The first of my Chinese New Year bakes for this year. These pineapple tarts are more commonly regarded as jam-filled festive biscuits, but they do all have a pastry base topped with jam, so they are actually biscuit-size tarts. They are, I believe, recipes originally passed down and adapted through the Dutch during the spice trade in South East Asia (correct me if I’m wrong). Although nowadays all ethnic groups including the Nyonya in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei all have their own ways of making pineapple tarts and they now include enclosed versions shaped either like mini pineapples or oranges, and also a version which is rolled-up like a mini sausage roll.
I’ve been avoiding making this favourite new year treat for years because it is very time-consuming as I do not own the special tart mould used for making these mini tarts which saves a lot of time. Previously I just used my own quick piped method of making these tarts. However I finally decided this year I would try making them properly the old fashioned way (oh, the pressure of blogging, haha) of using just the plain old fluted biscuit (cookie) cutter, with the help of a pair of small tweezers (to create pattern) and the cap of a chilli sauce bottle (to make indentation). This way at least there is now a record here of how to make them without using the special tart mould.
5cm fluted round cutter and a pair of tweezers.
I am also trying out a new method of making the pineapple filling by cooking it in the microwave, and it took under 10 minutes. Admittedly it was my own fault by not following the recipe strictly and the resultant jam was not as nice but it would do for this time. It was too smooth – I over-blended the pineapple – and gel-like in texture because of the addition of starch to quickly thicken the jam. It also did not turn golden brown due to the short cooking time, as the sugar did not have time to caramelize. I will have to adjust the recipe to make the microwaved jam better tasting for next time. Maybe cooking the pineapple juice with the sugar first to caramelize the sugar then add it to the pineapple pulp to finish cooking in the microwave, and need to cook the filling longer, maybe up to 20 minutes. I have included the preparation for my microwaved jam below just for the record, but it needs adjustment for future use; in the meantime, please use my other recipe for the pineapple jam filling which is cooked the traditional way on the stovetop.
Addendum January 18, 2009: The successful Microwaved Pineapple Filling Recipe has been posted.
This was my microwaved pineapple jam filling thickened with tapioca starch.
The pastry was based on the recipe by Mrs Leong Yee Soo. I adjusted it slightly by using half butter and half lard to produce a very short textured pastry; a trick I first learnt from watching the pastry episode of Delia Smith’s ‘How to Cook’ television series. There is also another reason for using lard – in cold weather, butter usually remain hard at room temperature but lard is soft at room temperature, so the inclusion of lard in making pastry allows the pastry to remain soft and pliable for a longer period hence more time for you to work on it. I have also added a little custard powder to the flour to lighten the texture and brighten the colour of the pastry.
Makes approx. 50-60 tarts
280g plain flour
20g (2 tablespoons) custard powder
25g (2 tablespoons) icing sugar mixture
1/4 teaspoon salt
100g lard (or use butter or ghee if you prefer not to use lard)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon egg white, for egg wash
1. Sift flour, custard powder, icing sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add cubed butter and lard and rub into the flour mixture using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
2. Mix in egg yolk and knead lightly to form a smooth dough. If it is still too dry and crumbly, add one to two teaspoon(s) water to it. Cover the dough with cling film and rest for 20-30 minutes, put into the refrigerator in hot weather.
3. Preheat oven to 170-180°C. Roll out the dough to 5mm thick (or if you prefer a thicker pastry, roll to 1cm thick). Use a 5cm (or a slightly smaller cutter if preferred) fluted biscuit cutter to cut out rounds of pastry. Repeat with any scraps from the pastry and reserve a small amount to make pastry strips for decoration later. Place the pastry rounds on lined or greased baking sheets. With a floured 3cm bottle-cap (I found the cap from the chilli sauce bottle is just the right size), press a 2.5mm (or 5mm for thicker pastry) deep indentation in the centre of each pastry round. Use a pair of tweezers, dip in flour first, to lightly pinch/jab the edges of the pastry rounds as decoration.
4. Brush the pastry rounds with egg wash.
5. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry rounds are just lightly golden brown. Remove from oven. (Don’t worry if the indentations have puffed up as that does not affect the filling later on.)
To finish making the tarts:
1. Fill the pineapple jam (if it is soft enough for piping) into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm round nozzle. Pipe a small blob in the indentation of each partially baked tart. With wet finger, lightly press to neaten the filling if necessary. (If you are using firmer pineapple jam, just pinch into small balls. Lightly flatten each ball to fit into the indentation of each tart.)
2. Roll out the reserved pastry thinly and cut into strips about 3cm long. Place two strips crosswise on top of the filling on each tart. (You can also create diamond shapes by using more pastry strips for each tart, but it is a lot of work!)
3. Carefully brush the filling and the strips with egg wash. Return to oven and bake for another 10-12 minutes, or until the tart edges are golden brown.
4. Let cool on wire rack before storing in airtight containers; separate each layer of tarts with baking paper to prevent them from sticking to each other.
Taste: Very short pastry with delicious pineapple jam centre
Consume: Best within 1-2 weeks
Storage: Store in airtight containers, with baking paper between layers to prevent sticking
Recipe References: Pastry recipe from ‘Pineapple Open Tarts’ by Mrs Leong Yee Soo, and microwaved pineapple jam recipe from ‘鳳梨酥的進化版－鳳凰酥’
(The recipe below for my unsuccessful microwaved jam needs adjustment, I’m putting it here for the record of what I did for future reference, so I don’t make the same mistake again.)
Pineapple Jam Filling:
1 x 825g-tin sliced pineapple in natural juice, drained & juice reserved
200g white granulated sugar, or to taste
2cm cinnamon quill
50g tapioca starch
50ml pineapple juice, from tin
Blend the drained pineapple slices (don’t blend it too fine or you will loss the texture), then place the blended pineapple in a microwave-safe jug with sugar, cinnamon and clove. Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Remove and give it a stir. Return to microwave and cook on HIGH for 2 more minutes. In the meantime, dissolve starch in 50ml reserved pineapple juice. Add to the pineapple mixture and mix in well. Microwave 1 minute on HIGH, remove, stir and repeat the cooking one more minute. The jam should have thickened up like thick glue or gel at this time, if not repeat with 30-second-burst of cooking until it thickens up. Cool and store in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to be used.