Learn how to make homemade Pop-Tarts, including the process and steps to get to this recipe. I did a lot of tests to get the filling for pop-tarts just right.
I don't know why, but I thought this recipe for homemade pop tarts would be easy to develop. Hah! I'm funny that way. Of course, I was absolutely wrong!
Pop-Tarts have a jammy, thick filling. Starting with a homemade (or store-bought) fruit compote like a rhubarb apple compote (with a few raspberries thrown in to help the compote achieve a pretty pink hue) is too watery to fill them.
- mix it with cornstarch or a thickener, and heat it to get that cornstarch to thicken it—not recommended. This doesn't work super well and the Pop-Tarts end up hollow.
- cook it down to a thick fruit butter (like apple butter)—recommended! Boiling it down to remove as much water as possible until it is super thick, almost like a fruit paste just on the verge of caramelizing works well to make a filling.
Minimizing puffing in the oven
The puffing led me to believe that maybe I also should bake from frozen so as to minimize the ability of the pastry to lift upwards before setting. So I tried that, but I still wasn't satisfied and I didn't like how the top pastry appeared slightly under-baked.
I also tried baking at a higher temperature and baking at a lower temperature. At a higher oven temperature, the pop-tarts burned too fast. At a lower oven temperature, the pop-tarts just looked funny.
Getting the pastry right
Then I started to tweak the pastry dough recipe because I noticed it was a bit sticky as I rolled it, so I made two half-batches of dough, one using the sanding method and the other using the creaming method, and both with less milk added at the end. Both versions of the crust seemed pretty similar to me once baked. Perhaps the dough made by the "sanding" method might have been ever so slightly sandier (duh!).
I also tried docking the top pastry layer extra before baking with the hope of venting them better. That might have worked, but it also resulted in a more broken top pastry layer.
I can say that cooking down the compote into a rhubarb apple butter was brilliant. The filling tastes a lot like tart rhubarb but mellowed by the apple, and it is absolutely dreamy when sandwiched between two pieces of sweet pie crust.
I can say that with less milk added to the crust recipe, there was less puffing in the oven, or rather there was puffing and cracking, which helped let steam escape. I suppose with more milk, the hydrated starches glue the dough better, leading to puffing of the dough that doesn't crack or break as easily. I noticed this while rolling as well: the dough with less milk was a touch more fragile. I guess it's a little "shorter" in texture.
If you try this recipe, please let me know how it goes. I did my best to get it right, but after a while, I also hit a point where I was saturated and couldn't see straight. Or if you have suggestions on ways of improving this, I'm all ears! And if this story sounds familiar, that's because I also toiled over other hand-pie recipes, like these blueberry almond mini pies and these blueberry hand pies. Don't worry, if you don't have the patience for pop-tarts and hand pies, there are also lots of full-sized pie recipes to explore!
Rhubarb apple pop tarts
For the dough
- 250 grams bleached all-purpose flour, 2 cups
- 50 grams granulated sugar, ¼ cup
- ¾ teaspoon Diamond Crystal fine kosher salt
- 125 grams unsalted butter, diced and kept cold
- 1 large egg yolk(s)
- 60 mL whole milk (3.25 % fat), you may need up to 85 mL or ⅓ cup
For the pop tarts
- 188 mL rhubarb apple butter, ¾ cup
- 1 large egg(s), whisked
For the glaze (optional)
- 125 grams icing sugar, 1 cup
- 1 tablespoon whole milk (3.25 % fat), hot
- 1½ tablespoon corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Rainbow sprinkles
To make the dough
- In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt. Drop in the cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a crumble. Add the egg yolk and half the milk, and pulse. Add more milk as needed until the dough comes together in the food processor.
- Divide the dough in 2, patting and pressing each half to combine and form rectangles. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes.
To assemble and bake the pop tarts
- Working with half the dough, roll it out very thin into to a large rectangle and trim into a 9"x16" (if you can, if not, don't worry). Cut into 12 pieces that are ~3"x4" (or if your dough is too uneven, cut less pieces and reroll the scraps!). Brush 6 of the pieces with the whisked egg and dollop 1 tablespoon of rhubarb apple butter along the center of each, leaving a border. Top each with another rectangle of pastry and press the edges to really seal them. Transfer to a parchment lined tray and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Transfer the chilled pop tarts to a parchment-lined baking sheet and dock the tops of each to make lots of little air holes for steam to escape. Bake for about 20 or so minutes until the edges are golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
- Repeat to form 6 other pop tarts with the other half of the dough.
To decorate the pop tarts
- Make the glaze by whisking the hot milk into the icing sugar with the corn syrup and the vanilla. The glaze will be thick but fluid. You can add a couple drops of lemon juice to help perk up the flavour.
- Spread a thin layer of glaze on top of each pop tart and top with a generous amount of sprinkles.
Rhubarb apple butter
- 525 grams McIntosh apples, 4 cups peeled and chopped
- 450 grams fresh rhubarb, 4 cups chopped
- 2 tablespoon water
- 10 Fresh raspberries
- 150 grams granulated sugar, ¾ cup
- Combine all the ingredients in a large soup pot and heat on medium–high. Bring the mixture to a boil.
- Mash the fruits with a potato masher and continue simmering the compote on medium heat until it's reduced to about 2 cups. The compote will get very, very thick, and you will be able to run a wooden spoon through it and form a pretty stable groove. It will be thick like tomato paste almost.
- Cool overnight in the fridge
Amy @ What Jew Wanna Eat says
These look absolutely perfect! All your hard work and pop tart eating paid off 🙂
Courtney @ NeighborFood says
I have so been there before with a recipe I'm testing. Usually by the time I get it right, the thought of eating any more of them is so unappealing I have to give all the perfect ones away. These look like your hard work and serious taste testing paid off though! They're so lovely, and I'm sure that rhubarb filling is just tangy and divine!
Olivia @ livforcake says
Well these look absolutely adorable and delicious! I admire you for sticking with it, I would have given up after eating the first 11 pop tarts, hah! The final product turned out perfect!
Joanne B says
Where did you find rhubarb? I live in Montreal and have been looking for it. I want to make an upside-down rhubarb cake, a la Martha Stewart, for my daughter's birthday this weekend.
I saw some at the Atwater market yesterday, actually. This rhubarb came from my mother's garden though.
Joanne B says
Thanks! I'll go tomorrow.
janet @ the taste space says
Good on you for continuing to find the best recipe.. but I am curious, is it developing or developping?
Oh my! It's definitely "developing". How embarrassing! Remember that article in the NY Times that explained how self-editing is difficult because your brain sees what it knows you meant to write, and not actually what you wrote? I'm going with that as an excuse 😉
Thanks for letting me know, Janet! I'll fix it now.
Helene Meurer says
Well, I REALLY appreciate that you shared the development process on these. We as readers learned so much more this way. I love love love the ingredients and concept of these and will definitely try... but it may have to wait till next year because here on Vancouver island we are well past rhubarb season 😉
Our rhubarb season is so much later than yours. It's so funny. But once the rhubarb hits the market, we can find it 'til August even!
I bet this would work with any kind of apple+berry butter too. Or even a good quality apple butter from the market 😉
Even if they're not perfect, those pop tarts look perfect. And it sounds like you had a very delicious round of experimentation, if nothing else!
As for the dough, I wonder if something a little more like a galette dough might work.
These look amazing! I've been looking for a good pop tart recipe, so I'll be trying this recipe soon! I'll probably go with a straight up strawberry filling though.
Natalie Dawn says
How long would this rhubarb butter keep for please I j'adore rhubarb X