A toaster strudel is a ready-made, frozen breakfast pastry sold by Pillsbury that was introduced in the 1980s as a rival to the popular toaster treat, Pop Tarts, made by Kelloggs. While the Pop Tart has a firm crust somewhere between a cookie and pie dough in texture, a toaster strudel has a flaky outer layer, more like puff pastry dough or a croissant dough. It toasts up soft, with a gooey, hot filling, and you are supplied with a little packet of icing to drizzle on top of the pastries.
With puff pastry already in my freezer, it seemed like it would be easy to put together a similar version of the packaged product that could be made entirely at home. The puff pastry dough should be rolled out fairly thin before beginning, since the toaster strudels are not thick and you don’t really want them to puff up too much; the pastries should be softer, rather than crunchier. The trick to having these turn out well was in the filling. I used jam, but jam by itself will run out of the pastry and not leave a pocket of filling. To solve the problem, I added some cornstarch to the jam, which thickened it up and helped to hold it in place. Now, if you have a particularly runny jam, you might want to add a little extra cornstarch than the amount I give below, but otherwise you can use any flavor of jam you like.
The pastries should be assembled and baked in advance, then frozen so that they can be reheated on-demand, as snacks or breakfast treats. The packaged toaster strudels come with some kind of “sweet cream” glaze, which tastes a bit like cream cheese. This is probably the one instance where storebought has an advantage, as it is a lot of trouble to make a cream cheese frosting for just one single breakfast pastry. I used a simple vanilla glaze for mine, which was delicious. If I were serving a crowd, I might think about making a thin cream cheese frosting, but then again that’s really not what the freezer-to-oven (or toaster oven) pastries are intended for.
You’ll notice that my baking instructions are for the oven. The pastries will reheat nicely in a toaster oven, as well. While you should be able to put them into a regular toaster, only do so if you are absolutely sure that your pastries haven’t leaked any filling during their initial baking. If they have, that filling might still ooze out and burn in the toaster. I decided to stick with the oven instructions for the recipe below because it is an option for all of the pastries, even those that have sprung a little leak during the initial baking, and since not everyone has a toaster oven sitting on the kitchen counter.
Homemade Toaster Strudel
1-lb Puff pastry
½ cup jam (any flavor)
2 tsp cornstarch
Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll out puff pastry on a very lightly floured surface until it is thin – maybe 1/3 of its original starting thickness. Use a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife to cut the pastry in half lengthwise, then divide those two pieces into fourths, creating 8 rectangles of dough. (Some puff pastry is packaged in smaller sheets, in this case cut each piece of dough into quarters or sixths.)
In a small bowl, whisk together jam and cornstarch. Spread 3 tsp of jam in half of each rectangle, making sure to leave about ¼ inch gap around the edges, then fold it over to create a jam-filled pocket. Seal the pastry by cutting about 1/8-inch of excess pastry with a knife (the “real” toaster strudels have no crimped edges, but you can certainly just press the edges together with a fork if the look doesn’t bother you). Place pastries on prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack before freezing. Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transfer to an airtight bag and store together until ready to heat and serve.
To reheat, place pastries on a baking sheet in a preheated 400F oven for 4 minutes, or until hot.
Top with simple glaze (recipe below) before serving.
Makes 8 pastries.
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp cream/half n’ half
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Whisk all ingredients together until smooth and thick, but pourable. If necessary, add a few more drops of cream until desired consistency is reached. Drizzle over hot toaster pastries.