Way Better Than Pop Tarts

Flaky stuffed pillows of pie crust sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. One bite of these, and you’ll never look a Pop-Tart straight in the face again.

Back in the day, my childhood home was known as the “health food” house. (It was also known as the “twigs and berries” house.) My mom primarily shopped at the health food coop. She didn’t allow processed sugar, and so when I saw my friends eat those tantalizingly sugar-laced Pop-Tarts (as advertised on TV), I could only imagine how wonderful they must taste. Mmm… Flaky golden crust, sweet and smooth icing, bursting with delicious chocolate or thick, sugary berry jam.

Well, one day, I worked up the courage to sneak one! Oh yes, my sister and I became masterful at sneaking sugar. At our secret hiding spot, my friend handed me one of these foil-wrapped treasures. I held it in my hands, heart beating with anticipation. Then I ripped into the wrapping, took a giant bite and…

Blech! The flavorless, cardboard-like confection I held in my hands bore no semblance to the treats that came popping out of toasters in TV land.  Later in life, I tried a health food version of a Pop-Tart and, again, ended up wishing I hadn’t.

Because of those experiences, I’m not a person who walks through life thinking about Pop-Tarts. So, coming up with the idea to make today’s creation caught me by surprise. A couple of months ago, I’d made some fantastic pear butter. It has the best texture, aroma, and flavor. It seemed a waste to leave it in the freezer over the summer. I thawed it and started my search for recipes. I thought the pear butter would be delicious layered between some kind of pastry. I envisioned a layer of mellow cheese (think mascarpone) topped with the pear butter.  I started my Internet search with the sole word “tart” just to see what would result. (Fortunately, I had the “safe” filter on my browser, otherwise who knows what images “tart” might have conjured forth.) As luck would have it, the third result was homemade pop tarts from Smitten Kitchen.

Way Better Than Pop-Tarts

Makes 9 Pastries


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 3/4 cup pear butter or jam
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon mixed with 3 tsp granulated sugar for the topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix flour, sugar and salt. Slice butter into pats. Mix in butter with a pastry blender or your fingers. Do this until butter is pea-sized. It is ready when dough holds together when you squeeze it.
  3. Whisk together one egg and milk.
  4. Stir egg mixture into dough. Dough should form into a ball.
  5. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a rectangle (about 3 x 5 inches).
  6. Roll out one half of the dough on a lightly floured surface. Try to keep the shape rectangular. Roll out until dough is about 1/8 inch thick and is about 9″ x 12.” Cut the dough into nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles. Repeat with second half of dough.
  7. Mix together pear butter (or jam) and cornstarch mixture.
  8. Beat the second egg and brush it on one 3″ x 4″ piece.
  9. Place a heaping tablespoon of pear butter mixture in center of egg-covered dough. Spread out the pear mixture leaving a 1/2″ border.
  10. Place a second 3″ x 4″ dough rectangle on first dough rectangle. Press down on edges to seal the two pieces together.
  11. Use tines of a fork on the perimeter of rectangle to complete the seal and to add a decorative touch.
  12. Repeat with remaining tarts.
  13. Place tarts on parchment-lined baking sheets. Wash the tops with remaining egg mixture. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Prick each tart a few times to allow steam to escape.
  14. Place in oven for 20 minutes. The tarts should be a golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack.
Adapted from http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/04/homemade-pop-tarts/

Waste Not Want Not OR Spiced Pear Butter

Pear butter and cream cheese slathered on fresh-baked bread and canning jars of just-made pear butter ready for the freezer.

Jack and I try not to waste, especially when it comes to food. When our school’s head cook brought me a box of pears that were too banged up and bruised to serve to students, I gladly took them with the promise of creating something tasty in return.

I bagged up what weighed in at eight pounds of what appeared to be d’Anjou pears. With our supply of maple syrup running low (pancakes and waffles are a weekly feature on our breakfast menu) I reckoned they’d cook down into a fair amount of sweet, lightly spiced pear butter.

Outside it was blowing a gale. I made the walk home in near white-out blizzard conditions only to find my front door knob frozen solid! A snow drift as high as the house had the other door completely buried! After trudging back to school to get help – and fortunately finding one of our maintenance crew who knew exactly what to do – I decided to forego a walk to the store to pick up orange juice, a key element in my most recent batch of pear butter. I did have plenty of lemon juice on hand. Time to experiment.

I have to say this pear butter came out even better than the last. If you picked this up in a cute jar in a boutique gourmet shoppe, you would be happy you spent the $8.

Making pear butter requires an investment of time and effort, but it’s worth it. We taste tested it on Challah bread with a smear of cream cheese. Delicious. We already can imagine filling all the nooks in our weekend waffles with warmed pear butter and chopped pecans. It would be equally tasty on broiled pork chops or grilled chicken.


  • 6 pounds of cored pears cut into cubes (D’Anjou or Bartlett)
  • 1 tbsp dry ground ginger
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 4 – 5 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp orange zest (lemon would be good, too)


  1. Put cubed pears and ginger into a large pot – preferably one with a thick enough bottom to prevent scorching. Add 2 cups water and 1 cup lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until pears are soft, 25 – 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  2.  Purée the mixture using food processor, stick or regular blender. Pour puréed pears back into large pot.
  3. Add sugar. Taste after adding 4 cups to see if more sugar is needed. Add cardamom and citrus zest. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  4. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring often to prevent the purée from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Cook until the mixture is fairly thick. Test by placing a small dollop on a chilled plate: it should not be runny. The cooking-down time can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the batch.
  5. Store in freezer containers or canning jars.
Recipe adapted from http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/pear_butter/

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White Chocolate Chip Pear Butter Bread

White Chocolate Chip Pear Butter Bread

I impressed myself when this came out of the oven. It had that perfect rich baked brown crust on the top with a beautiful crack that revealed the white chocolate chips. The whole pan of bread disappeared in two days!

I had made pear butter the weekend before with a dozen bruised and ailing pears. I found a recipe that called for pears, orange juice, orange zest and nutmeg. I cooked it in a crock pot over night and finished it with some pectin in the freezer. It turned out wonderfully. It was dark and thick, sweet and spicy with a lovely citrus note.

I thought the pear butter would work really well in a sweet bread. I found a recipe for apple butter bread and altered it to suit my needs. I added chopped pecans and white chocolate chips for a surprise.