I have a very, very soft spot in my heart for homemade pop-tarts (or toaster tarts, as I've called them here). Much like pie, the options for fillings are endless, and once you master the dough — which is a pretty straightforward pie dough — you'll start scheming and dreaming up things you'd like to stuff inside.
For me, lately, the fillings have all been savory. This ham, leek and ricotta version is a stand-out favorite in our house, so I thought it was about time I shared them with you here today.
In the very, very early stages of my granola business, Marge, I baked up other treats besides granola to bring to the farmers markets. One of the things I became known for were my homemade Nutella pop-tarts, a super flaky pastry filled with dark chocolate hazelnut spread. I sprinkled a little salt on top, and it became difficult to make enough to keep up with demand. My then boyfriend, now fiancé, would often sneak a few out of the bakery to ensure he'd get his fair share.
While I love baking (and eating) those sweeter pastries, these days savory pastries are what I'm drawn to. When we go to one of our favorite bakeries in Seattle, it's usually the Cheddar Chive Scones or slice of quiche that will win me over rather than the cinnamon roll or sweet pastry. And so, without further delay: let's talk about savory toaster tarts.
So first, the name: when I sold these as part of my business my very attentive and detail-oriented lawyer was concerned that I not call them pop-tarts for fear of a lawsuit. Now I can't imagine that a tiny baking company in the Bay Area would be a likely target but I'm a rule-follower, so I listened.
Also, while I call these toaster tarts, they really shouldn't come near your toaster. They bake up happily in the oven and come out warm and flaky — much like a hand pie.
Second, let's talk filling: I find the filling for these almost perfect. The ricotta is creamy and gently herbed, which compliments the slightly salty ham and savory leeks beautifully. I've made these a few ways: the first time I cooked down the leeks, chopped them and folded them into the ricotta filling and the second time (pictured above), I simply laid them on top of the ham. I think the former was a bit easier to assemble, so I'd likely revert back to chopping the leeks down after cooking them on the next go-around.
As for what kind of ham to use, you can buy thinly-sliced deli ham and fold it so that it fits onto your rectangles of dough. I ended up buying a 4-ounce cooked ham steak and slicing off pieces on my own. Either way will work just fine.
If for some strange reason you don't eat these on the day they're baked, a) your household has much stronger willpower than ours and b) feel free to cover them and refrigerate for the next day. I would reheat them in a warm oven or toaster oven (don't microwave). These tarts also freeze beautifully — both in their their raw, uncooked state and in their already baked state), so feel free to double a batch to freeze for a lazy weekend down the road.
And as always, experiment with fillings and don't feel bound to my ideas here. Turkey and cheddar would be awesome. Turkey and cheddar and bacon: even better. You could do a beautiful vegetarian version with spinach and feta or pesto and seasonal vegetables. The toaster tart possibilities? Endless. I'd love to hear about any combinations you end up baking in your kitchen that you're particularly excited about.
Ham, Leek and Ricotta Toaster Tarts
For the pastry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
1 large egg, whisked, to use for egg wash assembly
For the filling:
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh snipped chives (or 1 teaspoon dried chives)
3 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small leek, thinly sliced, rinsed well, white and light green parts only (about 3/4 cups)
4 ounces ham or prosciutto, thinly sliced
Make the dough: Combine the flours and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse quickly to combine. Add the cubed butter and pulse until only pea-sized lumps of butter remain.
In a small separate bowl, whisk together the egg and apple cider vinegar. Add them slowly to the bowl of the food processor, pulsing to combine. The mixture will still be quite dry; add the ice water slowly as you continue pulsing until the mixture holds together when you hold a chunk and squeeze it in between your fingers.
Divide the dough in half and flatten each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
When ready to shape the tarts, remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out each piece on a lightly floured work surface into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick; trim the dough so it's an even 9″ x 12″. Repeat with the second disk of dough.
Cut each piece of dough into thirds so you form nine 3″x 4″ rectangles. Lay nine of the rectangles down on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate all pieces of dough until ready to assemble the tarts.
Make the filling and assemble the tarts:To make the filling, whisk together the ricotta, egg, salt, chives and parsley.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and add the sliced leek. Cook until soft and fragrant, 7 to 9 minutes. Set aside.
Mix the leeks into the herbed ricotta mixture (alternatively, keep the separate and scatter a few leeks on top of the ham). Spread a heaping teaspoon of leek-ricotta mixture on top of one of the dough rectangles and lay a slice of ham on top of that.
Brush the edges of the tart with beaten egg, and place a second rectangle of dough on top of the first. Use your fingertips to press firmly around the edges, sealing the dough. Next, use the tines of a fork to press gently down around the edges, further sealing the pastry. Repeat with remaining tarts.
Brush the tops of each tart with beaten egg and prick a few times with a fork. Freeze for 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking. During this time, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until tarts are light golden brown. Cool for at least 20 minutes before enjoying. Serve slightly warm or room temperature.
- If you can't find spelt flour or would just prefer not to use it, whole wheat flour works great, as does swapping in all-purpose and using 100% of that instead.
- The apple cider vinegar helps make the pastry nice and tender. It's inexpensive and should be easy to find. Don't worry: the flavor won't come through in the final result.
- I find these tarts cook up much more successfully if they're frozen first. If you can't find the time for this step, they'll certainly still work —they'll just spread a little during baking and won't hold their shape quite as well.
(Image credits: Megan Gordon)