Monday, February 28, 2011

Spain and Pop-Tarts

After neglecting this blog for months, I have found myself reaching for a retreat in the form of food, writing, and relaxation, which has brought me here. In the past months I have traveled to Spain; spending three weeks wandering through the narrow European streets, looking for anything that sparks an interest, exploring the food of a different culture, and discovering who I am.

The urge that has sent me here to write this post on the kitchen floor covered in flour, are home-made pop-tarts. This obvious, comforting, delicious dish fulfills the need for a mid-week treat.

My new favorite website for food is Smitten Kitchen. This collection of recipes is both eclectic and concise. Smitten Kitchen has a focus on fresh comfort food made with wholesome ingredients (exactly what I like). These pop-tarts are an example of just this; a recipe made with whole ingredients to make something sweet and special that is known as a very artificial dish. To make these wholesome tarts I first made a simple sweet dough and then filled it with both nutella and strawberry jam. These tarts look a little daunting but are simply a joy to make. As I made them I was reminded of the Sunday afternoon dinners that my mom always reminisces about, the joy that she felt when welcomed into her grandmother's house with homemade cinnamon rolls and delicious iced tea. These pop-tarts are perfect for an overall enjoyable experience.

Here's the recipe...
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk

1 additional large egg (to brush on pastry)

Jam Filling
3/4 cup (8 ounces) jam

Nutella Filling
9 tablespoons Nutella

Make the dough: Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter with your fingers, pastry blender or food processor until pea-sized lumps of butter are still visible, and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. If you’ve used a food processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Whisk the first egg and milk together and stir them into the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive, kneading briefly on a well-floured counter if necessary.

Divide the dough in half (approximately 8 1/4 ounces each), shape each half into a smooth rectangle, about 3×5 inches. You can roll this out immediately (see Warm Kitchen note below) or wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Assemble the tarts: If the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″. [You can use a 9" x 13" pan, laid on top, as guidance.] Repeat with the second piece of dough. Set trimmings aside. Cut each piece of dough into thirds – you’ll form nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.

Beat the additional egg and brush it over the entire surface of the first dough. This will be the “inside” of the tart; the egg is to help glue the lid on. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, keeping a bare 1/2-inch perimeter around it. Place a second rectangle of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around the pocket of filling, sealing the dough well on all sides. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Repeat with remaining tarts.

Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.