There’s one Chinese New Year cookie that I really love – pineapple tarts. But I’m quite specific about the type of tart. I only eat the sort with the melt in your mouth pastry. The pineapple filling has to be just right – lots of pineapple, sweet but not too sweet, with just the right amount of tartness to cut through the richness of the pastry.
In Singapore, it costs a pretty penny for a bottle of pineapple tarts especially during the festive season. There will be sellers that proclaim that their wares are “hand-grated pineapples” or “cognac infused” and such. So pineapple tarts have always seemed close to impossible to master on your own unless you had lots of skill or a secret recipe.
With a little time on my hands and a huge craving of pineapple tarts which aren’t readily available here, I embarked on a hunt for THE recipe. Unfortunately, I came up with a lot of recipes for the pastry but few for the pineapple filling as many Singaporeans ended up buying the jams premade. The recipes for the jams that I found often used canned pineapples which definitely cut down the time but to me, seemed to be a short cut and sugar laden. I was also not keen to buy any more ingredients than I already had in my kitchen as the likelihood of me finishing it would be low with only a couple of months to go in Melbourne. So I took the plunge and experimented with a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
It took me 2 goes with the jam to get it just right for my tastebuds and it allowed me to find out what the deal was with “hand grated” pineapple jams vs “food processor” pineapple jams. It also allowed me to tweak the pastry recipe to make it easier to handle and have a higher melt in your mouth factor.
The tarts aren’t actually difficult to do. It is just time consuming. From 1 large pineapple, I get 1 small bowl of jam (refer to the picture to get an idea of the ratio!). The jam actually makes about 70 cookies (depending on the size of the cookies) which can fill up 2 small jar as a gift but the time spent stirring the jam while it dries out is quite significant. It isn’t one of those things you can leave to simmer while doing something else.
Having said that, there is a certain amount of satisfcation I have looking and eating the cookies. It’s a definite keeper this recipe – hopefully, I’ll have time to make them once a year for family for Chinese New Year!
1 large pineapple
5 tbs honey
1 tbs flour
3 tbs sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground clove
¼ tsp ground start anise
- Skin and de-eye 1 large pineapple. Core the pineapple and chop the flesh into quarters.
- Grate the pineapple and strain the pulp. Drink up the juice!
- Using a non-stick wok, fry the pulp until dry.
- Add the honey and stir continuously.
- Add the flour, sugar and spices. Stir until combined.
- Allow to cool and form small balls of jam to be placed on the tart.
- What’s the difference between hand grating and food processing? Hand grating means that the pulp has more “body” vs food processing where the pulp gets chopped up to finer bits. Hand grating also means that any little bit of core you miss out coring out ends up as a long fibrous bit in your jam. Food proccessing does give the option of using the core but one can end up with a jam that is softer as the fibres are a lot smaller.
- Be patient with the straining as you want the pulp to be dry. If you don’t strain well, you end up having to spend more time over the stove drying the pulp out. At the same time, you don’t want to place all the pulp in a cheese cloth and squeezing all the juice out as you need some of the juice to caramelise and give the pulp the flavor.
- What is I don’t have a wok? The wok is ideal as there is a large surface area to allow the pulp to dry but it is not 100% necessary. A saucepan works just fine.
- How dry is dry? I found that the pulp is dry enough when it starts to form a ball when you stir. It needs to be this dry as the jam needs to have a certain amount of “thickness” to allow you to make them into balls.
- The honey is used to make the jam sticky. Sugar on it’s own doesn’t have enough binding abilities.
- Every pineapple varies in sweetness so I suggest you taste the jam before you add the sugar.
- The flour gives the jam a firmness (like jam made with a bread maker)
- You can use a melon baller to give a uniformed sized ball each time.
(Adapted from The Little Teochew)
1.6 cups all purpose flour
0.2 cup corn flour
150g butter (cold)
2 egg yolks + 2 tbs cold water (½ egg yolk for glazing, 1½ to add to the mixture)
3 tbs icing sugar
¼ tsp vanilla
- Using a food processor, blitz the 2 flours and icing sugar with butter until crumbs form.
- Add the vanilla essence to 1½ of the egg yolk/water mixture.
- Slowly pouring the liquid mixture into the crumbs until it just comes together.
- Roll out pastry between 2 sheets of baking paper to about 0.8cm – 1cm thickness and place in the fridge for at least 10 minutes.
- Using a cookie cutter, cut out the tart base.
- Place a jam ball on a tart base and press down gently on the ball.
- Using the remaining egg yolk as a wash, paint a light layer over the tart.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 160 degrees celsius
- You can rub the butter in with the flour but I find that the food processor is faster and less mess. It also takes out the muscle work of having to cut up the butter to rub in.
- Add the liquid portion to the crumb portion tablespoon by tablespoon until it just comes together. This is to avoid having a very sticky dough that is impossible to work with.
- I find that rolling the pastry out first at this point is easier as the butter is slightly melted, rather than putting it into the fridge and then having to exert strength to roll it out. Then I put the rolled out pastry into the fridge so that it is easier to handle (and less messy) for cutting up. But don’t leave it for too long as it hardens up and makes it very difficult to cut.
- If you are working in a warm environment, I suggest planning everything and laying everything out first before starting on the pastry as this would make it a lot easier and less messy.
- The amount of pastry is slightly more the jam usually but it depends on the size of your pineapple.