I adore breakfast pastries but typically reserve them for the occasional treat, because I find I usually feel sluggish a few hours later. I think this is because most are loaded with sugar. For that reason, I’m also not keen on giving them to Zane – I don’t want him to feel the same mid-morning crash I experience. Enter: the healthy pop tart.
This is a breakfast pastry that tastes like an indulgence without the wave of lethargy a few hours later. The dough is made from whole grain flour and the fruit filling is free of refined sugar. I call them homemade pop tarts but they are really more similar to Toaster Strudels – although they are, in my opinion, better than either. The strawberry jam filling is the perfect counterpoint to the buttery, flaky pastry: ever-so-slightly-tart and sweet-but-not-too-sweet.
Although you’ll have to put in a little work upfront, you might be surprised how quickly these come together. They will keep in an airtight container on the counter for 2-3 days, but if you make a big batch ahead of time they will freeze beautifully. For best make-ahead results, you can freeze the unbaked tarts and put them in the oven the morning you want to eat them; just add a few minutes to the cook time. I did have success with toasting frozen, already baked tarts, but I had to use the “Frozen” setting on my toaster. They may also heat up well in a toaster oven.
A few recipe notes here…
The easy strawberry jam relies on chia seeds to firm up the strawberry puree to a jam consistency. I thought I was pretty clever for figuring out this trick, and now I’m seeing chia jams everywhere! I mean, I assumed I wasn’t the first person to come up with this idea but apparently they are pretty common. Anyway, this was convenient for me because we keep chia seeds in the house, but if they aren’t a pantry staple for you and you don’t want to hunt them down, feel free to use another jam recipe or buy a jar – there are many fruit-sweetened and otherwise high-quality jams and jellies on the market today. I love buying from local farmers who make jams from fruit at its peak ripeness.
I used whole spelt flour for the pastry because we keep it on hand. Spelt is a variety of wheat that is not gluten-free but contains slightly less gluten and a bit more protein than wheat flour. It is easier than wheat to grow organically, so you will often find certified organic spelt flour. It used to only be available in health food stores but now you can find it in many regular grocery stores. If you can’t find or would prefer not to use spelt flour, all-purpose or whole wheat flours will work without problem in the recipe.
Homemade Pop Tarts
1 1/4 c whole spelt flour (or whole wheat, or all-purpose)
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces and refrigerated until cold
6 tbsp ice cold water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 recipe Easy Strawberry Jam, below (or 1 c of your favorite jam)
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the cold butter cubes and incorporate using a pastry blender or, with a butter knife in each hand, start in the middle of the bowl and cut outward, knives moving in opposite directions. Work the butter until it averages pea-size pieces – some will be larger and some smaller. (Alternatively, add the dry ingredients to a food processor and process the butter into the mixture to achieve the same effect.)
2. Drizzle the water over the butter-flour mixture and stir until the dough starts to come together. Use your hands to bring the dough into disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or overnight. Bring the dough out of the fridge about 15 minutes before you want to use it so it softens just slightly.
3. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle 1/8-inch thick. Cut smaller rectangles to desired size – I like 4-inch x 5-inch. Re-roll the scraps to cut more rectangles.
4. Use a pastry brush to brush egg lightly over the pieces of dough. Add about 2 tablespoons of jam to half the pieces and top each with a second piece. With the tines of a fork, press the sides of each tart together and poke some holes on the top to allow air to escape while baking.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tarts on a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (At this point you could transfer some or all of the tarts to the freezer for future use.) Once chilled, bake the tarts until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm, room temperature, or freeze for future use.
Makes 8 4-inch x 5-inch tarts
Easy Strawberry Jam
2 c (1 10-ounce bag) frozen strawberries
1 tbsp honey
zest of half an orange (optional, but wonderful)
1/2 tbsp chia seeds
1. Add the strawberries to a small pan over medium heat and cook until the strawberries begin to soften. Use a spoon or spatula to smash the strawberries so they release their juices, and stir in the honey. Cook for about 5 minutes until the strawberry liquid reduces by about a third.
2. Pour the strawberry mixture into a blender or food processor and add the orange zest and chia seeds. Process until smooth. Move the mixture to the fridge for at least an hour to chill and allow the chia seeds to firm it to the consistency of jam.
Makes about 1 c jam