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Thursday
Nov292007

Pop-Quiz: The Lore (and Lure) of the Pop-Tart

Pop Tarts. Whether you love or hate them, you really can't deny their presence: from those memorable toaster strudel commercials of yore to their ubiquity in office vending machines, they're nothing if not constant in our everyday lives.

But how did these little toaster treats worm their way into our lives? For those of you have ever wondered (surely there must be some of you), Cakespy has done some serious sleuthing on the story of the Pop-Tart. We would have been sunk without wonderful reference guides such as Whole Pop Magazine's "True History of Pop-Tarts", Dave Barry's informative article "Tarts Afire", and James Prichard's article on the treats in the Detroit News from 2003.

Pop-tarts were invented in the post-World War II era, when Post (not Kellogg!) was developing new products. There was an emphasis at this time on foods that were convenient and had a long shelf life, and the now-familiar foil packaging was originally used as a way of preserving a type of moist dog food; they altered it slightly to accommodate a new people-food addition meant to supplement their cereal offerings, which they called "Country Squares". Unfortunately, loose-lipped employees revealed the nature of the product in development before it was released, thus giving arch rival Kellogg a chance to come up with a competitor product--and obviously to think of a better name. The fate of Country Squares? Well, all we can say is, when is the last time you saw one at your local grocery store? Pop-Tarts, on the other hand, were a runaway success.

The original Pop-Tarts were unfrosted; some fool thought that the frosting might melt and cause problems in the toaster. Happily they worked on the issue, developing a frosted and toaster-safe version in 1967. Since then, it's been a movie montage-esque development of new flavors and variations, from the most excellent S'more Pop-Tart to the bad-decision neon-colored Wild! Berry. Of course, Pop-Tarts haven't been without their fair share of controversy; but even in spite of the infamous UK toaster cloggings of the early 90's (turns out their toasters are different from ours) and the 1992 toaster fire debacle and even the ill-fated addition of "Go-Tarts" (slender Pop-Tart sticks meant for on-the-go consumption; we say, just eat a Pop-Tart), they've remained a beloved part of not only our lives but our culture.

And happily, Cake Gumshoe Kristin recently came across a wonderful recipe in a Martha Stewart holiday baking guide by Flour Bakery's owner / head baker Joanne Chang, which is reminiscent of the classic toaster treats, but made with more refined tastes in mind...kind of like Pop-Tarts, all growed up.

Tasty Toaster Tarts Recipe by Joanne Chang, owner of Flour Bakery

Pastry

2 cups flour (they recommend King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 cup, 8 oz unsalted butter, cut into pats

Filling: 3/4 cup raspberry jam
1 tbsp cornstarch, mixed with 1tbsp cold water
1 egg, to brush on dough

Topping

1 cup, 4 oz confectioner's sugar
3 to 4 tbsp water

----------

To make dough: Whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Work in butter until mixture holds together when you squeeze it, with pecan-sized lumps of butter still visible. Mix egg and milk, and add it to the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive.

Divide dough in half, and shape each half into a rough 3x5 inch rectangle, smoothing edges. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

To make filling: in a small saucepan, mix jam with cornstarch and water mix. Bring mixture to a boil, and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

To assemble tarts: remove dough from the refrigerator, and if it's been chilling for longer than 1 hour, allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Place one pice on a lightly floured work surface,
and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick, large enough so that you can trim it to an even 9x12 inches. Set aside. Roll a second piece of dough as you did the first. Press the edge of a ruler into the dough you've
rolled, to gently score it in thirds lenghtwise and widthewise; you'll see nine 3x4 inch rectangles.

Beat egg, and brush it over entire surface of dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of jam into center of each marked rectangle. Place second sheet of dough atop first, using your fingertips to press firmly around each
pocket of jam, sealing the dough well on all sides. Cut dough evenly in between jam pockets to make nine tarts. Gently place tarts on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet, and refrigerate, covered, for 30
minutes, to relax and chill the dough.

Prick the top of each tart several times with ha fork. Bake tarts in a preheatd 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven, and allow to cool on pan.

For the topping: Combine confectioners sugar with 3 tablespoons of water, adding more if necessary to make a pourable glaze. Pour and spread glaze over cooled tarts. Yield: 9 toaster tarts.

Bonus Pop-Tart Trivia: For the 35th anniversary of the toaster pastry, Kellogg made the biggest Pop-Tart ever recorded: In total, it took more than 545 pounds of flour, 495 pounds of fruit filling, 800 pounds of icing and 150 pounds of colored sprinkles to create the giant-sized toaster pastry. The oversized snack was unveiled at a press conference in front of the famed Madison Square Garden in New York City, where morning commuters were treated to tasting this record-breaking creation.

For more information on Pop-Tarts, visit poptarts.com.

 

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Reader Comments (31)

I'm totally into the frosted strawberry and cherry. They are not allowed in my house, not only because of the impure ingredients but because they, like cake, are too hard to resist.

The other day, my daughter brought home two in her lunch box, from a friend. In order for me to allow her to eat them, I made her give me one.

(I have a folklore chapter called Cakelore and Cakelure; great minds and all that.)

November 30 | Unregistered Commenterdogfaceboy

Interesting! I love Pop Tarts!

November 30 | Unregistered Commentera.

the smores one is AWESOME! But when I don't do the decadent chocolate ones, I always fall back on the frosted strawberry that I grew up with. They are so good. And this post was so interesting!

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterEllo

awesome. your history posts are my favorites.

November 30 | Unregistered Commentermoonrat

I want the giant Poptart for my birthday. And I'm TOTALLY going to make homemade Poptarts. Yeah!

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterHunter

Hi I'm looking forward to trying the recipe.homemade pop tarts..very cool....just a little heads up.....Joanne Change is actually the owner of "Flour," a yummy bakery in Boston. King Arthur Flour is a company in vermont.

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I admit that I am a big Pop Tart fan, although I don't buy them very often. I saw another homemade Pop Tart on another blog, and have wondered how they taste. I need to try it out!

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

Hey! Who knew Pop-Tarts would strike such a nerve ;-)

Anonymous, thank you for pointing that out, I made the change. Whew! It's correct now. I believe the recipe / ad was SPONSORED by King Arthur Flour, making my tiny little brain confused. Maybe I should lay off the Pop-Tarts at night.

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Awesomeness! I found a recipe recently for homemade Pop Tarts that I've been wanting to try. Maybe I'll try this one instead. I love Pop Tarts, frosted of course.

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterCulinarily Obsessed

You have made my day with sharing this recipe.
And my favorite are the cinnamon sugar
pop-tarts, the kind with brown frosting.

November 30 | Unregistered Commenterbella

Very excellent blog. I love, love, love your drawings / illustrations / art!

Cheers.

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Pincus

Hehe I love the story! I don't think they would be so popular, though, if they were still called "Country Squares"!

"Country Squares"! Haha! So...country of it.

The title art is so sweet my teeth hurt now. When will I get to purchase my first Cakespy t-shirt (hint, hint, I really would wear one with that drawing of the poor cupcake who's paper liner's being pulled off exposing the poor darling)

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterCupcake Monster

im so glad that you commented on my blog for i would have never known your blog!! i love it, the food and all! oh if only i could eat them all.

November 30 | Unregistered Commentercotton candy

Dogfaceboy: I think we must be kindred spirits! The lore and lure of cake is something that interests us all intensely. I can't wait to see your project develop more!

a.: Aren't Pop-Tarts the best? Growing up in NJ of course Pop-Tarts figured into my family (Cake Gumshoe Bridget, AKA my sister, was the one who loved those garish Wild!Berry ones)...but I never realized how much they affected so many people!

Moonrat: So glad you like the history posts. These are some of the most fun, there are always stories that surprise you (like the dog food thing here!??).

Hunter: I tried to send you a jumbo Pop-tart for your birthday, but they said it was too big to fit in your mail box. Oh well.

Deborah: You have to tell us how they turn out!! Send pictures!!

Culinarily Obsessed I love how you said frosted of course. Seriously, who are those people who like unfrosted ones better? People who don't let sunshine and happiness into their lives, pretty much.

Bella: Would you believe I have never had the sugar-cinnamon ones? Mr. Cakespy likes them, but not as much as strawberry frosted.

Paul: Thank you so much for the kind words about the illustrations...now only if Bob Mankoff would love them... Seriously, it means a lot to me!

Chocolatecoveredvegan: Do you know any vegan pop-tart alternatives?

Cupcake Monster: When CS tshirts are printed you'll be the first to get one! Maybe we'll include a country square in the package. From 1963. The real deal, we don't mess around.

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Mmm I love pop tarts. I should try making them one day. And as I said before, I really love your drawings! The elephant with the cupcakes and I especially love the cupcake whose wrapper has started to come off and his face is like :O

November 30 | Unregistered Commentereatme_delicious

oh, pop-tarts - I'm guilty of consuming them in my childhood (BLAH!). Nature's Path makes "pop-tart-like" products, with all-natural, PRONOUNCEABLE ingredients (they're not vegan though, so I can't eat 'em).

Interesting trivia!! I must admit though, 800 pounds of icing, 545 pounds of flour, 495 pounds of fruit filling, and 150 pounds of colored sprinkles, sounds a bit gross, haha :0D

December 1 | Unregistered CommenterVeggieGirl

This recipe looks so good that I decided to make some today. However, I think something is missing. The ingredient list for the dough only shows flour, sugar, salt and butter but the instructions also mention egg and milk.

HELP! I need a pop-tart!!

December 1 | Unregistered CommenterGigi

Gigi: You're absolutely right! I double checked the recipe in the magazine, and this is EXACTLY what it says though, so it looks like the error was made on their part. In watching a video on Youtube about Flour Bakery, Joanne Chang does mention using a small amount of a milk and egg yolk mixture to the pate brisee type crust. Perhaps it's just a small amount. I am going to send them an email and will report back. In the meantime there's another great homemade Pop-Tart recipe at Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. (www.culinaryconcoctionsbypeabody.com)

December 1 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Poor country squares. I can't help but pity the original for not catching on and making the big bucks.

December 1 | Unregistered CommenterThe Clothes Horse

Oh hell. Another baking challenge I'm just going to have to try. :-)


Ann at http://www.redactedrecipes.com/" REL="nofollow">Redacted Recipes

December 2 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

you have the most adorable blog! I admit I only glanced before, cos I saw the holiday guide and thought "what a strangely cute excuse for product pushing!", but I've been directed back (and it's a good thing, too) by Celine from Have Cake Will Travel, yay!

My favourite poptarts were the old strawberry kind, and I was so surprised to notice that they're pretty much 99.999% vegan EXCEPT a bit of gelatin. ;_;
So I can't eat them, but that's probably better for my waistline anyway. :p

December 2 | Unregistered CommenterLiz²

I love Flour!!! Great blog, BTW.

December 2 | Unregistered CommenterAbbey

I think I need to make a vegan version of these, hehe!

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