Stay Tuned/Toaster Pastry Research Report

From Eccentric Flower


stay tuned

Toaster Pastry Research Report
25 August 1999

During the time when this project was lying fallow in its grave (if I may mix my metaphors), I tried to train myself not to scrutinize the advertising circulars stuffed into the Sunday newspaper - the same circulars which started this whole affair in early 1997. I wanted to quit cold turkey, you see. However, after over a year on a steady regimen of newspaper coupons, I found that it was a hard habit to break. Every so often I found my eyes stealing away from the op/ed pages of my Sunday reading to sneak a peek at the latest in dishwashing soaps and convenience foods.

It's fitting that the first column in this new set be inspired by a page in one of those circulars, read illicitly like a stolen kiss.

Last Sunday I discovered that there have been advances in Pop-Tarts technology while I wasn't looking. Yes, the nice folks at Kellogg's have developed not one, but two new products to put in those distinctive 5.5" x 3.5" x 3.5" boxes.

First we have the Pop-Tarts Snak-Stix. These are regular Pop-Tarts, divided lengthwise into thirds. You might call them perforated Pop-Tarts. You can break each one into three separate, fully enclosed, miniature Pop-Tarts, and eat them cold. Or you can keep the whole thing intact, pop it into your toaster, then break them apart, and eat them hot. (Or you could just chomp on the thing without bothering to take it apart, but then why not just buy regular Pop-Tarts?)

Pop-Tarts Pastry Swirls are designed along the lines of Danish pastries. They're sort of roundish instead of rectangular; they're made of this flaky stuff which vaguely resembles puff pastry, only flatter; they have a filling that's more in line with what you'd expect in a Danish (flavors are strawberry, cheese, and apple), and slightly more of it.

I confess I am not a big fan of Pop-Tarts. I loved them when I was a kid, but they lost their luster. I flirted with them again recently when I realized that my company's snack drawer always kept a supply of them on hand ... but they never have my favorite flavor (chocolate), and vague renditions of berrylike flavors have never interested me much.

Nonetheless, both of these recent innovations struck me as so weird that when we bought groceries that same Sunday, I had to buy a box of each, just for a taste test.

The segmented Pop-Tarts were a smashing success. I bought the "berry" flavor because it was marginally better than strawberry (I only eat fresh strawberries, and I'm not a real fan of those). They held together when they were supposed to hold together, and they came apart when they were supposed to come apart. The crust is a more graham-cracker-like formula, not their usual stuff, and actually has some tooth to it. Kellogg's has even contrived to insert an adhesive strip in the little foil bags so they can be resealed, if you follow the directions carefully.

In short, I actually enjoyed eating these. I'm not saying I'd seek them out, but if I had the munchies and a box of them was handy, I wouldn't turn my nose up at it. The only way I'd improve them is to get one of those chocolate fillings in there. Chocolate and graham crackers are a great combination. And frankly, with the segmented format Kellogg's doesn't need to push the fruit fillings to maintain the illusion that this is a healthy breakfast - this is clearly snack food.

Next, the faux Danishes. My favorite flavors of Danish are cheese and lemon, but I'm damned if I'm going to buy a shelf-stable cream cheese filling - it'll just taste like chemicals - and I've already noted my disdain for strawberry, so that left me with the apple ones.

These are better hot than cold (as opposed to the Snak-Stix, which I liked better cold than hot). Cold, they taste like the stale bear claw you got from the vending machine at the gas station. Hot, you might actually fool yourself into thinking you're eating Danish pastry - flat, tough Danish pastry with too much icing on top, yes, but one takes what one can find.

The box warns you in two places about how the filling can get dangerously hot - much more prominently than for normal Pop-Tarts. That's probably because the filling doesn't tend to ooze out from normal Pop-Tarts if you squeeze them in the wrong place, nor does the icing get quite as molten. Handle these with care if you decide to try them. Kellogg's isn't kidding.

I wouldn't buy these again. They weren't atrocious, which is what I expected them to be, but frankly I'd rather hold out for better baked goods. Heck, I'd rather have normal Pop-Tarts. This goes for those Toaster Strudels and other freezer-case products as well.

I'll continue to mostly use my toaster for making toast.


As you will gather from context, this was the first column after a year's hiatus. For some of the reasons why this hiatus occurred, see The Mustard Manifesto.

and now back to our program

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