These days, the only trips we're taking are to the kitchen. We're two months into quarantine, and people are getting really inventive. It wasn't enough to be scarfing down store-bought bread; now, there's pressure to be baking your own. When that got old, people started making loaves that resembled frogs because... the internet said so?
Thanks to FOMO, the anxiety that I was missing out on something because I hadn't taken up baking as a hobby began to eat me alive, too. But I knew baking wasn't my ministry. If I was going to use quarantine as an opportunity to start, I needed the equivalent of Baking For Dummies. For my first project, I decided to go with something familiar… something simple. Maybe something that you can usually buy in a cardboard box at the store, but of which a homemade version would be way better. Thus: the delightful toaster pastries known as Pop-Tarts.
As it turns out, homemade Pop-Tarts are surprisingly foolproof, and people haven't started stockpiling most of the needed ingredients yet—fingers crossed.
Sadly, we don't have a recipe for homemade Pop-Tarts on MUNCHIES (although we do have one for some amazing savory meat-and-cheese hand pies). So I was left to scour the internet for a recipe. First, I watched a handful of YouTube videos to boost my confidence. I could do this. There are a billion different versions out there, but here's one that's a good start:
Even the most novice baker can mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Adding the cold butter and the egg is where things got slightly complicated for me. When it comes to the crust, it's all about that coveted, flaky texture that feels more decadent, and certainly more personal, than a box from Kelloggs. After rolling out and cutting the dough to your desired size, it's smooth sailing from there; at this point, as it turns out, Pop-Tarts are kind of just an advanced version of a jelly sandwich. I chose strawberry filling, which is the undefeated signature Pop-Tart flavor—sorry, not up for debate. After popping them in the oven until they're golden brown enough to your liking, you may never want to buy a store-bought Pop-Tart again. No toaster or flavor of boxed Pop-Tart can give you the same buttery perfection that making your own provides. Best of all, each one is your own little creation, so you aren't stuck with the flavors on grocery store shelves. Go wild: Mix strawberry filling with a gooey chocolate topping if you want; the possibilities are endless. Making icing from scratch is easy as hell, too—a quick mix of confectioner's sugar, water, and vanilla extract. As simple as this recipe sounds, in practice, it feels even simpler.
Since this is a judgment-free zone, there's also no shame in buying a pre-made pie crust or a container of icing. But making them from scratch was confidence-building; learning the cheat code was a lot like learning long division before figuring out how to do it shorthand. Nobody said I'd be the world's best baker after one batch, but hey—for one night, at least I felt like the best baker on my block.
Kristin Corry is a staff writer for VICE.