What ever happened to Saturday morning cartoons? I mean, I know that there are technically still cartoons on T.V. every Saturday morning, but what happened to the good ones? O.K., so some might respond to my query as follows: "Uh, Julie? Hate to break it to you, but you're a just a little bit out of the cartoon target market age range. Today's cartoons are probably just as good as the ones that you watched as a kid."
Good point, but........no. They're not. Sorry. Not even close.
Now, just to clarify, I don't have a habit of evaluating cartoons on Saturday mornings, but sometimes I'm in a position where they are just the next thing on after the morning news, and for whatever reason I can't change the channel. Really. Like....say I'm in the middle of a big granola-making-marathon, or I might be on the treadmill without the remote. These types of situations happen often enough for me to know that today's cartoons (with the possible exception of SpongeBob) don't hold a candle to the ones that I grew up with.
I feel lucky that my cartoon-watching era occurred during the 80s, when my Saturday mornings were a 2-3 hour special event before ice-skating practice, piano lessons, and slumber parties. My brother and I would sit on the carpet, usually too close to the T.V., until my mom would make us scoot back "You're going to hurt your eyes!" Breakfast would be a bowl of whatever cereal had the best prize (I was a sucker for temporary tattoos), an Entenmann's chocolate donut, or a Pop-Tart. Apparently, healthy egg-white-whole-grain-and-oatmeal breakfasts weren't yet all the rage in the 80s.
My favorite cartoon was The Smurfs. Smurfette, Papa Smurf, and Jokey Smurf made being blue cool long before Avatar hit the silver screen. That cartoon was, for lack of a better description, super smurfy. Incidentally, I now have the Smurf theme song ("La-laaaa-la-la-la-la....) going through my head. Darn. I heard that they are making a Smurf movie, using live actors? Hmmm.... Not sure how I feel about Katy Perry as Smurfette. We shall see. Remember The Snorks? That premise was basically The Smurfs underwater. Also, an enjoyable cartoon, but it didn't last quite as long.
Looney Tunes, Wile E. Coyote & Roadrunner, and The Superfriends were also favorites in our house. How can you forget "Wonder Twin powers, activate!" "Form of, an eagle!" "Shape of, water!"?? Classic. And that poor, poor, wacky Wile E. Coyote. Will he never stop ordering faulty products from Acme? True, every single episode was essentially the same basic formula (Roadrunner outsmarts Coyote), but it was a brilliant one that worked, week after week after week.
Of course, I simply cannot discuss Saturday morning cartoons without giving a nod to Schoolhouse Rock! It was an incredibly smart concept, tricking kids into learning history and grammar through cartoons and catchy songs on a Saturday morning:
I'm just a bill.
Yes, I'm only a bill.
And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill.
Apparently I'm not the only fan. Check out this web site dedicated to songs such as "Conjunction Junction", "Electricity", and the oh-so-fun-to-say "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here".
Just as my taste in T.V. has evolved, so has my taste in breakfast treats. I can't remember the last time that I bought boxed anything without heavily scrutinizing the ingredient list first for words that I can't pronounce. I know. No fun. I used to really love the store-bough Pop-Tarts and Toaster Strudels, but now they just taste, well, store-bought.
I was flipping through my new favorite baking book, Flour, by Joanne Chang, and I was so, so excited to find a recipe for her homemade pop-tarts. The resulting pastry is more of a cross between a traditional Pop-Tart and a Toaster Strudel, because the outside is much flakier than the cookie-like texture of a Pop-Tart. That said, Joanne's pastry recipe is ten-thousand times better than any Toaster Strudel that I've ever had. I've always struggled a bit with achieving truly light and flaky pie crusts, but clearly I've been using the wrong recipes.
I tweaked Joanne's recipe just a bit, but it's still pretty close to the one in her cookbook, and the technique is the same. Warning: These treats are super-rich and buttery, so maybe go outside for a run after enjoying one on Saturday morning. There's nothing good on T.V. anyhow 🙂 Here are my extra tips for making these better-than-the-boxed-version breakfast treats:
- Once the pastry dough has been prepared, it can be wrapped tightly and refrigerated for up to four days or frozen for up to one month.
- Try to use the best butter that you can find for this recipe. The quality really comes through in the flavor of the pastry. Challenge makes a good unsalted butter that's not over-the-top expensive.
- Filling ideas for these treats are limited only to what you have in your pantry: bittersweet chocolate and marshmallows, jams and preserves, peanut butter and jelly, diced bananas and chopped pecans, pumpkin butter.......be creative 🙂
- If you prefer to serve the pop-tarts warm, feel free to either omit the glaze, or you can glaze them sooner after removing them from the oven. The glaze won't set as well, and they might be a bit messier, but they will still taste yummy! You can also reheat the glazed pot-tarts in a 300F degree oven for 8-10 minutes until warm.
- Don't become frustrated if the pop-tarts don't look pretty during the assembly process. Mine didn't! One thing that I did to dress them up a bit was use the excess pastry dough (from the trimmings) to cut out small shapes to place on top. Just brush the top of the pastry with some of the beaten egg and adhere the cut-out to the top.
Flaky Homemade Pop-Tarts
Makes 8 pop-tarts
For the flaky pastry (Pate Brisee):
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup good quality cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons whole milk
For the Apple-Cinnamon filling:
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium apples (recommend Granny Smith or Honeycrisp), cored and thinly sliced
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
For the glaze:
1 ½ cups confectioner's sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons whole milk or water
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
Prepare the flaky pastry: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined. Scatter the butter pieces over the top of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until lumps of butter the size of pecans are seen throughout, about 1 ½ minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the milk until blended. Add this mixture to the mixing bowl and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, until the dough just barely comes together. Dump the dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface and gather it into a tight mound. Using the palm of your hand and starting on one side of the mound, smear the dough bit by bit, starting at the top and then sliding your palm down the side and along the work surface, until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the dough comes together. When finished, you should have a "cohesive dough with streaks of butter" (Joanne's words exactly!)
Gather the dough together and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, pressing it down to flatten to a 1-inch thick disk. Refrigerate the dough for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Prepare the Apple-Cinnamon filling: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the apples and saute for 2-3 minutes, until they start to soften. Add the sugar and the cinnamon and saute for 3 minutes more. Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer it to a bowl to cool slightly. Mix in the egg and flour and allow to cool completely.
Assemble and bake the pop-tarts: Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Remove the pastry dough from the refrigerator and divide it into two equal pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll each piece into a 14X11-inch rectangle. Using a paring knife, lightly score one rectangle into two rows of four equal pieces (about 3 ½ by 5 ½ inches each.) Brush the surface of the scored rectangle with the egg.
Place about 2 tablespoons of the Apple-Cinnamon filling (or your filling of choice) in a mound in the center of each scored rectangle. Carefully place the second large rectangle of dough directly on top of the first, pressing around the sides of each mound of filling to adhere. Using a knife or a fluted roller, cut the dough into 8 rectangles. Transfer the rectangles to the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1-inch apart.
Bake the pop-tarts for 30-35 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Allow the pastries to cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack.** (See note above about options here!)
Prepare the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioner's sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and enough milk to make a smooth and pourable glaze. When the pastries have cooled, drizzle or brush the tops with the glaze. Allow the glaze to stand for 10 minutes to set (or just eat them right away, like I did!)