Friday, November 23, 2012

Easy as Pop Tarts













In my quest to reinvent a fall dessert classic--apple pie--as a pop tart, I faced two challenges: filling and icing.

I wanted my filling to have a distinct apple flavor, but also with a hint of darker tones underneath. As for texture, I wanted the apples to be tender, but not applesauce.

To get the flavor right, I used a combination of white, light brown, and dark brown sugar, to give the apples a caramel-like sweetness, as well as some cinnamon. For texture, I went with four Granny Smiths, diced, which I then softened by sauteeing with butter, and then thickened with a cornstarch slurry. If your pop tart filling's too wet, you end up with a dreaded "soggy bottom."  Not fun.

The filling ended up solving my icing problem too.  I reserved a tablespoon of the juice from the apples and mixed it in with my icing.

Individual portions of apple pie you can hold in your hand.

POP TART PASTRY RECIPE
This is basically a modified pie dough, but much easier to work with than a traditional crust.

Pastry Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons milk

1 additional large egg (to brush on pastry)

Your favorite fillings (recipes on previous page)

1.     Add flour, sugar, and salt to a large food processor and pulse to mix.  Add the butter and pulse until pea-sized lumps of butter are still visible, and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it.  (These steps can be done by hand, but will take longer.)  Transfer to a large bowl.  Whisk milk and egg plus 1 egg yolk together and then stir into dough, mixing just until incorporated.  Knead briefly if necessary.
2.     Divide dough in half.  Shape each half into a smooth rectangle, about 3 x 5 inches.  (Can be wrapped in plastic and stored in refrigerator for up to 2 days.)  Place one half on lightly floured work surface, and roll into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick, and slightly larger than 9 x 12 inches.  Use a knife to cut the dough into a straight-edged rectangle, 9 x 12 inches.  (A good trick for this is to take a 9 x 12 pan and press it slightly onto the dough, then cut along the indentations.)  Repeat with the second piece of dough.  Slice the dough on the 12-inch side into 3 equal parts.  Then slice the dough on the 9-inch side into 3 equal parts.  You will have nine 3 x 4 inch rectangles.  (See chart for step-by-step illustrations.)
3.     Place half the rectangles onto parchment-lined baking sheets.  Beat the additional egg and brush the entire surface of the rectangles.  Place a heaping teaspoon of filling into the center of each rectangle and spread it out, leaving a ½-inch border of pastry bare around it.  Place a second rectangle of dough on top and press firmly around the edges with your fingertips.  Seal the dough well on all sides.  If desired, press the tines of a fork around the edge of each rectangle. 
4.     Prick the top of each tart 8-10 times with a fork so steam can escape.  Blot the juice coming off the tarts with a paper towel as much as possible.  Refrigerate the tarts, uncovered, for 30 minutes and preheat oven to 350.
5.     Bake the tarts 20-25 minutes until light golden brown.  Cool in pan on rack.  Serve plain or decorate with icings (recipes follow).

APPLE-CINNAMON FILLING (enough for 9 tarts)

Juice of half a lemon
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar (a mix of light and dark)
1/3 cup white sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cornstarch

Fill a large bowl with water and lemon juice.  Place sliced apples in water to prevent browning.  Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Drain apples and add to butter, stirring for 2 minutes.  Add sugar, cinnamon, and salt and continue to cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes.  Mix cornstarch with 1 tbsp water and then add to mixture.  Cook for 1 more minute, or until sauce has thickened slightly.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
OPTIONAL:  for extra flavor, consider adding a splash of vanilla, white wine, bourbon or calvados, apple cider, maple syrup, lemon or orange juice.  You could also add dried fruits or any of the “Thanksgiving spices” (nutmeg, cloves, ginger)


APPLE-CINNAMON ICING
(great for apple pop tarts)


1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp milk
½ tsp juice from apple filling
½ tsp vanilla


Mix all ingredients in a bowl, then spoon into pastry bag or plastic bag and cut off the tip. Draw a rectangle border of icing on each tart, then fill in with icing, using a knife to smooth out any gaps of icing. Garnish with red and orange sprinkles.

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