To me, pop tarts are nostalgic. Different flavors bring back specific memories of my childhood.
Brown sugar cinnamon remind me of my mom in my elementary school days when she would grab one as she was running out of the house to get to work early so she could be there for us in the afternoons. No one else ate those brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts, they were on a high shelf in the pantry, out of our reach. Brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts are mom’s pop tarts.
The pop tarts my siblings and I ate resided at our grandparents house. And not the regular 8 pack or 12 pack box, no, we had the packs you only get at BJ’s or other superstores. Pop tarts were a treat and, in true cousin collaboration, we chose wisely. Each time there were inevitably some version of a chocolate flavor, be that s’mores, chocolate fudge or chocolate chip cookie dough. Every now and then a box of blueberry or strawberry would slide in the mix, but those were more of a summer vacation food.
When Pi day came around, I was set on the idea of making a type of hand pie, an individual treat you could grab and enjoy on your own time. Then I remembered a text one of my good friends sent meduring the snow a few weeks ago of a pop tart from Ted’s Bulletin in DC. I was instantly inspired to try my own hand at the breakfast pastry.
These homemade pop tarts are the perfect combination of simple nostalgic pop tarts and scrumptious fancy hand pie. With their layers of flaky pastry and their overfilled centers, they are so much better than store bought pop tarts. As with pop tarts, glazed is the only way to go. You won’t find any of that dry, unfrosted business here.
These two types of pastries embody the classic flavors of a Kellogg’s brown sugar cinnamon pop tart and the elaborate tastes of an English bakewell tart, incorporating two of my favorite ingredients – almonds and raspberries! How can you go wrong, brown sugar + cinnamon or almond paste + raspberry jam? You can’t.
And the frosting just makes the treats even that much better. It enhances the flavor of the pop tart and adds another texture and a bit more sweetness to the mix.
The layers and layers of flaky dough with gooey centers and sweet glaze make these a delicious twist on the nostalgic treat. Once you make this homemade version, you’ll never look at those blue Kellogg’s boxes again. Sorry, Kellogg’s.
Homemade Pop Tarts: Brown Sugar Cinnamon and Almond Raspberry Bakewell
For the Pastry Crust:
2 ½ cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cold and cubed
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
2 teaspoons milk
For the Brown Sugar Cinnamon Filling
½ cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour
For the Raspberry Almond Bakewell Filling
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons almond paste
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
¼ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
¼ cup flour
For the Glaze:
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk, plus more as needed
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (for the brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts)
To make the pastry crust:
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Add cold, cubed butter and, using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture by quickly breaking the butter into pieces. Some butter pieces will be the size of oats, some will be the size of peas, they don’t have to be consistent. Create a well in the mixture and pour in the cold buttermilk. Use a fork to mix the dough together. Try to moisten all the flour bits.
On a lightly floured surface, dump out the dough. It will be shaggy and moist but not wet. Divide the dough in two and gently form two disks from the halves. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Chilling the dough will help the butter re-chill and distribute the moisture.
To make the brown sugar cinnamon filling:
In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and flour together.
To make the almond bakewell filling:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar and almond paste. Add the egg yolk, followed by the lemon juice and extracts. Mix in the salt and flour until just combined.
In a small bowl whisk together the egg and 2 tablespoons of milk (from the pastry recipe) and set aside. This is the egg wash you will use when assembling the pop tarts.
Remove one chilled disc of dough from the refrigerator and roll into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Trim the edges and cut the dough into 8-12 rectangles, depending on the size of your rolled-out dough. Place your rectangles onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The dough won’t spread much, so don’t worry about placing the dough close together. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator. Take the second disc out of the refrigerator and repeat the process. The rectangles from this second disc will be the tops of your pop tarts. Place your second set of rectangles on another baking sheet and into the refrigerator as you remove your first set to prepare them for baking.
Brush your egg wash over the surface of each of the dough rectangles. Your egg wash acts as the glue that holds the bottom of the pop tarts to the tops of them. Place ½ – ¾ tablespoon almond filling plus a dollop of raspberry jam or around a tablespoon of brown sugar filling in the center of each rectangle, leaving about ¼ inch of space around the edges. Remove the second sheet of dough rectangles from the refrigerator. Since these are the tops, it is helpful to lightly stretch each one, being careful not to rip them. This will make sure there is enough room for the filling. Brush the slightly stretched rectangles with egg wash and place on top of the filling-topped rectangles, egg wash side down. Press around the edges of the pop tarts with the tines of a fork to seal the dough well on all sides. This will help ensure that the top of your pastries doesn’t separate from the bottom when they are baking. Some of your filling might just poke out of the sides in this step. That’s okay! No one ever said they would rather have an under filled pop tart.
Using a fork or a toothpick, poke a few holes in the tops of each filled pastry to allow the steam to escape. This will help your pop tart to be perfectly flaky. Refrigerate the filled pop tarts, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour. This will again firm up your pastries that have been sitting out at room temperature for a while now as you have been perfectly filling them.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. After your filled pop tarts have chilled for at least 20 minutes, take them out of the refrigerator and brush the tops with the remaining egg wash to give them a beautiful golden sheen when they come out of the oven. Bake for about 22-28 minutes, or until the pastries are golden brown, rotating the pan about halfway through baking. Let the baked pop tarts cool on the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.
To make the glaze:
In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk (and cinnamon if you are glazing the brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts) until it reaches a spreading, but not runny consistency. You want your glaze to be fairly thick, but not too thick that it is difficult to spread. Add milk to thin it out, if needed. After the pop tarts are completely cool, use a spoon to spread the glaze onto each pop tart. The glaze will completely harden in about an hour.
Store pop-tarts in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for 6 days (if they last that long). To reheat, bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Disclaimer: I have not tried putting these in a toaster, but I would stick to the oven, toaster oven or microwave for these beauties.
Congratulations, you made your very own delectable, flaky, gooey pop tarts!
*I’m sure you could use packaged pie crust and get a similar result, but the homemade dough makes the delectable flaky layers and is easy!