Taking on the toaster tart challenge

Believe it or not, I think one of the driving forces behind baking is competition. As in, “I can make a better birthday cake than the supermarket.” Or “My dinner rolls taste better than the bakery’s.” Or even “Huh, I didn’t think her chocolate chip cookies were THAT good. I’ll bring a batch of MY cookies to work and see how people react…”

Oh, sure, there’s a lot more allure to baking than simple one-upsmanship. There’s the creative process itself, which to most of us is the raison d’etre for long, lazy Saturdays spent checking the progress of rising bread dough, or enjoying the aroma of chocolate chip cookies ready to come out of the oven. There’s the relaxation of sitting in a rocker with a cup of tea and a cookbook. The fun of braiding silken ropes of yeast dough into scali bread.

And then there’s the unmitigated pleasure of a warm slice of cinnamon-y apple pie, a scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream melting in rivulets over its buttery crust. Or a chunk of baguette, hot from the oven, dipped in garlic-infused olive oil. Sharing and enjoying the fruits of your (pleasurable) labor is definitely baking’s high point, for most of us.

But back to the competition. Once you’ve progressed past the basics (e.g., making the better birthday cake), it’s time to move onto the challenges. And that’s what this week’s project is: a delicious challenge.

Inspired by a version created by pastry chef and bakery owner Joanne Chang of Boston (whose Flour Bakery + Café is featured in King Arthur Flour’s Baking Across America initiative), I decided to try toaster tarts. You know, those flat pastry rectangles filled with jam or brown sugar/cinnamon, iced or not. Pop ’em in the toaster, and out they come, warm and soft and ready to scarf down. They were my high school savior; I could easily down two as I jogged the 2 miles to the bus stop, late as always. And I’ve loved them ever since. But I’d never tried to make them—until now.

And it’s been quite an experience. “Lots of moving parts” is how I think of a recipe like this. How much flour in the filling? Too little, the brown sugar oozes out; too much, it stiffens up. Is it really necessary to chill the dough twice—once before rolling, once after assembling the tarts? Let’s see what happens with no chilling… whoops, forgot to adjust the baking time and they burned. And poking just a few holes in the top of each tart before baking is prettier than a whole lotta holes… but without enough holes, BALLOONS!

Anyway, I hope I’ve worked all the kinks out, and that you enjoy these toaster tarts. Because there’s another reason for baking your own homemade stuff, one I haven’t mentioned yet, but one embodied in this particular recipe. Compare the list of ingredients in your own homemade toaster tarts—King Arthur Flour, butter, salt, eggs, milk, sugar, and cinnamon—to the list of ingredients in supermarket toaster tarts:

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Whew! Let’s get started on our homemade version.

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To cut butter into little cubes, perfect for easily integrating into flour, make three lengthwise cuts in a stick of butter. Turn it 90°, and make three more lengthwise cuts. If you look at the end of the stick, you’ll see nine little squares.

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Cut the butter crosswise into 3/8” slices, to make little cubes.

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Toss with the flour, working them in with a pastry blender or fork, your fingers, or a mixer.

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Don’t keep working the butter till the mixture is evenly crumbly; it’s good to leave some bigger chunks, like this.

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Add the milk and egg, and toss to moisten everything.

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Then squeeze it all together. See the patches of butter? Again, this is good! It helps make a flaky crust.

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Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a thick rectangle. Since you’re going to be rolling the dough into a rectangle, you might as well start with a rectangular shape, right? At this point you can chill the dough… or not.

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You want to roll each piece of dough into a 9” x 12” rectangle. Once you’re pretty close, lay a 9” x 13” pan on top to see how much more you need to roll.

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Cut the rolled-out dough into a nice straight 9” x 12” rectangle. Save the dough scraps; you’ll bake them later. Set the rectangle aside, and roll the other piece of dough to the same size.

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Brush the dough with beaten egg. This will help the top and bottom crusts stick together.

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Score the dough into nine 3” x 4” rectangles. Just press a straight edge into the dough to mark it; you don’t want to actually cut through it yet. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of the filling into the center of each rectangle.

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Cover the filling with the first rectangle you rolled out, pressing down with your fingers between the mounds of filling. Press the outer edges closed, and press again with the tines of a fork. Use the fork to prick the dough over the filling, to let steam escape. Make multiple holes; be generous.

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Cut the rectangles apart, seal the cut edges, and press with a fork. You want to prevent the filling from oozing out as much as possible.

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Lay the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Parchment will make cleanup easy, when/if the filling escapes. Refrigerate the tarts for 30 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 350°F.

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Bake the tarts for 25 to 35 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Don’t overbake; the filling may become stiff and hard, if you do.

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And here they are: flaky, buttery toaster tarts.

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Here’s the store-bought version on the left; yours on the right. Nice, huh?

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And here they are cut crosswise, to show the filling. Again, store-bought on the left; yours on the right. I can actually see serving these as dessert, warm from the oven (or rewarmed in the toaster), topped with vanilla ice cream… wow. Guess I’d better test them one more time to be sure…

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Hey, don’t forget to bake all those dough scraps you trimmed from the 9” x 12” rectangles. They make wonderful snacks; sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, and bake for 13 to 15 minutes (while the tarts are chilling in the fridge).

See our recipe for Tasty Toaster Tarts.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Susan Williams

    Hmmm – these are reminiscent of southern “Fried Pies”. (The name makes me cringe, but I’m a northern girl.) Can you do something on home-made Fried Pies? Fried Pies a LOT of different fillings – sweet, savory and just plain different.

    Reply
  2. PJ Hamel

    They do LOOK like fried pies, Susan, but the method is different (bake vs. deep- or shallow-fry). They’d definitely be tasty for summer, wouldn’t they? Thanks for the suggestion-

    Reply
  3. Christina

    mmmm. I made some fried pies with fresh picked strawberry-filling. We burnt our tongues repeatedly because we couldn’t help eating them straight out of the pan… I do like the idea of baking better — maybe just filling with some jam put up last summer?

    Reply
  4. PJ Hamel

    Christina – follow the jam filling variation in the toaster pastries recipe – it calls for cooking the jam with some thickener first, so it won’t leak out of the pastry. But strawberry does sound yummy-

    Reply
  5. Kim

    OMG do these look scrumptious! For once, I wouldn’t change a thing, except maybe devise a cherry filling. I’m a fool for sour cherry. Oh yeah, pumpkin too. And don’t forget lemon!

    Possibilities, possibilities. YUM!!

    Reply
  6. Jim In Holland

    Hmmm… Over here in Amsterdam, a box of PopTars costs about $7.85 (around 5 euros), so this is a brilliant idea…thanks!

    One thing though – filings. What would you call a good sugar/cinnamon mix? I might try these with a peanut butter and jelly mix this weekend.

    Reply
  7. Brenda L. Becker

    Okay, today’s recipe for DIY Pop-Tarts (ok, “toaster pastries”) has me on fire–what a great idea, the storebought ones are awful but homemade should be fantastic!
    BUT BUT BUT…the recipe left out a crucial final instruction: how long do they last, can you store them shelf-stable like the storebought, and can you freeze them and (duh) re-activate them in the TOASTER? This recipe leaves us at “fresh out of the oven” but a true Pop-Tart is a convenience food. Will a true butter pastry melt and burn in my toaster if I go to crisp it up later?? Not a small matter!
    THANKS!

    Brenda L. Becker

    Reply
  8. PJ Hamel

    Jim, the recipe online will give you a good brown sugar-cinnamon mix.
    Brenda – had some of these wrapped in plastic, at room temperature, for over a week. They were fine. More than that I can’t tell you, they’ve all been eaten! Certainly, you could freeze them, as you’d freeze a baked pie or slice of pie. They’ll get dried out and old eventually, but just be reasonable. And yes, you can certainly toast them – GENTLY. Since they do have a lot of butter, they’ll go from warm to burned more quickly than regular tarts. Good luck!

    Reply
  9. Nancy

    My question is – can I substitute King Arthur’s cinnamon filling mix
    > for the filling in this recipe? If so, how much should I use? I
    > know, I should be able to figure this out myself, but I thought I’d
    > ask you, the experts.
    >
    > Thank you!
    > Nancy

    Reply
  10. PJ Hamel

    Hi Nancy: I tried the Baker’s Cinnamon Filling, but as prepared it was too wet; it boiled out. I’d suggest you could use it, but try using it without adding liquid, see what happens (and let me know!) You should probably use about 1 heaping tablespoon dry filling per tart, which would be 2/3 cup or so.

    Reply
  11. Moira

    These look wonderful, and I can’t wait to try them.
    I am wondering, is there any reason that I cannot form the tarts the night before, refrigerate them covered overnight, and bake them freshly in the morning for breakfast?
    For that matter, could the formed, unbaked tarts be frozen and baked straight from the freezer? Or maybe moved from the freezer to the refrigerator overnight and baked in the morning?
    This would add convenience for a special weekday breakfast-
    Thanks,
    Moira

    Reply
  12. PJ Hamel

    Moira, yes to everything. There’s no leavening involved, so you don’t need to worry about that. Like anything, too long in the freezer and they suffer (dryness and freezer burn), but a reasonable-length stay in the freezer should be just fine. They might be even better right from the freezer, as the fat and filling will both be more solid, meaning more flakiness and less chance of ooze. I’d say give it a try and report back! Thanks-

    Reply
  13. Nel

    I’m a little puzzled because I printed out the recipe for the Toaster Tarts awhile ago (28 March) and the recipe had raspberry jam as the filling and a topping of confectioner’s sugar and water. The recipe I see now has cinnamon filling (jam as an option) and no icing.

    Did something change? I’m sure I got the original recipe from the KA site, though I first learned about them when I stumbled on the video from the Flour Bakery + Cafe.

    Did you change the recipe on this site? I feel like I’ve entered the Twilight Zone…

    Reply
  14. Teri ww

    I baked these yesterday with the cinnamon filling. They were a hit with all my guys 14 thru 81. I want to make them again soon using my homemade strawberry jam. Thanks KA for another fun recipe!

    Reply
  15. PJ Hamel

    Nel, basically the same recipe – just different versions. Same pastry, same method. Different fillings, option for frosting or not. The recipe illustrated above appears in our recipe archive; the one you got a few weeks ago links off the “Baking Across America” section on the kingarthurflour.com home page. They’re both online; you can take your choice. As I said, they’re basically just versions of the same recipe.
    Teri, glad all your guys liked the tarts! Bet the strawberry jam ones will be a hit, too.

    Reply
  16. Margo

    I’d love to make these for my grandson, I know they are much more healthier than the store bought tarts. Did you ever try using whole wheat flour? What would the conversion be, WW flour vs. white unbleached?
    Thanks. Margo

    Reply
  17. PJ Hamel , post author

    Margo, I haven’t tried these with ww flour,though I’ve made piecrust with ww flour, and this is very similar. I know you’d cut back on the fat a bit; I’d cut out 2 to 3 tablespoons. The crust will be harder to roll, and will make a tougher final product, as well as one that doesn’t taste as good (probably; whole wheat tends to have a “tannic” taste). If you can get King Arthur organic white whole wheat flour, that’s a wonderful whole wheat choice.

    Reply
  18. JennP

    Thanks for sharing! I printed out the other one a few weeks ago but haven’t had a chance to make it yet….I have visions of using Nutella for the filling…..or maybe some Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter……..

    Reply
  19. Nel

    Thanks for that answer.

    Now I have another question. I’m in Europe, and where I live, ALL the jam in the shops is ‘low sugar.’ When I grew up in the States, all the jam was high sugar! I mean that it was sweeter and had a thicker consistency than the jam here nowadays (it used to be full-sugar here, but gradually all the full-sugar brands seem to have disappeared). I bought a jar of ‘fruits of the forest’ jam (raspberries, blackberries, wild blueberries) and it had sugar, pectin and guar gum in addition to the fruit.

    I’d like to use a fruit filling, and wondered if the jam used in the recipe was traditional jam with lots of sugar, or this somewhat less thick jam with less sugar.

    If it’s ‘traditional’ jam with lots of sugar, I’ll probably have to make my own this summer before making the tarts. (Would probably be better than store-bought anyway.)

    I’m also thinking about a really thick apple filling and icing with a smidgen of cinnamon. My guys love apple pie.

    Reply
  20. PJ Hamel

    Nel, I don’t think it matters, low sugar or high sugar. So long as you thicken it so it doesn’t boil out… not sure what direction to give you in this respect, as the jam (or other fillings) can vary so much. Just give it a go, that’s what I’d say. Good luck!

    Reply
  21. Susan S.

    Fabulous… so good that I have been prohibited from making these again (which means that my family will be asking for me to make them again in just a few days…). I have found that the dough benefits from a brief stay in the refrigerator often as I work with it since it is very hard to work with when it’s not quite cool. I also doubled the recipe and that worked very well.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  22. Nancy R

    This recipe for toaster pastries was a hit with the family. For the filling, I added a heaping teaspoon of Nutella and a bit of the cinnamon filling listed in the recipe. Delicious – the possibilites are endless….

    Reply
  23. mari

    hi-
    these are winners!
    my husband wants me to try stuffing these with apples. would y’all cook the apples down first, of just make a mini apple pie filling and use that?

    mari

    Reply
  24. PJ Hamel , post author

    Mari, I’d cook the apples at least partway, maybe even most of the way. these are so thin, it’s easy for the filling to bubble out all over the place unless it’s pretty stable to begin with. Sounds great – have fun!

    Reply
  25. Helga

    I made these. They tasted like…pop tarts. I really expected them to be overwhelmingly better, but they weren’t. And, they were a pain in the neck to make. Not worth the time and effort – pop tarts don’t cost that much!

    Reply
  26. PJ Hamel

    WOW, Helga – Did you use butter? I have to truthfully say, to me, these don’t taste anything like Pop Tarts – the buttery crust on these is definitely a huge improvement on PT’s shortening-based crust. But definitely don’t make them again if you don’t like them – each to his own, eh?

    Reply
  27. kiandra

    sold, sold, sold!! i will forever be a part of your fan club since 1) discovering this wonderful blog tonight and 2) finding such a wonderful recipe (that i haven’t tried yet but i’m baking savy enough to know a good one when i see one).

    my kiddies love pt, but i hate the unhealthiness of them…no need to fret i can make them myself…

    i am often a “vegan” baker as we have milk allergies here…and most times i forgo the eggs if i can get around them.

    i can’t wait to work through your recipes (hope you don’t mind i have to “veganize them for health reasons) and to stay continually plugged into your blog…i’m amazed at how personal and wonderful it is. usually company blogs don’t have the same personal feel as “regular” blogs…but here, i beg to differ and will be adding you to my blog line up and sending more bakers your way.

    i love kaf…i got a pain de mie pan for mother’s day…and made pain de mie monday…it’s mostly gone…

    thank you a million times over!

    Reply
  28. Anne

    I did this a couple years ago since I have 7 kids who LOVE toaster tarts. It can get really expensive erally quickly to provide them daily. I posted about it–somewhere on my blog!

    Awesome version, I think they look gorgeous! Who wouldn’t want these over the boxed stuff?

    Reply
  29. Sebastian

    I tried this recipe and failed :( I had a problem with rolling out the dough, the butter started sticking to everything, the rolling pin and my work surface. Also the dough was cracking a little bit. It probably could have used some more liquid. I used a digital scale to measure out the flour and everything. Any ideas?

    A bit more liquid and have the dough very, very cold dough, Sebastian. Maybe try cutting the dough in half and rolling half at a time. Whatever you can handle before it gets warm. Make sure rolling pin is chilled, everything as cold as possible. Sorry – hope you try it again! – PJH

    Reply
  30. Lisa

    Oh, we loved these!! I doubled the recipe and made the dough the night before. It was a cinch to roll in the morning and get in to the oven. My family was in heaven. I filled half the tarts with the cinnamon sugar mixture and half with chocolate chips. The chocolate chip filled tarts were my favorite. The crust was so incredibly flaky and delicious, could I use the recipe for a pie crust?

    Yes, Lisa, you could absolutely use this for a pie crust – in fact, I have. Glad you liked the tarts – chocolate chip sounds decadent! PJH

    Reply
  31. Shaun

    I know Flour bakery well – I went to grad school and culinary school in Boston. (In fact, Joanne Chang taught a day of pastry.)

    This recipe is SO incredibly good! A zillion times better than the storebought ones; really, these are in a different class. I used the instructions for jam filling and made cherry tarts for my congregation. Perfect results… incredible crust… and the tarts quickly disappeared! I’m in Alabama now, so I definitely needed to chill the dough between steps. I’d like to try this with homemade fig jam. Thanks for this recipe.

    Ooooh, fig jam, Shaun – great idea! I love Stonewall Kitchen’s fig-walnut jam… I actually visited Flour bakery for the first time in June – wonderful, wonderful stuff… PJH

    Reply
  32. Beth @ 990 Square

    I just made these with some homemade rhubarb jam (thickened up with cornstarch so it was the consistency of apple butter) and they are divine! My husband declared this the best crust ever, and he can’t wait to try every kind of jam under the sun as filling!

    Reply
  33. GFkid

    Would this work well gluten free?
    I would suggest using our Gluten-Free Pie Crust recipe to get that flakiness you want in this dough. It may result in a few less toaster tarts, but likewise, doubling the recipe would give you more. Either way, let us know how it goes! :) ~Jessica@KAF

    Reply
  34. Heather Rose

    So I made these last night using gluten free baking mix instead of flour (gluten allergy) and they came out pretty good, but a bit crumbly. Do you have any suggestions on how to adapt the recipe to account for the gluten free mix?
    If you were using the all purpose gluten free flour, then it is actually not a mix. There is no leavening or xanthan gum added to the flour. If you are trying to apply this flour to a standard recipe, then you will need to add about 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum to the flour before mixing. I would also recommend adding a second egg. ~Amy

    Reply
  35. jhwkdoc

    To help a novice baker, could you explain the egg and milk in the dough? This appears to be similar to the pie dough recipe I use except the egg and milk instead of ice water. Does the egg and milk make the dough less fragile than water would? Does the egg and milk contribute to browning? I liked the recipe I am just trying to understand the why to what’s going on. Thanks, John
    Hi John,
    This dough is a bit richer than pie dough, so hence the egg and milk. Both add tenderness to the dough, and the milk does help in browning, as it is higher in sugars than plain water. Hope this helps. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  36. jhwkdoc

    A follow up question if you don’t mind. I have found recipes for pâté brisee that use 2 egg yolks instead of one whole egg. Is there an advantage to one over the other?
    Using yolks will make a richer brisee dough. ~Amy

    Reply
  37. Leslie Lamie

    I read all the comments and did not find anyone using a canned fruit pie filling. I bought both a strawberry pie filling and a cherry pie filling. I did read how some had to thicken jams first before putting on the dough so it wouldn’t boil out. My dough is in the fridge at this moment, and I need to roll it out soon. Just wondered if anyone has had any luck with fruit pie filling, or if I need to thicken it too?
    Hi Leslie,
    If the pie filling is good and thick in the jar, it should be fine in the tarts. Most fillings are thicker than jams to start with, so you should be good using it as is. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  38. Cindy56

    Is it possible to put these in a standard toaster? I don’t have a toaster oven any more.

    Sure, Cindy, they’re thinner than a bagel, so should fit. Just make sure they’re well-sealed, so they don’t leak their filling into your toaster. PJH

    Reply
  39. bcornett

    Made these tonight with three different fillings, chocolate chips, the cinnamon sugar filling as stated in the recipe and the blueberry filling from the blueberry hand pie recipe. So far I’ve only tried the chocolate chip one but it was wonderful! Half the batch is in the freezer. It’s just the two of us at home now! I watched the video of Joanne Chang showing how to frissage the dough so I tried that. I’ve never had such tender flakey crust!! I want to make the crust by the recipe now just to see if there’s a huge difference. I guess we’ll have more toaster tarts to eat! Thank you for the great instruction.

    Reply
  40. omaria

    I have a small container with quince paste. Don’t know how it tastes yet. I think I want to use it in these poptarts. Do you think I could put some almond paste first and then a little quince paste on top ? It is only 4.2 oz. Would that work ?

    That should work fine, just make sure not to over fill them! Also, taste the quince paste before using it to make sure it is something you want to use as a filling.-Jon

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Kim, they gradually soften up, but a simple reheat in the toaster (or toaster oven if you’ve happened to drizzle them with icing) brings back their lovely texture. PJH

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