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
Homemade Sour Cherry Whole Wheat Pop Tarts
- Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
- Yield: 8 pop tarts (and some scraps of dough) 1x
For the crust:
- 1 cup (160 g) unbleached all purpose flour (or flour 00)
- 1 cup (160 g) soft white whole wheat flour
- 1 cup (213 g) unsalted butter, cubed, cold
- 1 Tbsp organic cane sugar (or granulated sugar)
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup (121 g) ice cold water
For the filling
- sour cherry jam (or any jam of your liking)
For the icing:
- ½ cup icing (powdered) sugar
- 1 Tbsp half and half cream
- ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
For the topping:
- 1 Tbsp dehydrated raspberries, crumbled
For the crust:
- Place the flours, salt, sugar in a food processor and blend.
- Add the cubed butter and pulse several times until you see crumbles and the mixture seems a bit dry. Do not overmix.
- Add the ice-cold water a little at a time (you might need more or less) and pulse until the dough just comes together.
- Drop dough onto a lightly floured surface, and shape it into one ball.
- Portion the dough into 2 flat disks, then wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
- Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- After the resting time in the fridge, take out one disk of dough and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes, or until you feel it's workable. Keep the other disk in the fridge.
- Lightly flour your work surface and place the pie dough, sprinkling some more flour on top. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough from the centre outward, using more flour if needed to prevent it from sticking. Roll the dough in a rectangle about 13x11 inches, then trim to a 12x10-inch rectangle,
- Using a ruler and a ravioli cutter (or pointed knife), cut into eight 5x3-inch rectangles. I ended up with 8 rectangles and some scraps of dough.
- Arrange the rectangles, spaced evenly apart, on the prepared baking sheet and set back in the fridge while you work with the other disk of dough.
- Repeat what you did with the first disk and you will end up with 8 more rectangles and more scraps of dough. (I combined all the scraps, re-shaped them into a ball and set it in the freezer for later use).
- Arrange the rectangles on the second baking sheet and set in the fridge while you take out the first baking sheet from the fridge.
- Preheat your oven to 375° F.
- Brush the edge of 4 rectangles (they will be your base) with half & half cream (this will help the dough to stick together), and spoon a rounded tablespoon of jam onto the center. Spread it slightly, but not too close to the edges.
- Place the other 4 rectangles over the filling of the pop tarts. With a fork, press edges together to seal (some of the jam may leak out, which is fine).
- Poke few holes on the top center of each pop tart with a toothpick.
- Take other baking sheet out of the fridge and repeat process with remaining rectangles.
- I baked 4 pop tarts at a time on a baking sheet for about 25 minutes, or until nice and golden, you can bake them together positioning one oven rack near top third of the oven and a second oven rack near bottom third of the oven.
- Allow them to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the icing:
- In a mixing bowl whisk together the icing sugar, and the vanilla, adding the half & half a little at a time until it reaches desired consistency.
- Spread over tops of cooled pop tarts, leaving a small rim uncoated around all sides.
- Sprinkle tops with crumbled dehydrated raspberries (if desired) and allow glaze to set at room temperature.
Store in an airtight container. They keep for 2-3 days.
- Prep Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: North American
I love baking and kneading dough because it takes me to a happy place in my soul.
Flavour and Savour @flavourandsavour.com says
What a beautiful story of how you came to Canada!! I never let my kids have store-bought pop tarts when they were young, but these homemade ones look wholesome and downright yummy!
Thank you Elaine, quite a journey, eh? 😉 . I know, I wouldn't have either, once I saw the packaged version... These are quite good and somewhat healthier. Of course, the moderation... 😉
the fashionista cook says
Lovely pen pal story.
Oh, Nicoletta, that is such a beautiful story. My heart just ached for you and became happy with your joy as you slowly found your new life and love. You show, in such a beautiful way, how food is intertwined with our emotions, and how it can transport us so completely to places in time. (I, too, have never eaten a pop tart, growing up in an immigrant household, and was so envious of my schoolmates when they had those wonderful-looking treats in their lunches. Maybe it's time I had one now. I think I need to make these.)
Thank you so much, Margaret! In my life food is always intertwined with emotions...and a story 🙂 Loreto is "happy" to hear he's not the only one that envied his schoolmates at lunch break 😉 . As for the pop tarts, the grown ups here enjoyed them very very much!
Denise from Urb'n'Spice says
I loved your story and how you met Loreto, and how your pen pal came full circle in your life - how romantic. And again, full circle with your cherry adventures in making homemade pop tarts. I have never had a store bought pop tart yet I am so inspired to make your recipe. I can almost taste the pastry that you describe so well. And what a terrific idea to sprinkle dehydrated raspberries on top! Thank you for the entertaining and romantic post and lovely recipe, Nicoletta.
I am so curious to try a store bought one, but I don't want to ruin the beautiful taste I have in my mouth and memory of these glorious homemade ones! Thank you, Denise, it was about time I shared how I came to Canada the first time.... 🙂
This is such a cool story! I live about 2.5 hours from Edmonton.
Hi Heidi, thank you so much! Where about do you live? If you happen to come to Edmonton for whatever reason, send us an email. we're always willing to meet new people!
Breakfast for Dinner says
Such a wonderful story! I love hearing how people meet their mates - so fascinating. I used to LOVE having pen pals - there even used to be a service you could sign up for and they would match you up with another kid with similar interests to be your pen pal! Haha, I haven't thought about that in a long time. Thanks for the trip down memory lane 🙂
Thanks, glad you enjoyed the story of my journey from Italy to Canada! I didn't know there was a service that would match you with a pen pal... You're welcome, always love when I am able to take people on a journey with my food 🙂 .
Loretta Friedrich says
After all the time I've known you, I didn't know the detailed version of how you two met. Love the pen pal story. Takes me back to the time when all correspondence was written and mailed. The anticipation, excitement and joy to get an envelope delivered! In your case, it ended with a love story. 🙂
Gosh these pop tarts look great. I had actually bookmarked a similar recipe online to see if I could "healify" it somewhat, sometime. Yours looks perfect. I think I know what brand you used for the soft white wheat flour which I happen to have on hand! Unlike Loreto or others who posted here, we actually had pop tarts as treats once in a blue moon, on special occasions only. Did I mention it had to be a blue moon? :p
Thanks for sharing another food story.
Exactly Loretta, the anticipation, the wait, the excitement, the beautiful paper cards and the handwriting! So glad you enjoyed the story, I will try to continue our story (Loreto's and mine) in the posts to come... lots has happened since that first arrival in Canada. Yes, you mentioned the blue moon 😉 . I guess they're not the healthiest treat... these ones are not too bad, as always in moderation, but the ingredients are good and it's all homemade from the crust to the filling... 🙂 .
Nicoletta, you can inform Loreto that I was also not allowed to eat pop tarts as a kid...
Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing. And, thank-you for this wonderful recipe. Have a great week-end ♥
Loreto says: "Damn! We can start a support group and will serve these pop tarts!" 😉 . Thanks so much, glad you liked the post and the tarts!
First of all, I'm drooling over that sour cherry jam! How wonderful that you have friends willing to share their sour cherry harvest. These pop tarts are a great, unexpected way to use the jam and this post shows a sweet and playful side to you through your blog.
Thank you, Bernice! That jam is sooo good! And it was perfect for these tarts, it balances perfectly the sweetness.
I just love this post. You turned a convenience food that isn't so healthy and is full of so many preservatives into a healthy home made treat.
Ohh, I love this. Thank you for sharing your gorgeous story of true friendship and everything that comes from it...including your Loreto! My heart is full just reading.... I've had a few (ahem) pop tarts in my day - but I know that none come anywhere close to yours! My mouth is officially watering! Lovely post, my friend!
Ah, ah Annie, I probably would have had quite a few pop tarts if I lived here 😉 . Thank you so much, so glad you enjoyed my post! 🙂