Making Pop Tarts

The genius of Pop Tarts is that Kellogg’s took a tried-and-true favorite — the jam tarts pie-baking mothers made for kids out of dough scraps — dressed them up with a new name, some new flavors and…presto: a big fat packed goods hit. The homemade version is better. All you need are some basic ingredients and the filling of your choice. Start by stirring the dry ingredients together in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle. You can do this by hand if you like, also.

Add the butter cubes and turn the mixer up to medium-high.

Beat the mixture until it looks like coarse meal, about four minutes, then add the cold ice water.

Turn the mixture back down to low and stir until a shaggy dough starts to come together. Mine was looking a little too dry, so I added another teaspoon of water and let it go around for a couple more turns.

There we go, just right.

I turned it out onto a lightly floured board…

..gave it a quick knead or two to smooth it out…

…then separated it out into two pieces. I patted the pieces into disks…

…then shaped the disks into rectangles.

Now then, for rolling you can go in one of two directions. You can roll it between two sheets of parchment if that gives you extra confidence.

It can be quite a handy technique. You just apply the pin like so.

Me I prefer a little flour and the naked board. Roll the sheet gently into a large rectangle, about the size of a sheet of parchment..or to about 16″ x 12″. Rough edges are fine. Those of you who are afraid of pie crust, fear not this step. As I often say, pie crust isn’t meant to be rolled when it’s hard as a rock. When it’s cool or warm it’s as tame as a kitten. Go on, pet it.

Slip your dough sheet off the board onto some parchment. Place another sheet on to cover, then roll the other piece of dough the same way. Put that sheet on your stack, cover with another piece of parchment and slide everything onto a refrigerator shelf to firm for a few minutes. Maybe 20-30 of them.

When the dough has firmed a little, flip/slide one sheet back onto the lightly floured board

Trim up the edges if you feel like it.

At this point you once again have two choices. You can either cut the sheet into pieces and build the tarts one by one, or you can start laying on the filling with the idea of applying another big sheet to the top, then simply cutting the tarts out.

I prefer the latter because I don’t have to be as exact with the cutting. I don’t need a ruler, I can just size up the sheet, decide how many tarts I think I can get out of it, and start plopping down the filling. Since I trimmed this one a little small, and want my tarts to be about the same size as the commercial ones (3″ x 4″ or so), I’m going to shoot for nine. So…nine dollops of jam. Any kind is fine as long as it’s reasonably thick. Know what else is good? Nutella.

Here I’m very embarrassed to say I forgot to include a step. After the filling you want to paint some egg wash around…along the edges and in stripes between the jam dollops…like a tic tac toe board. The reason, so when you apply the top sheet, the edges seal. What can I say? I was in a hurry and forgot to take a picture.

So…do that. Then lay on the top sheet. Sounds scary I know, but it isn’t. Try this and you’ll see.

Press along the soon-to-be edges of your tarts to seal them.

Trim the excess dough. You can re-roll all the scraps, by the way. Just be gentle, more working means tougher tarts.

Then cut them out. Oops…I could have cut a little straighter there. Oh well…that’s how people know they’re home made.

Seal each tart with a fork.

Place them on parchment-lined sheets, brush them with egg wash and set them in the refrigerator to relax for 1-2 hours. Certainly no less than an hour, otherwise they’ll draw up like Shrinky Dinks in the oven. You don’t want that. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit in the meantime.

Once the resting period is over, paint them again with egg wash.

After, cut your vents. And make sure to do it after the egg. Otherwise you’ll just seal your vent holes back up. With a sharp knife cut some half-inch slits.

But don’t just cut…OPEN some vents. Give the knife a slight twist. You want to see filling. See?

Sprinkle the tops with a sugar of your choice. Here I’m just using plain granulated. It works fine.

Bake them until they’re just past blonde. This is maybe a little dark. You want to give them some room to darken in the toaster. If you just want to serve them, let them brown.

Me I like to toast them later. Toasting is sorta the point of pop tarts, no?

Why toast? So you can get some browning on the back, obviously.

Personally, I like to push the toasting until the edges practically burn. Oh yeah, that’s a good tart!

27 thoughts on “Making Pop Tarts”

  1. They look great and the option of having them toast from both sides so that there are 2 flaky crusts is very appealing. Translation: my pies always develop a soggy bottom…

    If you used a savory filling (some corned beef hash or some leftover shepherd’s pie or stewed chicken) would they automatically become pasties? Or would that require a more traditional shape and heartier filling-to-pastry ratio?

    I’m old enough, BTW, to have been around for the inauguration of Pop Tarts. As I kid I enjoyed the brown sugar and cinnamon ones. Now, I get grossed into a sugar-induced coma just reading the advertising for the ones with additional icing and drizzle-it-on glop. The simplicity of yours is soooo much more appealing!

    1. All that talk of savory fillings makes me think pasties. There’s some good history there, Joe! Good pastry, too.

      I come from Michigan and every time I head up north I have to drive past dozens of pastie stands. It’s a personal mission to try each one.

      1. I do have pasties up on the site, Erin!

        And yes, these are similar in many respects. They’re all “hand pies” as they say. They have them in southern Wisconsin as well, which is the first place I ever tasted one. Thanks for the comment!

        – Joe

        1. …speaking of which, your tutorial was once again great help! Recently I made Cornish pasties with lamb meat and, though at one point I was yelling obscenities towards pastie for not cooperating in crimping, it turned out as delicious meal (and none of them teared apart or leaked!)

          1. Excellent! I love to hear that, Antuanete! Thanks for keeping me up-to-date on the baking!

            I need to make some pasties myself this week. I miss them!


            – Joe

    2. I hope you’ll try them!

      But you certainly can use other fillings. Any sort of bake-in filling will work…even some meat or cheese if you like. As long as they’re not so thick they don’t fit in the toaster!

      Have fun!

      – Joe

  2. Ah, the deliciousness of carbon! I really want to try this now but I don’t know what to fill them with. I guess dulce de leche might work. Or Nutella. Or ganache. I wonder if butter and sugar would work or if it would just get weird and evaporate in the baking.

    1. You could try a thick paste of butter, sugar and cinnamon. That would probably work well!

      – Joe

  3. I can not wait to try these! I may have to make some tomorrow. I have seen other “pop tart” recipes but none of them have appealed to me. Yours looks awesome! Thank you!

  4. Haven’t heard about Pop-Tarts before (Kellogg’s haven’t considered exporting them to our corner of Europe, though corn flakes were among first foreign wonders, appearing here in 90ies), but now I wanna try to make them! Do you have any tips and tricks, how to apply the upper sheet of dough? This is the point where I feel danger to put the sheet in wrong place, tear apart or do other fatal mistakes.

    1. Hey Antuanete!

      Cooled, the dough sheet is very manageable. You can just pick it up, set the bottom edge against the edge of the sheet on the board, and lay it down like a blanket. This dough isn’t as delicate as regular pie dough. You won’t have a problem. Or if you’d rather assemble them one-by-one as a warm-up, you can do that too. It really doesn’t take that much longer.

      – Joe

  5. Antuanete, roll the top pastry around a rolling pin, then unroll it over the base pastry. No tears, rips or other problems.

    Good luck

  6. Thanks, Joe! I really appreciate the complete instructions. These look easy-enough to do and should be just as tasty as any homemade pastry.
    Thanks, again.

  7. They look great. Would they freeze well? And could they be popped into the toaster frozen? I’m having a big brunch in a few weeks, it would be fun to have some of these, but I’d need to make them in advance — although I run the risk of eating them all long before the brunch.

    1. Hehe, I know what you mean. The answer is yes, you can freeze them. You can also toast them frozen, though they won’t get as hot in the very middle. Maybe you can freeze them, then remove them from the freezer about half an hour early and lay them out on sheet pans. They’ll thaw very quickly.

      Let me know if you decide to do them!

      – Joe

  8. I’ve done pop tarts following Smitten Kitchen’s version (based on King Arthur Flour’s recipe), at the urging of my niece. We froze them unbaked, and she then pulled them out of the freezer as needed, baked, and ate. Skipping the toaster part, of course, and not as handy for a quick breakfast. I didn’t try one (I *really* don’t need to know how good these are!), but she did come back asking for another batch.

    She recommends the Nutella filling idea, and also Biscoff spread. The jam ones seem to have been eaten, too…

  9. Hello! Can I make this dough, with a combination of pie dough and puff pastry dough? Can I add icing sugar to the flour and use eggs instead of water to bring the dough together? Please let me explain it to you clearly. I rub butter to the flour that contains icing sugar then add eggs instead of water. I refrigerate my dough. Bring it out of the freezer then roll and fold, just like I do for puff pastry. I repeat this roll and fold process 3 to 4 times. Will this “roll and fold” process make my pie dough hard? Because it has icing sugar and eggs. The reason why I would like to make pie dough like puff pastry (roll and fold process) is because of flaky crust, and eggs to keep pie dough moist n fluffy. I tried making pie crust, once, and I was not successful. The crust tasted grainy like sand not flaky. There was absolutely no visible flakes in my pie crust. I was hoping I would see flakes like I did when I made puff pastry following your recipe on how to laminate butter in the dough. So, this time since I know how to make puff pastry, I would like to make my pie dough differently.

    1. Khan, I’d be interested to know the results of any of your experiments. Normally American pie crusts avoid water or watery ingredients like eggs whites, since they undermine flakiness. I think you’ll end up with something more like a tart dough, but I’m not really sure. Try it and get back to me…with pictures!

      – Joe

  10. These turned out very tasty using home-made jam. I noticed that a bake time was not mentioned. I baked them while checking every 5 minutes and I pulled them out at around 25 minutes. Also I would cut back on the salt a little as them come out a little salty. But overall a very nice recipe.

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