Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sundays with Sparky - Healthier, Tastier Pop-Pastry


As you may recall, I have a horror of Pop-Tarts, which I have to admit extends further than my nutritional concerns: I've never understood why anybody would eat two pieces of cardboard covered in heavily-sugared caulk with some kind of  odd-textured gelatinous mass in case you were wondering how I really feel.  Faux food is one thing, bad faux food is entirely another (while, to be sure, they're worse nutritionally, I like "strudels" and "turnovers" better.)  Of course, my history of loving homemade hand-pies of all shapes and sorts is well documented in the recipe index, and this may have an effect on my enmity towards all things that Pop.

037However, Sparky has always been quick to point out that our toaster came with a "Pop-Tarts" setting, colorful font and all.  When he saw an ad for "cream cheese pastry" when we were grocery shopping,  and asked if they were something we could make at home, the gears in my mind started happily grinding away.

Most pastries are flaky and crunchy with lots and lots of fat: I've no illusions that my homemade hand pies are good for you.  However, there is one exception to the pastry rule if you know the technique, and it's admirably well-suited to the toaster: phyllo dough.  Sprayed with oil-based cooking spray (or, even better, your own oil in a mister) and layered with breadcrumbs to assist with lift, it will give you a lovely flaky -and relatively healthy- shell.  These do take some work, but it's front-loaded; if you spend a few hours making a lot of these and par-baking them, they can go in your freezer for a quick breakfast on another day - and they won't make your dentist shudder.  So, I gathered a random pile of possible ingredients together and put Sparky to work to see how they'd come out.

012 Mise:

Purchased phyllo dough (we used thick, or strudel-style)
Cooking spray (like Pam)
Panko breadcrumbs (or any breadcrumbs)
A slurry of equal parts water and flour

Sweet filling:
Neufchatel Cheese (lowfat cream cheese)
Homemade Peach Bruise jam (peach puree with lightly sweetened black raspberries) or apple butter
Frozen raspberries

Savory filling:
Purchased refrigerated pesto sauce (or homemade)
Paneer cheese, diced (or mozzarella - but paneer will retain its shape and thus is less likely to leak)
Thinly sliced shallot

I think I'm just going to let the pictures tell the story of assembling these beauties; just keep scrollin':

Step 1: Unroll the phyllo onto a dampened towel.  Keep another damp towel handy to cover it if you walk away for more than a moment - if it dries out it will start to crack on you.


Step 2: Find the center top of your top sheet of phyllo (we "scored" ours by lightly folding in half the long way) and spread with a thick toaster-pastry-size island of filling - in this case, neufchatel, jam and raspberries.  Leave a space at the top for folding over.


Step 3: Spray the entire sheet with a light film of cooking spray, and sprinkle lightly with breadcrumbs (you will repeat this step every time you fold and reveal unsprayed dough.)


Step 4: Fold the pastry gently in half the long way.  Continue spraying, sprinkling and folding as shown.




Step 5:  Paint the outside edge of the phyllo with a thick layer of the flour-water slurry, making sure to get in between the layers.  Press to the outside and spray the outside with cooking spray.  Fold in the top sides like you're wrapping a present, tuck one side inside and paste the other to the outside with more slurry.



Use the same method for assembling the savory pop-pastries - first paint with pesto sauce, then sprinkle with paneer and shallots.  Fold, spray and seal as above.  (Lesson learned: store separately from the sweet, because it's a big shock to get pesto when you expect jam and vice versa.)


After assembling, we par-baked them on a cookie sheet (they are quite floppy prior to baking) for about 10 minutes at 350, or until they were just lightly golden brown.  From this point, Sparky put his in the pop-up toaster and finally, finally got to use the toaster setting of his desire.  They toasted up delicious and hot (be careful to let the fruit-filled ones cool carefully!) and golden.

The remainder were put into the freezer; they reheated better in the toaster oven but would probably have worked in the pop-up toaster if we put them through twice on low heat.  Mmmm.



Michele Hays said...

I feel I would be remiss if I did not add my favorite suggestion on what to do with a Pop-Tart. The Fire Department asks that you take all necessary safety precautions first.

barberella said...

Oh, my....Thank you for that link!!!! You made my afternoon.

Michele Hays said...

You are most welcome. I'm a little frightened now...;-)

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