I planned to spend last Saturday afternoon baking pop tarts and then eating them while catching up on The Good Wife. But, when my friend Susan invited me over to bake them at her house, I couldn’t say no. My kitchen at home is pretty functional, but two people barely fit in it, so cooking at my apartment is almost never a social activity. The prospect of a huge (to me) open kitchen with an actual table in it, plenty of counter space, and a gas oven was too tempting to turn down. Plus, I can’t think of many better ways to spend my weekend than sitting around with friends, drinking wine and cooking tasty treats with an eager audience waiting to try them.
Having a group of taste testers ready to try these right out of the oven turned out to be fortunate, since I got a little experimental with my icing. You know that hard, sugary crust that seems to have been shellacked on top of store-bought pop tarts? For some reason, I got a little fixated on replicating that. An obvious way seemed to be royal icing, but there were two problems with this. I don’t love the aftertaste of the egg white in royal icing, and I also I really wanted to use brown sugar. A quick internet search solved the egg white problem by subbing corn syrup, but I’ve yet to find powdered brown sugar anywhere. So….I made it, and I wound up with a beautiful, light brown powder that in my mind was sure to work.
I already told you that I freaking made my own powdered brown sugar, so maybe when I use the phrase “in my mind” that should be a clue that I was in fact not heading in the right direction with this, but instead nearing the borders of crazy town. I had deluded myself into thinking I could magically turn one ingredient into another, but of course my powdered brown sugar was never going to blend with the corn syrup into a paste the way regular powdered sugar would. This should have been obvious to me but I was still a little surprised when I wound up with a grainy, deep amber colored mixture that was nothing like what I had been picturing. Was it delicious? Oh yes. I mean the two main ingredients were sugar and more sugar, so how could it not be? But it was clearly so far off of what I had been imagining, and it was so ridiculously sweet* that I was hesitant to actually put it on the pop tarts. I decided to go with it anyway and see what happened.
*This did not stop Susan’s boyfriend Mike from eating it by the spoonful before we stopped him. He may still get "the diabeetus".
I spooned the glaze over my tarts and let them sit for about an hour until it hardened. Then we tried them. The pastry was flaky, the rosemary was a subtle background note to the jam filling, and the brown sugar? Well, it was definitely that extra punch of flavor I was looking for, plus a roundhouse kick to the teeth. It was good, and even better after a few more hours, but still not really necessary to the tarts.
By the way, I’m still not caught up on the Good Wife. So, if Alicia won her election and then immediately ran off to celebrate on a desert island with Finn, I’m gonna be really happy about that but no spoilers please.
Rosemary Blackberry Pop Tarts with Brown Sugar Icing
Tart dough and filling adapted from King Arthur Flour. I added rosemary to the dough, and would highly recommend not following their instructions for assembly. I did, but it was problematic, and there is a much easier way that I outlined below.
Rosemary Tart Dough
2 cups (8 ½ oz) all purpose flour
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 oz) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg
2 tbs milk
1-2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary, depending on how much you like
¾ cup blackberry jam
1 tbs cornstarch or other thickening agent, mixed with 1 tbs cold water (I used tapioca flour)
1 large egg
Brown Sugar Icing
6 oz Powdered Sugar or Powdered Brown sugar (see note)
1 oz corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/4 tsp salt
- Make tart dough: whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. With a pastry blender, two forks, or your fingers, mix in the butter until the mixture forms large pea-sized lumps that easily hold together when you squeeze it. Beat the egg and the milk together and add to the dough, mixing just until everything holds together. Divide the dough into two, and shape the halves into rectangles. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 15 minutes or up to 2 days. Dough can also be made ahead of time and stored wrapped in plastic in the freezer until needed.
- Make jam filling: mix the jam and cornstarch mixture in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool completely.
- Make tarts: let chilled dough warm up until softened and workable, then roll out one half of the tart dough on a lightly floured surface into a rough 10”X13” rectangle, about 1/8” thick. Using a 9"x13" baking pan or a ruler as a guide, cut out a 9"x12" rectangle. Set dough scraps and the rectangle aside for later.
- Repeat step 3 with second half of the dough. After rolling, use a ruler and cut three lines in the dough lengthwise and widthwise so you end up with nine 3”x4” dough rectangles. Transfer the rectangles to a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Whisk your egg and brush it lightly over the entire dough surface. This will act as the glue to hold your tarts together. Drop 1 heaping tablespoon of filling onto the center of each scored rectangle. Cut your first large 9"x12" rectangle into 3"x4" rectangles, and lay these over the filled squares. Press firmly around the filling in each square, sealing it in. Press the edges of each rectangle with your fingers to seal, then seal again with a fork.
- Prick the top of each tart with a fork multiple times, so steam can escape while baking. Refrigerate tarts for 30 minutes.
- While tarts are chilling, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once tarts have chilled for 30 minutes, bake them for 25-35 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
- Ice tarts: mix together icing ingredients until incorporated. Spoon over each tart and let set.
- I made brown powdered sugar by this method. Crazy? Maybe, but also not really worth the extra effort. I just really wanted that brown sugar taste, and honestly I maybe got too much of it. You can use regular powdered sugar instead. Or, use your favorite brown sugar icing instead. Or, skip the frosting entirely and save on dental bills.