flaky days

Has anyone else noticed that I’ve been a bit scattered lately?

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My life is in flux. I’m training hard for an upcoming circus performance and hitting spin class twice a week… and sleeping through bootcamp. I’m swirling jam into my banana bread. I’m getting ready to go on a few adventures in the next few months (Hawaii, Portland, China, Toronto, Turkey), but the details haven’t been worked out yet and it’s making me a bit crazy.

I have a lot to learn and do and bake before I go.

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Like pie crust. I’ve never made my own. My mom makes amazing pie crust, so whenever I want to make a pie I just ask her to make an extra crust for me. I’m a pro at the rolling-out-and-filling part.

But I think it’s time to make my own. If I’m considering doing headstands on a few intersecting poles raised eight feet off the ground and learning to ride a motorcycle and swimming with great white sharks, then I think I can brave a pie crust.

Home-made Pop Tarts

We’re starting small with this pie crust… baby steps.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Crust

two cups all-purpose flour
one tablespoon sugar
one teaspoon salt
eight ounces (about a cup) cold butter, cut into pats
one egg
two tablespoons whole milk

Filling

three quarters cup jam (home-made jam is always best)
one tablespoon cornstarch

one egg, for brushing

Directions

In a saucepan (thick-bottomed if possible) add the jam and cornstarch and stir until you can’t see the cornstarch. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let it simmer for about 3 minutes until it starts to get thick, then set aside to cool (it will continue to get thicker as it cools).

Sift flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and use a pastry cutter to combine until the biggest butter bits are pea-sized. Then get your hands in there and give it a good squeeze – the flour and butter should start to stick together when pressed.
In a small bowl or glass, whisk together the egg and milk. Add into the flour/butter mixture and stir until you’re not afraid to get your hands in there. Then get your hands in there. Things are going to get sticky. You want everything to come together into one big ball, but don’t overmix – the pockets of butter are what are going to give you that flakiness in the crust.
Cut your ball in half (this gave me two ~11oz pieces). Wrap one and put it in the fridge. If your apartment is a sauna like mine, you’ll want to throw the second one in the freezer for a few minutes.
Flour a counter and rolling pin. Roll out half of the dough into a large rectangle around 1/8 of an inch (1/3 of a cm) thick and slice into rectangles (mine were about 15cm by 6cm, which gave me 11 pop tarts per recipe). Brush half the rectangles with egg. Spread about a tablespoon and a half of jam in the centre of the brushed pieces (leave at least a quarter of an inch of the edge clear of jam), and fold a non-brushed rectangle on top.
Use a fork to press down and seal around the edges of the pastry. The pierce the top layer a few times to let steam escape while baking, and brush the tops with egg.
Place pop tarts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put in the fridge to rest while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (Note: I have a convection oven that automatically lowers the temperature by 25 degrees to compensate for the convection. Lately I’ve adopted the habit of setting the temperature to 365 with the convection on so that the actual temperature is 340. Do what you will with that information.)
Bake for about 25 minutes or until the top is a nice golden colour. Let cool on the baking sheet for at least 5-10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
While the first set is baking, roll out the second half of the pastry and repeat the same process. These can be baked right away or frozen and baked whenever you’re ready.

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Final thoughts: my incredibly nonchalant non-vegan taste-tester came back to me unprompted and said these were fantastic, and asked me to make more. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner.

(That and maybe I need a new, more enthusiastic taste-tester… volunteers?)

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