Originally published in quality newspapers the week of April 24, 2011
When they were younger, my kids used to beg for Pop Tarts. If our grocery cart got within two isles of the breakfast foods section their pupils would dilate, their arms would reach out, and they would begin their attempts at parental manipulation. It’s funny how I had to remind them several times a day to say “please” and “thank you” yet when lobbying for something they really wanted, they quickly transform into little masters of manners.
When “please” didn’t work, they resorted to the movie-tie in tactic, trying to convince me that pastries with a Disney Pixar character on the box were somehow even more delicious than the run-of-the-mill tart. Sometimes I gave in, most of the time I didn’t.
I can’t blame them. I love them too. Pop Tarts and I grew up together, both born in 1964. I spent many a Saturday morning watching cartoons while washing down two pastries with a cold glass of milk. My children and I are certainly not alone in our love of Pop Tarts. Over 2.7 million Facebook users are fans of the tasty squares.
My wife and I make it a parenting priority to help our kids make good food choices. We aren’t militant about it but we try to be sure most meals feature lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Like most busy families, however, occasional carry-out pizzas, drive-through burgers, and Pop Tarts are seemingly unavoidable.
Every now and then, I attempt to make healthier, homemade versions of convenience-food favorites, like Pop Tarts. Making these foods at home allows me to control the ingredients that go into them and provides enough of a novelty factor, that they are almost always a hit with my boys. From a calorie perspective, my tarts are no better, I’m sure, than the grocery store version; but I feel better about using real sugar, real butter, and whole-wheat flour. There’s nothing in them that my kids can’t pronounce.
If you’ve got Pop Tart lovers in your house and an hour or so to spare, you might want to give this recipe a try and if there are kids around let them lend a hand.
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 3 tablespoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup spreadable fruit (I used strawberry)
- 1 egg yolk, beaten with two tablespoons milk
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor combine the butter and sugar then add the eggs, one at a time. Sift together flours and baking powder and add to the butter and sugar, pulsing until a soft dough ball forms. Chill for one hour. Turn the dough onto a large floured surface and roll to the thickness of a pie crust, about an eighth of an inch.
Use a knife to cut out rectangles that are about 6” x 5”, roughly the size of two Pop Tarts side by side. Spread about a tablespoon of fruit over 1/2 of each rectangle, staying way from the edges. Fold dough over the preserves, push down at the edges, and trim up the edges with your knife. Place tarts on a greased cookie sheet and brush w/the egg yolk milk mixture. Bake for about 25 minutes or until just beginning to brown.
Combine the powdered sugar and milk to make a thin frosting, Use a pastry brush to apply to each pastry. While the frosting is wet, you may also want to top with sprinkles. This will make about 16 tarts. Wrap in foil and store in refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to four months. When ready to eat, toast like you would the store-bought kind. Frozen tarts may need a little extra time.