I've baked a lot of cookies, cupcakes, cakes and pastries over the last few years, and the items that seem to get the biggest reaction are things that take people back to their childhood. When I made a version of Ding Dongs for my former coworkers, you'd have thought I handed out $100 bills- they were damn near in happy tears over the chocolate cupcakes with the little squiggle of white icing on top. Freshly baked apple pie wins hands down over something fancy from a French patisserie, and these Pop-Tarts may have beaten them all. I guess nostalgia minus artificial colors and flavors plus home baking = happy people.
My parents never really bought me things like Ding Dongs or Pop-Tarts and tried to trick me into thinking Fig Newtons were a special treat (sorry mom/papa- it never worked!). I supposed I should thank them now, because the stiff, cardboard-like sugar bombs don't appeal to me much as an adult, but the idea of brown sugar and cinnamon enrobed in flaky pastry certainly does. On the rare occasion I did get to eat a Pop-Tart at a friend's house, I always, ALWAYS chose the brown sugar cinnamon flavor. While the other kids practically dove towards the chocolate or strawberry ones, I have always and still do favor warmer flavors in desserts. If it has brown sugar, brown butter, butterscotch, caramel or pralines in it, I'm all over it. Sorry chocolate, you're just not my Everything.
It seems like homemade Pop-Tarts are getting really popular- the LA Times recently printed a recipe, but I've been seeing them on food blogs for awhile. The first time I made them, they were an instant hit, and although they are a bit time consuming, it's a fun process. I guess you could save time using store-bought pie dough or puff pastry, but this recipe makes the perfect pastry for Pop-Tarts.
As I often do, I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, then just sort of made up a cinnamon icing using powdered sugar, cinnamon and milk to drizzle over the top. I usually mix in a pinch of egg white powder so the icing will set nicely and I can stack them between sheets of wax paper without messing up the frosting.
You can certainly fill these with whatever your heart desires- any jam or fruit compote would work well; I've done a mixture of blueberries, sugar and cream cheese with a lemon icing which was also delicious. The dough isn't very sweet so you could even do savory versions...fig jam with blue cheese, leftover meat sauce with a slice of mozzarella, chicken curry...the possibilities are endless. However, your friends are probably expecting you to make them sweet ones that remind them of their childhood, so these brown sugar cinnamon ones are a good place to start!
Unlike the store-bought version, these don't need any toaster time, so as soon as they come out of the oven and frosted, they're ready to eat!
What's your favorite flavor of Pop-Tarts?