Sunday, April 15, 2012

Pie Crust Conquered - Homemade Pop Tarts

After many, many weeks (time moves 3x faster once midterms are announced, doesn't it for you?), I finally get around to bringing you one of my favorite triumphs: pie crust.  Now, this is not a tart crust.  When I tried to use it for a purpose not meant to be, it slumped and shrank and fell fearfully, sinking to the bottom of the pie pan in defeat.  However, it was still delicious.  Light and flaky, crisp and shattering under your teeth with ample buttery flavor, it nonetheless supports a filling perfectly.  Deb of Smitten Kitchen brought us this recipe years ago, but I think it's another one worth writing about again.  Besides, the scraps of crust brought us these delightful beauties :)

Yes, this recipe as written only makes 5.  They're entirely worth the work.
Although the pie crust is simple (I now understand the meaning behind, easy as pie!), it does require some forethought and space.  And if you follow the recipe as originally written (double this recipe, except the sugar), it requires quite a bit of butter.  Luckily for me, I now live in an apartment on campus and have a clean, empty, reasonably non-wobbly table available, but for those of you who do not, a large cutting board works reasonably well.  Put a damp towel underneath to prevent slippage.  This crust is most well-behaved after about 45 minutes of refrigeration, so try to plan accordingly.  

I immediately fell for these layers.  How could you not...?!
Crust adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 1 9" round crust, or about 5 Pop Tarts

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter
½ large egg, beaten well (save the other half for the glaze)
1 tablespoon milk

1 medium mixing bowl
1 rubber spatula
1 whisk (optional, but handy)
1 sturdy butter knife (for cutting the butter)
½ teaspoon measure
1 tablespoon measure
1 cup dry measure


1. In the mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt.  Cut the butter into about 16 slices and toss them into the bowl, coating with the flour mixture as you go.  With your hands, quickly break the pieces of cold butter apart, until you wind up with some pieces and some crumbs.  Add half of the beaten egg and the milk, then gently fold to make a cohesive dough.  It will come together rather reluctantly, but rest assured that the less you mess with it, the more tender and flaky the crust will come out.  If the butter in the dough softens at any point, toss it in the fridge for 15 minutes or so.  Once the dough just barely comes together, refrigerate it for about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, put together the filling.

Filling from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 9 tablespoons

3/4 cup jelly of your choice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

1 small saucepan
1 rubber spatula 
2-cup liquid measure
1 tablespoon measure

1. In the saucepan, mix the cornstarch and water to form a slurry.  Add the jelly and mix completely, then bring to a boil.  Set aside.

Sturdy countertop
Small, sharp knife for pastry (the cleaner the cut, the flakier the pastry edges)
Pastry brush or small spoon for egg glaze)
The other half of the egg you were wondering what to do with when you made the dough
Fork for pressing the edges of pastry
Toothpick for pricking the pastry (optional) 
Baking sheet
Parchment paper for lining


1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Make sure this sheet fits in your fridge!

2. Divide the dough in half, then roll out each half to be rectangular sheets.  Patience, young Padawan.  Eventually, yours too will be even and flat.  Cut the sheets into pairs of rectangles.  With the half batch of pie crust I made, I had 10 rectangles, plus scraps, equaling 5 pop tarts in the end.  

3. Brush a bottom crust with some egg, then about a tablespoon of filling.  Not too much filling, or it will squish out the sides.  Put a top crust on... the top.  With a fork, gently crimp the edges of the pastry.  Gently lay the whole pastry on the prepared sheet, then brush a little more egg on top.  Carefully poke the top of the pastry several times to prevent the blimp effect.

4. Repeat with the remaining rectangles, then put the whole thing in the fridge for about an hour.  With about 15 minutes to go (or however long your oven takes to preheat), preheat the oven to 350°F.

5. Once the pastries are cold, bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes, or until beautifully golden on the top and the whole kitchen (maybe the house) is fragrant with toasted butter.  Allow to cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then let them cool completely on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

Sweet, lightly salty, crispy, perfect bites...!

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