The pressure of uni has the tendency to gear a student baker towards the mixing bowl and any socialite towards the cocktails, likewise. Not this idiot. I didn’t think about baking at all last week. It was horrible. I’d have shed tears of melted butter were it possible. Santa Clause is coming to town and I have no idea where my gingerbread man cutter is, Halloween came and went and all you got from me was chocolate chip cookies! I’ve had to remove Microsoft Word from my desktop in a bid to stop staring so blankly at it. Nothing is getting done.
Apart from pop tarts, they’re getting ‘done’ for the rest of my life. Whenever you feel like a faff, make a faff over these, because I cannot even begin to explain the reward. Or how good you will feel after realising that this is the stuff real tarts are made of: gooey almond, a slither of tart, seedless raspberry jam and pastry that falls apart on the tongue.
Think of these almost-too-golden slabs of pastry as the inverted almond slice. Instead of a tiny layer of shortcrust as the base, there is almond cream and raspberry jam carefully encased in the crumbliest pastry evz. Perfect for popping in the toaster on those pitch-black mornings that are soon to be, right? That’s what I had in mind anyway, except all eleven of them never lasted long enough for some toaster action.
Enter the illusive Pâte Brisée I : the process of ‘smearing’ the butter into the flour seems to produce this casing that hardly loses its shape in the oven, and tastes exactly like it has a thousand rough puff layers within, when really, not one turn was made when making the dough. Not one. However, making pop tarts is an overnight job, the pastry needs to be chilled long enough so that it wont lose its shape and short crumb in the oven. Fillings can be prepared the night before though, so that in the morning, you can wake up, roll and cut out the dough (which is surprisingly therapeutic), fill it up, bake it, eat it, et voila!
Inspired by Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery and Bouchon Bakery Cookbook
132g egg yolks (about 6 eggs)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
110g caster sugar
550g semi or whole milk
27g unsalted butter, softened
73g ground almonds
7g plain flour
73g unsalted butter, softened
73g icing sugar
44g (1) eggs
100g pastry cream
Pâte Brisée I
245g plain flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
228g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp cold milk
100g seedless jam or conserve
100g flaked almonds
Note: You'll have some leftover custard which will keep in the fridge for 4 days, you could easily half the recipe but I'm not sure how accurate the results would be! You could skip the custard entirely and just fill the pop tarts with frangipane, but it wont be as creeeeeeamy.
Warning: Prepare to wash the same bowl at least 3 times in 24 hours. It's painful but so worth it.
Make the pastry cream. Put the eggs and vanilla in the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk for 30 seconds on medium speed. Slowly add sugar and whisk for 3 minutes until very pale - when you lift the whisk, you should see a dissolving ribbon. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour in the milk and scrape down the sides of the bowl half way through. Pour the mixture into a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and simmer, continue whisking for 3 minutes to cook through once thickened. Pour through a fine sieve straight into a medium bowl, whisk in the butter until silky. Cover surface with clingfilm and leave to cool, at this point the mixture can be refrigerated for 4 days.
Make the frangipane & almond cream. Sift ground almonds and flour together in a bowl to get rid of lumps. With an electric whisk or freestanding mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the icing sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add all of the almond mixture. Mix until just incorporated and scrape down the bowl again. Mix on medium speed and slowly add the eggs. Once everything comes together to form a thick-ish paste, transfer to another bowl and add 100g of cooled custard. Stir until everything looks even and set aside, the mixture can last for up to 4 days in the fridge, as long as its covered.
Make the pastry. Combine the flour, salt and sugar and mix until everything looks even. Scatter butter over the top and mix on medium speed for 60 seconds, until the dough barely comes together and there are still big lumps of butter yet to be incorporated. In a small bowl, stir together the eggs and milk. Pour all of this into the flour mixture and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. There should still be lumps of butter.
Put the mixture atop a clean surface and gather into a mound. Then, using your palms, slide your hand across the surface of the dough until all of the butter is smeared into the flour, but you can still see thin streaks of butter. Scrape each part of the dough with your palms twice until eventually, everything comes together. Wrap the dough in cling film and flatten into a disk. Place in the fridge for 4-24 hours.
Make the pop tarts. Line 2 baking trays with parchment. Split the chilled dough into 2 pieces, leaving the second piece in the fridge. On a slightly floured surface, roll the first piece of dough into a 9 x 13 inch rectangle (roughly). Using a ruler, slice off the ragged edges. Measure and cut 8 or 10 rectangles that are aprox 2 x 4 inches each. You should be able to get 2 rows of 5 rectangles.
Using an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of jam in the center of half of the rectangles, making sure to leave 1/2 an inch from the edges to avoid overspill. Scoop a tablespoon of almond cream on top of the jam. Place a plain rectangle on top of the almond cream and press the tines of a fork around the edges to seal it. Repeat the process with the rest of the rectangles. Place the first lot of tarts on a baking tray and then back in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180 C. Take the second half of chilled dough and make the last 5/6 pop tarts. Freeze the 2nd batch for 10 minutes . Brush each tart with egg and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool. Tarts last for 3 days.