Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Better Than Pop Tart

This post has been a long time in the making only because we have been testing different versions to perfect this pastry for our readers. We haven't officially named the creation yet but everyone who tastes it seems to mention that it reminds them of a pop tart. Of course this would be a very high end pop tart made with only the best quality, fresh ingredients. As usual, you can click on any of the pictures to enlarge.

The "Better Than Pop Tart" is the perfect breakfast pastry or after dinner snack.

It is not difficult to make and we've made it so many times now that we can offer you all the tips you need to make it perfectly the very first time. We've shared it with several friends and family and, so far, no one who has tasted the final version has been able to suggest any way to improve upon it.

We've been busy in the kitchen!

The pastry starts with a classic shortbread crumble crust. A layer of jam is then added. You can use any kind at all. We've had great luck with all kinds, including a homemade pomegranate jam made by a friend. So whatever flavor you like best, use that. We experimented with several frostings and found the best to be a sugar cookie icing. It dries to a shiny, hard consistency which is what seems to make it reminiscent of that favorite childhood breakfast treat.

The simple dough ingredients.

Use quality ingredients to make all the difference in the world. European butter such as Plugra or Kerry Gold would be a good choice. Fresh eggs are a must and the very best quality vanilla extract. NO imitation anything. Here's the recipe for the shortbread crumble:

Set oven to 350.

1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 ounce jar fruit preserves

Combine the sugar, flour, salt, egg, butter and vanilla. Crumble with fingers. Take half the dough and spread into a square 8x8 pan (ungreased). Spread in well. Spread jam on top. Top with the remaining dough. Bake for 25-30 minutes. When edges start to brown remove. Cool completely, at least two hours.

The hand-mixed crumble dough.

There is no need to grease the pan at all. The whole pastry will be very easy to remove in one piece. Don't feel as though you need to use that whole jar of preserves. We found the best versions used just enough to cover the bottom crust, maybe about 10 ounces.

Press the crumble dough firmly into the baking pan.

Do make sure the bottom crust covers the pan completely and is pressed in well. We found that leaving a small lip of crust at the edges actually held the preserves in well.

Don't panic if the top layer doesn't cover the entire pan.

The top layer does not need to cover completely. It's good if it does but don't panic if not. We found it helps to flatten the top layer on a marble slab or counter top, scoop it up with a scraper and place it on top. Do it in small pieces and fit them together like a puzzle.

You'll know it's done when the edges are bubbly and caramelized.

Julia Child used to time her cooking not always with a timer but with her nose. You will find that you can literally smell when this pastry is done cooking. If you have no olfactory senses check it at 25 minutes. The jam around the edges should be just golden brown and slightly bubbling. We found it took a bit closer to 30 minutes but all ovens are different.

The royal icing version of the pastry.

We started making the first version with royal icing and apricot jam. The taste was fantastic but we were not pleased with the look of the frosting. It dries hard and melts in your mouth but it looked too clumpy.

The raspberry pop tart version.

The best version we made used a sugar cookie icing. It dries smooth, glossy and hard just like a pop tart. You could even add a dot of food coloring to make it fun for the kids. We did try using green tea in one version but did not like the brownish color it gave.

Here is the icing recipe:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

In a small bowl stir together the sugar and milk and mix until smooth. Beat in the corn syrup and extract until glossy. If icing is too thick add more corn syrup.

Our experience was that the recipe needed more milk although this IS the standard recipe. So, add a little milk in small increments until the mixture is smooth. Then, add the corn syrup. The corn syrup is what sets the hardness of the icing. Let the icing dry completely. We found one hour to be perfect. When cutting make sure you use a serrated knife and saw into the pastry slowly for a clean cut. Rinse and wipe down the knife after each cut as the jam will stick to it and the bars look the very best when cut cleanly.

The sugar cookie icing version.

The recipe is fool proof delicious and sure to make your reputation as an expert cook. Just let me know what you'd suggest as a name!

For the obsessive/compulzive pastry chefs (and who isn't) here are a few more pics and pointers. Visual learning is good.

We did use a silicone pan for the first time in this process and found it worked well.

Turn the pastry out of the pan by covering the top of the pan with waxed paper or tin foil and flipping it over once. It falls right out in one piece.

Use a platic scraper to loosen the edges along the sides of the pan before turning out. We found some jams stuck just a bit to the sides.

Always sift confectioners'sugar for a smoother consistency.

Always use a serrated knife to cut this pastry. God I hate the look of this version!

The final result will be buttery and dripping with jam so serve with napkins!

1 comment:

  1. This looks out-of-this-world delicious and I'm going to try it soon. The icing looks delicious! Thanks for sharing.