Pop-Tarts vs. Toaster Strudels: The classic ’90s debate. Do you remember the passive-aggressive Toaster Strudel commercials? “Pillsbury Toaster Strudel is like a Pop-Tart, but better,” and “The one kids wanna eat!” I mean, really, that’s barely passive aggressive. Pillsbury is naming names, yo.
For what it’s worth, I’m a fan of both breakfast pastries. As a kid, I was always agitated that I couldn’t get the Toaster Strudel frosting to make neat little zig-zags like in the commercial. Toward the end of the squeeze pouch, I had to press too hard, resulting in a messy blob of frosting. Ashamed of my failure to zig-zag, I would grab a butter knife and spread it all over the top, as if that were my intention all along. Only to try again another day.
Pop-Tarts are a different story. I don’t know about you guys, but I have never actually toasted a Pop-Tart. The only popping going on there is me popping them directly into my mouth. In my adulthood, I’ve never purchased Toaster Strudels (although I gladly eat them when I visit my parents’ house). But sometimes when I’m in Target and I pass by the breakfast aisle, I can’t resist picking up a box of S’Mores Pop-Tarts.
I think that’s the ticket. For me, Toaster Strudel’s got it on lock when it comes to fruit filling. But when it comes to chocolate, you have to go with the Pop-Tart. I will eat those S’More Pop-Tarts until all the moisture in my mouth has completely disappeared, soaked up by the dry, sandy exterior of the pastries.
Of course, if you ask my father, the best Pop-Tart is the Unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon flavor. He actually went on Amazon and bought a case of 96 of them. He didn’t realize that the case had that many in it until it arrived at his door, and he realized he had spent nearly $40 on breakfast pastries. $40 on what is, in my opinion, the worst kind of Pop-Tart.
My husband once said, “I know all the Pop-Tarts are the same price, but if there was a poor person’s Pop-Tart, this would be it.” No frosting? No luxury flavors? The Unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tart is a Great Depression Pop-Tart, without a doubt.
So why all this talk of Pop-Tarts and Toaster Strudels? Because despite my love of these two breakfast items, I have never made a hand pie. Even though I’m like the world’s biggest pie fan! But the time has come, and I have to say that hand pies are possibly one of life’s greatest joys. They are also one of life’s greatest dangers, because you can eat them like cookies. Without the hassle of cutting slices and fetching plates and forks, you can easily eat about 6 of these before you realize what you have done. You’ve been warned!
- 1 recipe No Fail Pie Crust
- 2 firm ripe d'Anjou pears, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 400 grams)
- 1 cup (100 grams) cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3-4 tablespoons turbinado sugar
- Place pear cubes, cranberries, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and simmer 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together cornstarch & spices in a small bowl. Whisk cornstarch mixture into fruit filling; the whisking will break down the pears and cranberries. Cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll pie dough to about a 1/16-inch thickness. Cut dough into circles using a biscuit cutter (I used a 3⅞-inch diameter cutter). Place six dough rounds on each parchment-lined baking sheet. Plop a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each round. You should get 12-15 hand pies. (If you have more than 12, you can crowd the pan a little bit and fit 8 on each baking sheet.)
- Cut enough dough circles to make top crusts for each hand pie. To do a heart-topped crust, use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the shape off to the side of the dough, and set aside the heart shaped dough.
- Brush the edges of each filled dough round with the beaten egg, then top each hand pie with another dough circle, pressing firmly with your fingers or a fork to seal. If not doing heart cutouts, cut 4 small slits in the top of each hand pie with a sharp paring knife. For heart cutout pies, brush the back of the heart-shaped dough with egg wash and gently press onto the surface next to the cutout.
- Refrigerate pies on baking sheet for 10 minutes. Brush the tops of the hand pies with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake at 400°F for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.