Raise your hand if you love summer fruit.
Of course your hand is up. (Pick me!!! Pick me!!!)
What trumps butter and sweet, fresh summer fruit? Hmm...yeah...nothing.
If there is a problem with pie (not to nitpick), it's a lack of transportability and a short shelf life.
A freshly baked pie is something other-worldly, but two days on the kitchen counter and your buttery baked masterpiece becomes a mushy, soupy mess. Plus, there's no grabbing a piece of pie and eating it on the way out the door in the morning. Unless you enjoy looking like a Jackson Pollock. (Good luck getting out those fruit stains in the wash.)
This profound series of thoughts led me to the pop-tart.
In theory, the pop-tart is a brilliant plan for a hand pie. But in practice, it's a highly processed pastry that lets kids eat piles of sugar for breakfast.
Here are the fruits of my brief research (read: procrastination).
Kellogg stole the Pop-tart concept from Post Cereals, which invented a quick-cooking dessert called the "Country Square" in 1963. In just a few weeks, Kellogg scooped Post with a better concept and name. What kid wouldn't want dessert for breakfast? Some Don Draper/Roger Sterling types came up with the name Pop-tart to evoke Pop Art, which was taking the nation by storm, thanks to Andy Warhol. The critical question here is: Why are convenience foods no longer named after art movements???
Did you know the technology used to create Pop-Tarts was developed for dog food? Yes, those aluminum foil packets intended to prevent spoilage without refrigeration were initially used to store dog food. Terrific.
Since its heyday, the novelty of the Pop-tart has worn off...clearly. It now signifies a white trash diet, at least when enjoyed for breakfast with a cigarette.
This elitist version calls for real strawberry preserves. I made my own batch, enhanced with balsamic vinegar and black pepper, to make my pop-tarts a little more snobby.
Not only are these pastry rectangles FABULOUS and perfectly pie-like, you can freeze them before baking (requiring approximately 10 extra minutes in the oven) for you to enjoy when and where you want them.
2 cups all purpose flour (250g), plus additional for shaping and rolling
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (185g)
4 tablespoons ice water
12 Tbs. strawberry preserves
Whisk 2 cups flour, kosher salt, and sugar in large bowl. Add butter. Using pastry cutter, blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. This part is exactly like making pie dough. Add ice water by tablespoonfuls, tossing until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball. Divide in half; shape each half into disk. Wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour.
Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough on floured surface to about 13x11 inches. Trim to 12x10-inch rectangle, then cut into eight 5x3-inch rectangles.
Arrange 4 rectangles, spaced apart, on each sheet. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons preserves in row down center of each rectangle. Top preserves with second dough rectangle. Using fingertips, gently press all edges of each tart to seal; press all edges with tines of fork to double-seal. Using toothpick, poke a few holes in center of top dough rectangle. Cover; refrigerate tarts on sheets at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Bake tarts uncovered until golden, reversing sheets after 15 minutes, 25 to 30 minutes total (some preserves may leak). Immediately transfer tarts to rack.
Strawberry Preserves with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper
2 cups quartered strawberries (try to find little sweet ones)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
In a small heavy saucepan bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring, and skim surface. Simmer mixture, stirring and skimming foam occasionally, until thickened. This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Remove pan from heat and cool preserves completely. Preserves keep, covered and chilled, 1 month.