The croque monsieur holds a special place in my heart. Beyond its perfect combination of chewy bread, nutty Gruyere cheese, and smoky ham, the croque monsieur is the ultimate French comfort food. Traveling in France, it was reassuring to know that any time of day, I could duck into a bistro and get a warm espresso or generous glass of wine and a melty croque.
It’s been years since I’ve been back to France, but every now and then, I keep the dream alive by making a croque monsieur at home. Recently, I got to wondering, could the croque be improved? Probably not, but I was positive that the filling — Gruyere, ham, and a creamy béchamel sauce – would definitely be delicious baked up into a savory pop tart. And because I was already taking chances by toying with tradition, I thought a bit of spinach would add some color and contrast.
The results exceeded all of my expectations! These savory Croque Monsieur Pop Tarts had flaky crusts and a wonderfully rich filling brimming with melted cheese, a thin layer of ham, and a touch of fresh spinach. And while my beloved croque monsieurs were hardly portable, my pop tart version is a cinch to wrap up on the go.
For this recipe, I used a variation on the basic all-butter dough I use for all my pastries. If that feels daunting, feel free to sub in pre-made pie dough.
Croque Monsieur Pop Tarts
Makes: 8 pop tarts
- 1 recipe all-butter whole wheat pastry dough (recipe below)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 12 slices ham
- 1 cup packed spinach leaves
- 4 ounces shredded Gruyere
- 1 egg
- Sea salt
- Preheat oven to 425 F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and also roll parchment over your work surface.
- Lightly flour parchment-lined work surface and roll 1 section of dough out into a rough 14 x 10-inch rectangle. With a sharp paring knife, trim edges and cut rectangle into 8 3 1/2 x 5-inch rectangles. Place rectangles on prepared baking sheet and slide into fridge while you roll out second section of dough.
- Repeat for second section of dough. Slide second sheet into fridge while you prep ingredients.
- To make béchamel: melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour, until mixture is thick and fragrant. Whisking constantly, add milk one splash at a time, ensuring the mixture stays thick. Turn heat to low and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Béchamel should be the consistency of soft butter – add a splash of milk if it gets too thick.
- To assemble pop tarts, add a dollop of béchamel to the center of 8 pastry rectangles. Next, layer the ham, a few spinach leaves, and a few tablespoons Gruyere.
- Place remaining rectangles over the filling, press edges together, and crimp with a fork. Make sure pop tarts are completely sealed.
- Finally, brush pop tarts all over with egg wash, sprinkle with sea salt, and cut 3 1/2-inch slits in the top.
- Slide into oven and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate pan, turn heat to 350 degrees F, and bake 5 minutes more. Remove trays from oven, sprinkle each pop tart with a pinch of Gruyere, slide back into oven and bake until cheese has melted and pop tarts are a rich golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.
- Cool briefly and serve.
Whole Wheat Pastry Dough
Makes: Enough dough for 8 pop tarts
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 16 tablespoons butter, cold
- 8 tablespoon ice water
- In a large bowl, whisk the flours and sea salt together with a fork. Grate in butter, rubbing into flour with fingertips.
- Drizzle 5 tablespoons ice water over the mixture, and fold flour mixture with a silicone spatula. Add more ice water as needed and mix just until flour mixture holds together.
- Pour mixture out onto a lightly floured surface, gather into a ball, and divide into 2. Wrap each with plastic and chill 30 minutes or up to 5 days.