American Baking Down the Decades, 1960-1969: breakfast leaves the table

225-logoThe King Arthur Flour Company marks its 225th anniversary this year. And we’re celebrating by exploring some of America’s favorite recipes, decade by decade, starting in 1900. Join us on this fascinating stroll through American food history.

If you’re a Boomer, you almost certainly remember the tumultuous 1960s. The oldest members of the Baby Boomer generation graduated from high school in 1964 – the same year the youngest ones were born.

1964 was a pivotal year. The war in Vietnam, an event that would define our childhood and young adulthood, was still a small conflict somewhere in the Far East. Elvis was shocking our parents, but crew-cut Pat Boone continued to croon as well.

The Beatles? On February 9, 1964, 70 million people tuned in on their rabbit-eared black and white television sets to watch the Fab Four’s American debut on the Ed Sullivan show. Their final number, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” represented the typical first step in the American girl’s life plan: love, marriage, motherhood.

Stay-at-home mom? They were the norm, not some new societal trend.

Moms cleaned the house, did laundry, checked homework and, of course, prepared meals – three a day, plus probably an after-school snack as well. Lunches got packed in brown paper sacks; dinner was a sit-down affair, usually served as soon as Dad walked in the door from his job.

And breakfast? You ate it at the table, from a plate (bacon and eggs) or bowl (cereal). Breakfast on the run? No such thing.

Until July 14, 1964. That’s the day Kellogg’s iconic grab & go breakfast, Pop-Tarts, hit the shelves. Check out the introductory TV ad:

“You can eat ’em in the dark, eat ’em in the park, eat ’em in a rollercoaster…” In other words, forget anchoring yourself to the breakfast table. Once you pop these babies out of Milton the Toaster (remember him?), a simple “May I be excused?” and you’re free to go.

No need to push scrambled eggs around the plate or listlessly spoon up lukewarm oatmeal. No, Pop-Tart in hand, you can crash out the door into a waiting gaggle of kids, ready to enjoy a Saturday of kickball, bike-riding, and a trip to the drugstore for a package of Twinkies and the latest Superman comic.

What was your favorite Pop-Tart flavor? Mine was (and is) plain-as-plain-can-be unfrosted brown sugar cinnamon. Thus, when I set out to make my own homemade toaster tarts (because why not, right?), brown sugar cinnamon was the test filling.

Toaster Tarts via @kingarthurflour

Though I did test strawberry, too – in a nod to the original four flavors.

After all, these pastries are nothing more than pie crust sandwiched around a thin layer of fruit (or brown sugar) filling.

I can do that – and so can you. With one caveat: remember, Boomers, this isn’t 1964, and you’re not the kid you used to be. We’re all looking to eat just a touch healthier these days. So this whole-grain version of our Tasty Toaster Tart recipe is 50% whole wheat, and 30% lower in fat than the original.

We can live with that, right?

How to make toaster tarts via @kingarthurflour

1. Make the crust.

Gather these ingredients:

1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (4 ounces) King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour

1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
3 to 4 tablespoons milk

Whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt. Add the shortening, mixing until everything is evenly crumbly. Then work in the butter, leaving some larger, pecan-sized pieces. 

Mix the egg and 3 tablespoons of the milk. Drizzle it into the dough as you mix, adding just enough to bring the dough together. It will be cohesive, but not wet or sticky. Stir in the additional tablespoon of milk, if necessary.

How to make toaster tarts via @kingarthurflour

Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a rough 3″ x 5″ rectangle, smoothing the edges. Wrap in plastic or waxed paper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes; this will relax the gluten and firm up the dough a bit, making it easier to roll.

You can also refrigerate the dough for up to 2 days; let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature before you roll it out.

How to make toaster tarts via @kingarthurflour

2. Roll it out.

Place one piece of dough on a generously floured work surface; I like this silicone rolling mat, which helps keep cleanup to a minimum.

How to make toaster tarts via @kingarthurflour

Roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″. Trim off the edges; place the scraps on a baking sheet, and set them aside, along with the 9″ x 12″ rectangle of dough.

Press the edge of a ruler into the dough, to gently score it in thirds lengthwise and widthwise; you’ll see nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.

Beat 1 large egg, and brush it over the entire surface of the dough; you won’t use all of the egg.

How to make toaster tarts via @kingarthurflour

3. Make the filling.

I’m trying two fillings: brown sugar cinnamon and strawberry. Each of the amounts below will make enough for an entire recipe of toaster tarts, so choose one – or make a double batch of pastry.

Brown sugar cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to taste
4 teaspoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Mix everything together.

Strawberry
3/4 cup strawberry jam (or the jam of your choice)
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water

Bring the jam and cornstarch/water to a boil in a small saucepan and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool.

Roll the second piece of dough, and cut it into a 9″ x 12″ rectangle, same as you did the first piece.

How to make toaster tarts via @kingarthurflour

4. Assemble the toaster tarts.

Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each marked rectangle. If you’re using jam, try to keep it in the center of the rectangle, away from the edges.

Carefully lay the second piece of pastry on top.

How to make toaster tarts via @kingarthurflour

Use a chopstick, dull ruler edge, or other blunt, straight object to seal the filling into its separate tarts. Press down firmly; you want a good seal.

Press the outside edges tightly to seal, as well.

How to make toaster tarts via @kingarthurflour

If you want a fancier edge, press with the tines of a fork.

How to make toaster tarts via @kingarthurflour

Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries.This also helps prevent the filling from leaking out.

Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.

Now, if you’re following our online recipe, you’ll notice I’ve diverged from the directions here. The original recipe calls for separating the nine tarts before baking, sealing around all four edges of each.

I figured, why make extra work? Bake the tarts as a single sheet, then separate them once they’re baked. We’ll see how that turned out shortly.

Note: Remember those dough trimmings you set aside? Sprinkle them with cinnamon-sugar (or any leftover brown sugar filling); these have nothing to do with your toaster pastries, but it’s a shame to discard them, and they make a wonderful snack. While the tarts are chilling, bake these trimmings for 13 to 15 minutes, until they’re golden brown.

How to make toaster tarts via @kingarthurflour

5. Bake and enjoy!

Remove the tarts from the fridge, and bake them for 25 to 35 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool on the pan.

If you’ve baked them in a single sheet, cut them apart while still warm.

Toaster Tarts via @kingarthurflour

And how did the single-sheet method work? Fine and dandy – for the brown sugar tarts. The strawberry tarts were fine, too, so long as you don’t intend to pop them into the toaster at some later date, to rewarm. Their edges didn’t seal as well as the brown sugar tarts.

Also, notice I did have just a bit of filling leakage – but only on the couple of tarts I didn’t vent thoroughly enough.

Toaster Tarts via @kingarthurflour

Nothing succeeds like excess! Add a decorative drizzle of confectioners’ sugar glaze, if you like. I didn’t even bother with measurements here, simply stirring together about 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar with enough milk to make it “drizzlable.”

Now, how about popping these into the toaster? If their edges are sealed well enough, go for it; just don’t toast for too long, as you never know when your handmade (as opposed to machine-stamped) tart may spring a leak. I’d say a toaster oven, with a pan underneath, would be more fail-safe.

“You can eat ’em in the park, you can eat ’em in the dark…” Or you can simply relax and eat these toaster tarts at the breakfast table.

Or after dinner, relaxing in your favorite easy chair with a cup of coffee. For many of us older Boomers, the allure of Pop-Tarts remains; but the call to action is fainter than it used to be, for sure!

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Tasty Toaster Tarts.

Print just the recipe.

What was your usual (or favorite) high school breakfast? Share with us all in comments, below.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Janet Ciccaglione

    Yes! The plain brown sugar Pop-Tarts were my favorite. Toasted and, then should I even dare say, topped with butter. Heaven! I will definitely try to do my own, Thanks for the memories and the recipe.

    Reply
  2. Gail

    Great blog and easy to follow recipe. But the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in February 1964, not 1965. Us Boomers remember things like that.

    Reply
    1. Denise in Claremont

      I don’t think so. In 1966 I lived in California. In 1964 I lived in Iowa. I DEFINITELY recall my mom sitting U.S. In front of the tv in Iowa to watch the show. The next day, everyone in my third grade class was talking about it the next day, debating the quality of the music. 1964, not 1966.

    2. lori preisinger

      On February 9th, 1964, The Beatles, with their Edwardian suits and mop top haircuts, made their first American television appearance—LIVE—on The Ed Sullivan Show. A record setting 73 million people tuned in that evening making it one of the seminal moments in television history.

  3. Paul from Ohio

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane and I’m very very sure that these homemade pop tarts will be way better than the original. Absolutely going to try them – perfect for when we travel in the RV!!!!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If that’s what you’d like, please do. The recipe may need a bit more water to come together, though. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  4. Kalisa

    This is the best version of home made Pop Tarts I’ve seen! I’m a fan of strawberry or blueberry so I’ll have to give these a try for next week’s breakfast.

    Reply
  5. waikikirie

    FROSTED brown sugar cinnamon. Loved them (still do). Oh the cuisine of my childhood. Pop-tarts (frosted chocolate was good too), Captain Crunch, Lucky Charms, (cokoo for ) CocPuffs, or frosted flakes (They’re GGGGGGGGrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttttttt) were favorites for breakfast. If I had Spaghetti-O’s with the hotdog cut up in them, well, that was fine dinning! teehe….Thanks for the memories (or yeah and the recipe/how to)

    Reply
  6. Monica

    Fun blog! Unfortunately, Pop tarts were not something my mother would ever countenance, and actually, I never let my own kids eat them! I certainly like the look of your recipe though, PJ, and might have to give it a try on the grandkids. BTW, previous poster Gail is correct when she says that The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. I was almost 16 at the time, and I clearly remember their arrival at Kennedy airport on a Friday afternoon in February, and their subsequent appearance on TV that Sunday night. I was lucky enough to attend their concert at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens later that same year in August. Thanks for the memories.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Wow, how did I make that mistake? Thanks, Monica, I’ll change that. I was too young to travel to see them, but I remember riding the bus to school (I was in 5th grade) and all the boys scoffing at the Beatles, while the girls were swooning… PJH

  7. Carolyn

    Like Monica, my parents never bought Pop Tarts, and after tasting one as an adult, they’ve never been in my home for my family. Funny how I think they are just wrong to be considered a breakfast food, but give me a slice of (homemade) pie for breakfast and it be a perfect start to my day!

    Reply
  8. melanie

    I don’t use shorting could it just be left out or could I use something else? My daughter would love these.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Melanie, the shortening is helpful when reducing the fat and using whole wheat flour, but if you want an all-butter version the original recipe fits the bill. Barb@KAF

  9. Lisa

    My parents made sourdough bread for many years. They have now passed and we have lost our starter.I am trying to make my own sourdough starter so I can continue the tradition of homemade sourdough bread. Yesterday I mixed my starter, placed it in a half gallon jar, covered with a piece if cheesecloth secured with a rubber band and set inside my microwave (My husband keeps the house cold like the inside of a refrigerator. That is the warmest place I could find) After a few hours I checked on it and it had swollen, bubbled and overflowed the jar. This morning I checked it and it no longer had bubbles, had shrunk and had a clear liquid sitting on top of it. Should I toss it or feed it?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Lisa, it sounds like you have a very lively sourdough starter on your hands! No need to start over, just stir the starter together and take out a portion to feed again. Here is our recipe for maintaining your starter to give you some guidelines for the care and feeding of your new pet. And if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact our Baker’s Hotline at 855-371-BAKE(2253). We love to answer sourdough questions! Barb@KAF

  10. Kirsten

    Here’s some fun trivia–Kellogg’s got the idea for Pop Tarts from Post Cereals, which had announced that they were going to introduce a toastable pastry square product to be called “Country Squares.” Kellogg’s rushed to get theirs to the market ahead of Post but of course needed a new name. So what was cool in 1964 other than the Beatles? Pop Art! Yes, the name Pop Tart is a play on the super modern, super cool art movement brought to you by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Roy Lichtenstein. Anything with “Pop” in it sounded perfect for the space age ’60s. And then we have “Country Squares.” What wasn’t cool in 1964? Country, which sounded the opposite of modern. As for squares, well, what was a square in the ’60s? Someone who was not groovy and with it. So the latecomer Country Squares tanked and Pop Tarts became part of American food history (and art history?).

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kirsten, what a great story! I love the blend of art and baking history. It’s true that what’s on the table reflects so much of our cultural values and trends. Thanks for sharing! Barb@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kathy, indeed, what are calories? I’m of the opinion (not backed by science, I’m afraid) that the amount of calories in any baked good is equal to the amount of energy expended by the baker in their production. Therefore baked goods made by hand have no calories (at least when the baker consumes them!). Unfortunately, my scale seems to be adhering to a different theory. Barb@KAF

    2. Elizabeth

      Barb, I’m posting for the first time to say your reply is the best ever. This is also my theory of calories. You win the internet! 🙂

  11. Mary Shaw

    What an awesome recipe! I love these articles with history to them, and improved modern recipes. The pie crust cookies made with leftover pie crust are so awesome, aren’t they? My family thinks they are an absolute treat :).

    Reply
  12. Babs

    Loved brown sugar cinnamon and if I remember correctly they offered a chocolate with chocolate filling at one point. My mother worked so I ate a lot of pop tarts. Bought them for my kids as a snack, but they weren’t impressed as I bake from scratch and they like my offerings much better. I will have to try this recipe the next time they visit!
    Loved the link to pop art. As an art historian, it is always fun to make those connections.
    Do you use Crisco or a margarine for the vegetable shortening?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Babs, thanks for sharing your pop tart memories! I’ll bet your kids will love this homemade version. The vegetable shortening used in this recipe is Crisco. Barb@KAF

  13. Kathy

    Great recipe to try on my grandchildren. They expect the cinnamon/brown sugar treats whenever I make pie crust. It’s a tradition in our family since my grandmother baked pies. There always were baked leftover pie crust treats to enjoy before tasting her delicious fruit pies!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Melissa,

      Gluten free pie crust and pastry dough tends to be harder to handle and more fragile. That may not be the best for these toaster tarts. ~ MJ

  14. zulma

    My husband introduced the poptarts when my first child was little, now I am more conscious about what I feed my family and surely I had thought on baking some of these… But for those that don’t want to use shortening, I would recommend coconut oil and for those who think that brown sugar is not the best option I recommend dates and cinnamon without the starch, dates are really good when made into a paste in the food processor… Thanks for this idea on what to make besides chocolate chip cookies! Im sure my other two little girls will love it!

    Reply
  15. john laberge

    great idea for the pop tarts but me ma got yas beat in the using of her jars of last years batches of either strawberry rhubarb and ginger spread. when that was all used up just after Christmas and there there was none of that left she would carefully root out a mason jar of her good irish – newfie rhubarb and onion relish and spread a thin layer on the bottom slab along with a thin layer of wait for it real Canadian old cheddar from the empire cheese or jensens factories when she had it sliced paper thin. YUMMMM.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Pam, The butter should be cold and you work it in. Recipe directions: To make the dough: Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter until the mixture holds together when you squeeze it, with pecan-sized lumps of butter still visible. Mix the egg and milk, and add it to the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive. Hope this helps.
      Have fun making homemade pop tarts!!JoAnn@KAF

  16. lori preisinger

    it calls for a cup of each flour but next to it it says 4oz , i thought a cup was 8 oz so are we using 1 cup of flour or 2 cups of flour ?

    Reply
    1. Laura

      One cup equals 8 fluid oz, a volume measurement. However, one cup of flour weighs approximately 4 oz. The 4 oz refers to weight.

  17. Diane

    Can’t wait to try these. We like strawberry unfrosted the best and slathered with butter, oops! Hubby still buys them once in a while. And pie crust rollups are a favorite at our place. Always made these to go along with chicken pot pie-Yum! These may make it to our Sunday evening snacks this week. Thanks for an easy recipe!

    Reply
  18. Sara

    At the point where you refrigerate these, could I leave them
    Overnight to bake fresh in the morning for a quicker breakfast? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, you may refrigerate the dough overnight or for up to 2 days for freshly baked pastries in the AM! Elisabeth@KAF

  19. tanya

    I would rather not use piecrust—can you come up with a recipe made with whole grain bread dough? Would making whole grain tortillas for the filling work? (and baking like the piecrust…)
    PJ taught her son to make bread over the phone!—surely this will be no problem for her and the others at KAF!!
    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Interesting question, Tanya. We’re having trouble imagining how a bread dough or tortilla could work in quite the same way, but we’ll certainly hang on to the idea as food for thought. If you decide to give some alternative version a try, we’d love to hear how it goes. Happy baking! Mollie@KAF

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