A picnic with trails, trains and homemade pop tarts. What’s not to love? Two days ago, deciding to defy the gray, rainy weather, my roommate and I went for a picnic to St. Jacobs’ Country. And I’d like to believe we had the last laugh. You can read all about our day in this post. (This is also my entry to the sixth Project Food Blog challenge, which was to make a meal “to go”. Thank you to everyone who helped me get this far. If you enjoy the post, please drop me a vote here. As always, I will be extremely grateful for your support.)
Shameless campaigning for votes out of the way, let’s get to the important part, namely, homemade pop tarts. Can I tell you something without you judging me? Until a few days ago, I’d never eaten a pop tart. (They are not popular in India.) I’d heard about them, but what I’d heard wasn’t really the best advertisement. While searching for picnic food ideas, I heard someone in office complain about his pop tart tasting like cardboard, and I knew I wanted to make a homemade one. But before that, I went to the store to see what the fuss (good or bad) was all about. (I had to be thorough in my research, didn’t I?) For pop tart fans out there, I’m sorry but I did not like it one bit. It was not inedible. But it was not good either. The pastry was flat, the filling was too sweet and the whole thing sat heavy in my stomach – if I’m going to feel guilty about calories, I want them to be worth it.
My homemade version bears little resemblance to the original. It is made with my favorite pastry dough (which I’ve featured here previously) and filled with a roasted red pepper chutney (which has a myriad of other uses) leading to a savory Red Pepper Jam Pop Tart. They are then sprinkled with a little bit of cheese, covered with a top layer of pastry, a light egg wash and a sprinkle of poppy seeds. But the beauty of this recipe is that you can use pretty much what you want. Fill it up with an olive tapenade, dijon mustard, pesto, cheese or your favorite chutney. Or go the dessert route and use cinnamon-sugar, your favorite jam, peanut butter, Nutella, dulce de deche or just plain chocolate. (Just don’t pile on the filling or you’ll end up with a soggy crust.)
Half an hour in the oven and the pop tarts are golden and just begging to be eaten. They lack the sturdiness of the store-bought ones, but who needs heft when you can have flaky? Though these were meant for the picnic later, I couldn’t resist sitting on the stoop and biting into one. And then I kept my camera down as the flakes flew everywhere. (Really, you won’t believe the things that have fallen on my camera. And my laptop.) The sweet and spicy pepper jam complemented the salty cheese and buttery pastry perfectly and one bite turned into several. My roomie caught me snacking and I felt like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Until I offered her one. Let’s just say there were fewer pop tarts in the picnic hamper than we were expecting.
P.S. Although these are not technically pop tarts and they can’t be toasted like traditional ones, I’m assuming you’re not too bothered by semantics, are you?
Pepper Jam Pop Tart
Make the dough (unrolled) as per this previous recipe – double the recipe and divide the dough, forming it into four rectangular portions before refrigerating (or use your favorite pastry dough)
Roasted Red Pepper Jam made as per this previous recipe and cooled (can be made ahead of time)
4 oz (120 gm) cheese, grated (I used parmesan because that’s what I had – you can use cheddar or whatever you like)
1 large egg, beaten
Poppy seeds, to sprinkle (optional; you can also use sesame)
1. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F (175⁰C). Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for 10-15 mins.
3. Generously flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out each portion of the dough till you get a thin sheet (a little bigger than 6″×8″) from which you can cut out 4 – 3″×4″ rectangles. In all, you will have 16 rectangles.
(I find it easier to work with smaller portions of dough at a time. You can also roll out 2 larger sheets, cutting out 8 rectangles from each.)
4. Spread a thin layer of pepper jam on the 8 rectangles, leaving a 1/2 inch border on each side. Sprinkle the cheese equally on top of the jam.
5. Brush the beaten egg lightly over the edges. Place the remaining 8 rectangles on top and seal the dough at the edges, pressing down with your fingers. Trim off any excess dough on the sides if your rectangles don’t sit perfectly on top of one another.
6. Press the tines of a fork all over the edges to help seal the dough further. Poke holes on the top crust to allow the steam to escape.
7. Place the tarts on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven until the tops are golden, about 20-25 mins.
8. Cool on a rack.
(Wrapped in plastic wrap when cool, these kept well the whole day and didn’t get soggy as I’d initially feared.)