Hand Pies? Pop Tarts? No matter where you are in the world or what it's called in your country, we know these adorable rectangular pastry filled with delicious filling. It's so loved we even have our universal Nyan Cat flying through space. Whether or not they are actually tarts is questionable. The common store bought variety have a pie crust mouthfeel and taste, just a little more soft and chewy while tarts are more crumbly cookie-like, like a french Pate Sucre pastry. Plus, it's filled with a jam like filling? Definitely towards the pie direction. Think of it if Pie has an rebel little sister, made with the same magic ingredients, just...defiant.
Along the way I will be explaining how and why I made two varieties of poptarts. Also, this is more to the traditional way of making pies, we will be using a traditional American pie crust recipe and homemade precook strawberry filling, which is extremely delicious. Both elements are traditional except the techniques I applied are different, so you know..you can cut some time and washing, yet still yield the same buttery flaky crust and ooey gooey filling.
So let's get to it!
Step 2: Ingredients for Homemade Pie Crust
There are thousands of homemade pie crust recipes in the internet, and feel free to use your family favorite or online recipe. After years of making pies, I finally have my own go-to recipe that gives me a tender, buttery crust that holds it's shape well and still manage to melt in your mouth quality. Also, a fuss free technique for those who prefer not to dwell into icy cold water or busting out the food processor.
3 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup (2 stick, 113g) of unsalted butter, cold
2 tablespoon of white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of water
Pour your sugar and salt into your bowl of all purpose flour. Give it a little mix so your flour is evenly seasoned. Using a cheese grater, grate your cold butter into the flour.
After grating your cheese, using your hands, coat your shredded butter with the flour. Then rub the butter into the flour until they resemble dry sand.
Pour your 1/2 cup of water into your sandy flour mixture and knead it gently for 3-5 minutes until it comes together into a ball. It's okay if you see small streaks of butter. Those pockets of butter will result in a flaky, tender crust.
Baker's Note: The beauty of this technique is that, it doesn't matter if you have "warm" hands or not. Contrary to most traditional pie crust taboo of accidently working/ warming the butter too much, I noticed it makes zero difference whether your butter is frozen solid or merely came out of the fridge. Just as long your butter is not overly warm and soft that it turned to liquefied butter.
After you bring your dough together into a ball, wrap it up with a plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for 5-8 minutes to relax the gluten and harden up the fat int he dough just a little bit.
Step 5: Homemade Strawberry Filling
Next, we are going to proceed on to making our homemade strawberry filling. Personally, I prefer to cook my pie filling first instead of the classic way of placing fresh fruit, sugar and throwing in the oven. That method is great for fruits that has less water content such as apples, rhubarb, pear; but when in comes to juicier fruits like peaches, cherries and berries, their high water content can make measuring thickening agents a little trickier. After experiencing many soupy pie fails, I've finally came up with a good tapioca starch and corn starch ratio that will result in a beautifully goopy, semi-translucent, glistening filling. And I'm going to share with you!
1lbs of Strawberries, hulled and diced
1 cup of white granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoon of tapioca starch/flour
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon of citric acid *optional
Red food coloring *optional
Begin by placing your diced strawberries into a medium sauce pot. Pour in your salt and sugar, and let it macerate for at least 20-30 minutes to bring out all of it's natural juices. It will look dry and 'unhappening' at first but after 20 minutes, you will yield about 1 cup of natural juices.
By letting the berries to macerate, you do not unnecessarily add extra liquids that will throw the thickening agent ratio off which could lead to a soupy pie, but also the jam will have a stronger natural fruit flavor.
Next, add in your thickening agent which is the tapioca starch and cornstarch. Mix it till it dissolves into the juices. Then transfer your sauce pot onto a stove and start cooking at medium heat.
Make sure to stir occasionally scraping the bottom to ensure no starches settles to the bottom and potentially burn.
Maker's note: The ratio of tapioca flour to cornstarch for my 1 lbs berries is 3:1. Tapioca starch sets into a thick, jelly like consistency. Too much it becomes a thick impossible blob. But if used tapioca starch alone, i noticed that the consistency is almost 'snort'-like or 'slimey' which is not particularly appealing, so by adding cornstarch it prevents it too 'slime' too much. But adding too much cornstarch will lead to a chalky milky filling. SO the 3:1 ratio should give you a nice goo factor, translucent filling for your pie ;)
Cook your strawberry mixture on medium heat, stirring occasionally. As the mixture thickens, stir more vigorously to ensure mixture thickens evenly. Turn off the heat once your mixture is translucent, and gives off slow thick bubbles as it boils.
Remove from stove and add in your citric acid. This is optional. Fruit tends to mellow out it's flavor as it cooks, so by adding citric acid, you add a little tartness back without adding additional liquids such as lemon juice.But if it's hard to find, you can omit and it will be just good, just has no tartness.
Cool your filling completely before filling your pie. This ensures that the fat in your pie crust won't melt immediately when it comes in contact with your filling. If the fat melts before baking, your crust will never brown and just remains a soft doughy mess. Keep in the fridge if necessary.
Step 10: Streusel Topping
These pop tarts have two varieties, the traditional icing and my husband's favorite topping on any pie, Streusel! Who says hand pies can't have streusel. This streusel recipe is so easy and crumbly, and best of all.. any extras and you can keep in the freezer for your next pie baking session.
1 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
6 tablespoon of unsalted butter, cold
Place your all purpose flour, salt and light brown sugar into a mixing bowl. Stir your mixture so it is even.
Like your pie crust, grate your butter into your dry ingredients. Then rub the butter into the flour using your hands till it resembles course dry sand. If you would like to have bigger chunks of streusel, clump them with your hands to form small pebbles of streusel.
When your filling is cooled, get your dough ready. Make sure to let it thaw for a little while on your counter to soften if you accidentally placed them too long in the fridge. A nice thawed dough should 'squish' nicely if you poke them with your fingers. Don't try to fight a cold dough, it will produce cracks if you attempt to roll them too soon.
Lay your dough on top of a saran wrap or parchment paper, whichever you prefer. And lay another layer on top so you don't have to sprinkle excessive flour to prevent it from sticking to your rolling pin. Roll it into a large rectangle, approximately 1/8 of an inch thick. The thinner the dough the better because 1) the crust puffs up from the butter layers, 2) too thick and your pie crust will take longer to cook, 3) It's technically a pie sandwich, too thick and your pop tarts are going to be really thick.
Prepping your tools and other ingredients:
A sharp knife
A fork, for crimping of edges
A pastry brush
A ruler, *if you are super precise*
1 egg, beaten for brushing
Strawberry Filling, cooled
Begin by trimming the edge of your rectangular dough using a ruler and sharp knife. Then divide your rectangle to produce 12 small rectangles. This recipe will yield 7 pop tarts. Double this dough recipe if you wish to use and finish your filling completely.
On a working table or chopping, sprinkle a little dusting of flour to prevent your dough from sticking, and place them side by side. Spoon in your filling, not too little nor too much that it might give problems when sealing the edges later.
Then place the other layer on top. Using your fingers, press the edges firmly to stick them together. Then using a fork, crimp them to produce your classic hand pies/pop tart edges.
Repeat until you complete all of them. The using a pastry brush, brush your egg on the top of your pies that are going to be covered in streusel. For the traditional icing ones, do not brush them in egg, just leave them bare.
Sprinkle your streusel on top of the egg coating.
Step 16: Let's Bake!
Place your pies onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, and bake them at 350 degress Fahrenheit (or 177 degrees Celsius) for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
Cool them completely before attempting to frost.
Maker's note: Some of the strawberry filling might leak as it bakies, this is common because as the crust puffs while baking, it pushes the filling out where ever possible. Traditionally, pies have slits on top to prevent the bubbling from leaking sideways but because hand pies or pop tarts don't have slits at the top, they leak a little on the sides.
Step 17: Time to Make the Frosting
1 cup of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of milk
Food coloring, I used Rose
Piping bag *optional
Place your powdered sugar, milk and food coloring in a small bowl. And mix until the frosting is lump free and the color is even. Feel free to add a little more milk if your frosting is too thick or not your desired consistency. Pour into a piping bag if you like a precise design, if not spooning your icing is also doable.
Pipe adorable splat designs on your pies or the traditional square frosting design if you wish. Outlining them and flooding them is my preferred method so it looks rather animated like a Simpson's Donut design. Then while still wet, sprinkle your sprinkles. Leave to dry for approximately 5-10 minutes for the frosting to crust over.
And we are done! These are so great for parties, gathering, picnics or anytime of the day. They may take a little while, but I can guarantee you they are a definite crown pleaser. Thank you for visiting my Pop Tart Instructables page everyone and good luck ;) xoxo.