Homemade Sour Cherry Whole Wheat Pop Tarts, bringing back a childhood favorite and giving it a more healthy spin, not sacrificing flavor or texture. A flaky pocket filled with jammy goodness.
Song of the day: "Got to Get You Into My Life", Earth, Wind & Fire's version.
I didn't know then -and I wouldn't know for many years to come- that the day in high school when our English teacher handed us each a piece of paper with a name and an address written on it, that my life would take an unexpected turn.
A pen pal brought me to Edmonton
That piece of paper read Stefanie and an exotic destination: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. My eyes grew big and my heart pounded loud. I had never heard of that place on the other side of the world! We were supposed to improve our English, writing to the person on the paper, starting what was called a pen pal friendship. And so I did, not stopping at high school, but keeping that correspondence going for more than 20 years. I wrote to Stefanie, my pen pal friend, handwritten letters on real letter cards, letters that took some time to arrive at the destination, and that kept me in thrilling curiosity until I opened the next one. Those letters witnessed the passing of the years through school, university, work, single life and married life, in a more serious or light-hearted way about friends and family, weather and food, interests, trials, failures, and successes. We were always there for each other, supporting, encouraging, among laughter and tears. And when one day, my -until then- "perfect life" took a sudden deep plunge into the abyss, she encouraged me to take some time off, book a flight, pack some clothes into a suitcase and come to see her in person.
My first time in Canada
It was the summer of 2007. With two weeks off work, a light suitcase, a heavy mind and a broken heart, I started my adventure towards Canada. I wasn't going to Canada as an expat, I wasn't going to reunite with family or loved ones, or seeking work and new possibilities. I had everything I needed back home. I was going to meet a friend I had never seen in person, and little did I know, that person would bring back love into my life. I had the most amazing two weeks, it seemed like we knew each other for years (and we did, if only on paper!), she and her husband took me to visit the wonders of western Canada, I learned new things, new words, ate new foods and discovered new drinks; I tasted my first peanut butter and jam sandwich, savored my first marshmallow roasted on an open fire in Camrose, I flew in a helicopter over the Rocky Mountains, I sipped my first Caesar relaxing on a porch, munching on veggies and dip. All new to me, believe it or not. And when it was almost time to go back home, she introduced a new variable into my life: her cousin Loreto. A variable that would scatter my "model" life, and that would fill all the blanks I didn't know I had.
From those two weeks, I learned to keep my eyes and heart open to new exploits, while perfecting to balance life between the here and there. It is a new excitement every day, among the things I discover and witness with my senses, and the stories I hear from my husband, in a mutual teaching and learning, incorporating our two cultures, background, and history.
Like the sour cherries, and saskatoons, and their harvest. The new friends are added to the old, long-lasting ones. The new taste of breakfast, the unusual snacks, the new -for me- items on the aisles of a grocery store open my world in ways I could never imagine and allow my creativity to soar!
The flavor of my love's childhood combined with my passion for baking
Pop tarts were new to me. As a matter of fact, I am still amazed at some items displayed on the aisles of the big grocery stores. Items that you cannot find in Italy and that therefore are not part of my life growing up. I am always full of questions, like a kid experiencing new things, and Loreto is always willing to explain to me and give me a detailed story. So when one day I saw these pop tarts in our local supermarket store, I was intrigued and asked my husband what they were. He started a beautiful journey back to his childhood and told me about his love for these tarts that never happened to be in his breakfast repertoire or school lunch box. Because his Italian mom thought that Zabaione whipped eggs, a salad sandwich or an Italian cold cut sandwich were more appropriate for her kids, and those tarts were just not good. Loreto's kids, on the other hand, enjoyed many of these pop tarts, memories of them popping up from the toaster echoing in their stories.
So here I am, giving a homemade, healthy spin to the beloved pop tarts, so that my husband and stepson can enjoy and go back to their childhood in every bite. As for me, I am going to add this taste to the new discoveries of the past few years. And I cannot wait....
I am adapting my trusted pie dough recipe (that I used in this turnovers), substituting half the flour with soft white whole wheat flour, skipping the shortening and going with all butter, and adding a tablespoon of sugar. As for the filling, you can choose whatever jam you have on hand, but a suggestion would be to use jams that are not too sweet and not too runny. I used our latest homemade sour cherry jam, that also provided a beautiful tartness to counterbalance the icing sugar frosting.
Homemade pop tarts are quite laborious to make, but I had so much fun making them! Follow the instructions in the recipe below (I tried my best to explain all the steps), enjoy being in the moment, and don't forget to breathe. Sometimes I do that, when I am too focused on something I just hold my breath 🙂 . While making the dough, rolling, stretching, measuring, cutting, refrigerating, brushing, filling, covering, poking, sealing, baking, frosting, and sprinkling, I had few moments when I found myself biting my lower lip in deep concentration, and for a few hours I even forgot to check my tablet for emails, likes, pins, and comments, lol. I was able to make 8 pop tarts, but I ended up with quite some scraps of dough. If you still have the patience to keep going, just shape it again into a ball, roll it and measure/cut into more rectangles. I called it a day and double wrapped the dough ball in plastic and set it in the freezer for a later use.
When the tarts are in the oven you can relax a bit, then the timer rings and out come the pop tarts! They are so pretty, I see myself staring at them with a smile on my face. They are able to transport you back to childhood only by looking at them.
After they've cooled off, I spread the icing with a teaspoon and I didn't cover the whole surface, maybe because I am not a big fan of icings and frostings, but you feel free to ice it as you most like and just add the toppings you like best. I had some dehydrated raspberries, that I just crumbled on top. They have a beautiful tart flavor and an intense berry aroma, a pleasure for your nostrils as you bring one pop tart to your mouth.
I love that cracking open part that reveals the plump colorful center that I know is going to be delicious as we have been using this jam for breakfast and is disappearing fast. That icing, the way it looks, like a bright cloud of sugary goodness. Loreto told me that he had a way to eat the pop tart when he could get his hands on one through a lunch trade. First, he eats around the edges, then tries to tackle the frosting, and lastly taking off the top crust and lick the jam. I have this vision of him with that childhood grin, totally hilarious.
As for my way, I am more conservative in the eating strategies. I simply bite in and I have to say, I love the tenderness of this pop tart crust. The whole wheat gives this nice nutty flavor and crispy texture, and at the same time, it just melts revealing this vibrant crimson somewhat tart but enough sweet to balance the flavors as to not have you make that face when something is sour. The frosting is not overpowering just enough of that sugary goodness to balance the yin and yang of flavor. The crumbled dehydrated raspberries are wonderful as they pop in your mouth to the sound of your teeth crushing them. I love these pop tarts and could really see how Loreto would lose himself in the art of eating them. The beautiful thing is I made them homemade, from scratch right down to the jam, and that they are healthy and have so much joyful energy in them as I was smiling all throughout the making of these Homemade Sour Cherry Wholewheat Pop Tarts!
Treat the ones you love with something homemade, pretty, delicious, and healthier than the store-bought counterpart. They are going to thank you and ask you to make more!Print