In the world of packaged breakfast pastries, I have always maintained that toaster strudels > pop tarts. Give me flaky pastry and cream cheese icing over non-flaky pastry and royal icing any day, please and thank you!
My homemade version of toaster strudels feature all-butter rough puff pastry, a pleasantly tart fruity filling, and a colorful squiggle of cream cheese icing. If you want to serve these for breakfast I recommend making the pastry and jam the night before for best results — the pastry needs time to chillax (chill and relax), and you want your filling completely cold before assembling. Of course, if you wanted to serve these as dessert you could do this all in one day!
I filled my strudels with a thick rhubarb and berry jam, since that’s the fruit I had on hand. It was pleasantly tart, which contrasted excellently with the rich pastry and sweet icing. I also added a splash of elderflower liqueur for a fresh floral note — totally optional, but highly recommended if you have it on hand!
If you don’t have rhubarb and berries, you could sub in your favorite jamm-able fruits or even use some storebought preserves. If you’re using fresh fruit, cook down the filling enough so that it holds its shape, which will make assembly much easier. I’d love to try these with sour cherries and stone fruits later this summer! If you’re really looking to save time, you could also use store-bought puff pastry (for a standard box with 2 pieces, I’d cut each sheet into 6 rectangles). However, unless you spring for all-butter store bought puff pastry (which tends to be pricey), I highly recommend taking the time to make the rough puff — the taste is so much better!
Now, I will admit that pop tarts edge out toaster strudels in presentation — who can compete with colorful icing and sprinkles? So I stole a note from the pop tart playbook and added both for a little extra cheer to my pastries. My kids’ eyes practically popped out of their heads when they saw the pastries, and they were so excited to decorate their own. In other words: TOTALLY WORTH IT.
1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp milk or water and a pinch of salt, for egg wash
Extra granulated sugar, for sprinkling
For the icing:
60g cream cheese, at room temperature
60g icing sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Gel food coloring (optional)
Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the rhubarb, berries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring and mashing the fruit frequently, until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, still stirring frequently, until the mixture is very thick and the fruit has completely broken down, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and add the elderflower liqueur, if using. Transfer to a heat-proof container. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until completely cold, at least 1 hour.
Assemble, bake, and ice the strudels: On a well floured surface, roll the pastry into a long rectangle slightly larger than 9″ x 19.5″. The pastry should be between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick. Trim the edges to neaten, then use a pastry wheel or sharp knife to cut the pastry lengthwise into 2 long rectangles (each about 4.5″ x 19.5″). Cut each rectangle into 6 equal pieces. You should end up with twelve 4.5″ x 3.25″ rectangles. Transfer the rectangles to a parchment-lined sheet pan and chill for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F with a rack in the middle.
Once the pastry has chilled, brush the edges of 6 rectangles with egg wash. Divide the filling among the 6 rectangles, about a heaping tablespoon each. Use the back of a spoon to spread into an even layer, keeping the egg washed edges exposed. Top each rectangle with one of the remaining rectangles, pressing the edges firmly to seal. Trim the edges with a sharp knife to neaten, if needed. Use the tines of a fork to crimp the edges all around. Freeze the strudels until the pastry is firm, about 20-30 minutes.
When ready to bake, brush the strudels evenly with egg wash. Use a sharp paring knife to cut a small venting hole on the top of each one. Sprinkle the tops generously with granulated sugar. Stack the baking sheet on top of a second baking sheet to keep the bottoms from scorching during baking.
Bake the strudels for about 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is deeply golden. Rotate the sheet halfway through baking for even browning. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack to cool for 10-15 minutes before icing.
When ready to ice, beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth. Beat in a drop of food coloring, if desired. Transfer icing to a small piping bag and snip a small hole off the end. Pipe the icing onto the strudels and garnish with sprinkles, if desired. Let icing set for about 5 minutes before serving. Strudels are best served the day they’re baked.
I know, I know. Rhubarb is so April/May and I should be baking all the berry pies and strawberry shortcakes right about now. But to be honest, I saw my first good batches of rhubarb just a week ago. Maybe it’s the Canadian weather, but I find we’re a month or two behind everyone else when it comes to produce. Strawberry picking usually starts at the end of June, and peaches come up right around Labor Day. The good news is that if rhubarb season is long over where you’re living, this versatile frangipane tart base adapts well to other seasonal fruits. Apricots, nectarines, raspberries, figs — whatever looks good in your area, use it!
This shortcrust tart dough is adapted from Dorie Greenspan. I love how it comes together so easily and doesn’t shrink on me. Whereas I like making my pie crusts by hand, I typically use a food processor for tart dough. I like my tart crusts to be more crispy than flaky, so I’m not as concerned with big butter pieces and keeping all the ingredients super cold. That being said, if you don’t have a food processor or prefer not to use one, you can mix this dough by hand too (just do it as you would pie dough). Definitely don’t skip the chilling and freezing steps; it’s what keeps the dough from shrinking! At any rate, if you do have some cracking and shrinking, you can use any leftover dough to do a quick patch job after you take the foil off during the pre-bake step.
Rhubarb Frangipane Tart
Makes one 9-inch tart
For the shortcrust pastry
188g / 1.5 cups AP flour
63g / 1/2 c icing sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
128g / 9 Tbsp very cold unsalted butter, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 egg, lightly whisked
For the frangipane
115g / 4 ounces / 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g / 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
130g / 1 cup almond flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
Generous pinch of salt
~1/4 c strawberry or raspberry jam
1/2 lb rhubarb, trimmed and cut into ~2-3in. pieces
Honey or confectioner’s sugar, for serving
For the shortcrust pastry
Place the flour, icing sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
Scatter the butter over the top of the flour mixture. Pulse several times until the butter is cut in (you want irregular pieces ranging in size from a pea to a quarter).
Add the egg in stages, pulsing after each addition. Once the egg is added, pulse in 10 second increments until the dough forms clumps (you don’t want it completely smooth). Once the dough reaches this stage, dump it onto a clean countertop or silpat and gently knead until the dough comes together. Place the dough between two Silpats (or pieces of plastic wrap) and roll it out into a roughly 12-inch circle of about a 1/4″ thickness. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
Lightly grease a 9-inch tart tin. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and let it stand for about 5 minutes, just to make it pliable. Turn dough into the tart tin and trim the overhang to about 1/2 an inch. Fold the overhang in to reinforce the edges. If there are any tears or cracks, use some of the extra dough to patch it up. Pierce the dough all over with a fork, then wrap in plastic and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a piece of foil and fit it firmly over the chilled tart dough. Put the tart tin on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil (if the crust has risen at all press it down gently with the back of a spoon). If any cracks have formed, use some of the reserved dough to patch it. Bake crust for another 5-10 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Allow to cool completely before filling.
For the frangipane
Beat butter and sugar together on high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating the first in thoroughly and scraping down the bowl before adding the second.
Stir in the almond flour, followed by the vanilla and salt (either by hand or on the lowest mixer setting).
Finish the tart
Preheat oven to 375F. Spread the jam evenly over the bottom of the cooled tart shell. Spread the frangipane over the jam using an offset spatula. Arrange the rhubarb pieces on top and gently press them into the frangipane.
Bake the tart for 35-45 minutes, or until frangipane is puffed and golden. Serve at room temperature or chilled, with a sprinkling of icing sugar or a drizzle of honey. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for several days.
One of my favorite parts of spring is the opening of local farmer’s markets. We have two near our house, one of which started up a couple weeks ago. Last week rhubarb was for sale, and I bought some not quite knowing what I’d do with it. After perusing our fridge contents — part of a tub of sour cream, strawberries, butter, half a lemon — I settled on a cobbler with a sour cream biscuit topping. It was a lovely sweet-tart spring dessert, perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces (I like to cut butter into pieces and freeze for about 1/2 an hour before making dough)
3 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca
Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter; using your fingertips, incorporate until only pea-size lumps remain. Gently mix in sour cream. Knead in bowl until a biscuit-like dough forms, 5-7 turns (do not overmix).
Stir together filling ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into an 9-inch pie dish or divide among six 6-ounce ramekins. Tear biscuit topping into quarter-size crumbles; scatter over fruit.
Bake cobbler until juices are thick and bubbling and topping is cooked through and deep golden brown, 20-25 minutes for ramekins or 45-50 minutes for pie dish. Let cool for at least 1 hour.