries:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll dough into a rectangle, roughly 9x12", cutting away any errant edges with a sharp knife. Cut into six smaller rectangles of roughly equal size. Transfer to baking sheet with at least 2 inches between them. (Mine were closer, and it wasn't too much of a problem, except when filling leaked a little out of one and got on the one next to it.)
With a pastry brush, brush the egg mixture onto each rectangle. Save the leftover egg mixture, you'll need it again.
Scoop about 1 tablespoon of filling onto each rectangle in a thin line down the center.
Roll out the second disc of pie dough, and repeat the process to make rectangles. Lay the new batch of rectangles on top of the rectangles with filling, and seal by pressing a fork around the perimeter of each rectangle. Using the pastry brush, paint the tops of each pastry with egg wash and poke several times with a fork.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar or spreading frosting. Enjoy!