Earlier this week, I was writing up my grocery list and asked Jeff if there was anything he was craving. I expected him to say chocolate cake or something involving the Bacon Arts. Maybe a steak.
He said, “What about pop tarts?”
“A box of pop tarts?” I asked, thinking about those pasty rectangles of glaze-coated cardboard, sandwiching the world’s saddest layer of sugary strawberry jam.
“No, you should make some with ham and cheese. Wouldn’t that be awesome?”
So, that’s how I found myself in the kitchen with a ruler at 10 p.m., rolling out dough and slicing it into perfect, palm-sized rectangles. Because when someone you love thinks you have the potential for awesome, you want to prove them right ASAP.
You should know that these pop tarts are neither well-balanced nor fortified with vitamins and minerals. They don’t contain the appropriate amount of fiber. But they are good. The pastry is flaky and buttery, the kind that gets crisp around the edges and shatters when you bite into it. And that shattering gives way to a molten core of gooey Cheddar cheese and chopped Black Forest ham, as much as the pastry will hold.
I knew Jeff was hooked when he bit into the first one and asked, “How many of these did you make?” Because when he asks that question, no matter how I answer, his comeback is always, “Baby, that’s not enough.”
So, if you want to make a fun breakfast that will dazzle your loved one(s), this is it. And don’t be afraid to experiment with fillings. I suspect they’d be outstanding with cinnamon and sugar, homemade jam or Nutella.
Or something involving the Bacon Arts.
Go forth, and be awesome!
Ham and Cheese Pop Tarts
To make sweet pop tarts, add 1 tablespoon sugar and an extra 1/2 teaspoon salt to the dough. Then use 1 tablespoon filling per tart.
Adapted from Deb Perelman (Smitten Kitchen), who adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes 9 pop tarts
- 2 cups (8.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk
- 1 cup (about 4 ounces) deli-sliced ham, roughly chopped
- 1 cup (4 ounces) Cheddar cheese, shredded
- To Make the Pastry: Place the flour and salt in the food processor, and pulse to mix. Add butter, and pulse until pea-sized lumps of butter form. (The mixture should hold together when you squeeze it.) Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 egg and the milk. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture, just until everything is mostly combined. Then finish the job by kneading the dough with your hands, either inside the bowl or on a lightly floured surface.
- Divide the dough in half (that’s about 8 1/4 ounces each), and shape each half into a rectangle. Use the dough immediately, or wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
- To Assemble the Tarts: If you refrigerated the dough, take it out of the fridge and let it warm up on the counter for about 20 minutes. Lightly flour your work surface, place one piece of dough on it, and dust your rolling pin with flour. Then roll the dough into a large rectangle that you can trim down to a perfect 9″ x 12″.
- Repeat with the second piece of dough.
- Divide each 9″ x 12″ rectangle of dough into nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles. (That’s 18 total.)
- Beat your remaining egg, and brush it onto all nine rectangles from your first piece of dough.
- Place about 2 heaping tablespoons of ham into the center of each rectangle, spreading it out a little with your fingers but keeping a 1/2-inch border around the rectangle. (If you have leftover ham, divide it among the tarts, or save it for an omelet.)
- Cover the ham with about 2 tablespoons of cheese per tart. (Likewise, if you have leftover cheese, divide it among the tarts, or save it for later.)
- Place the 9 “naked” rectangles from your second piece of dough on top of all the rectangles covered with filling. Use your fingertips to press and seal the top and bottom rectangles together on all sides.
- Grab a fork, and press the tines around the edges of the tarts.
- Using a large spatula, gently transfer the tarts to a parchment-covered baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart several times with a fork so steam can escape during baking.
- Refrigerate the tarts for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the tarts for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown, and cool in pan on wire rack.
Freezing: To freeze the tarts, don’t bake them. Place them between layers of wax paper on a baking sheet until they freeze, and store them in freezer bags.
To Make a Sweet Version: Add 1 tablespoon sugar and another 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pastry flour. Use 1 tablespoon of sweet filling per tart.