Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pineapple tarts


I LOVE Chinese New Year, and Pineapple tarts are practically synonymous with CNY for me. In fact, that seems to be the case for a lot of people, which is why Chinese all over Southeast Asia are probably even now, as I am typing, busy creating trays of this deliciously fragrant and addictive cookie


Pineapple tarts are a curious creation, quintessentially Southeast Asian. It is a Nyonya invention, claiming both Chinese, Malay and Southeast Asian heritage, yet meaning different things to different people.

The Chinese embrace this cookie not just because its absolutely irresistable, but because we believe Pineapples to be a symbol of wealth and fortune, and thus auspicious to have in the household during the CNY.


To be honest, while I can't stop eating these cookies, I absolutely dread making them. Its a gigantic operation, it takes hours and days, its finicky and troublesome, and brain-numbingly repetitive.

But, the result is ALWAYS spectacular. Its just impossible to buy pineapple tarts even close to the home-made taste without paying an arm and a leg for it. And then, at the price you are paying, you might as well make it yourself.
So, even though I know we all have to restraint ourselves around the tarts, or there wouldn't be any left for CNY, always take one for yourself =)


Pineapple tart pastry
Ingredients:
500g plain flour
300g unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small-ish chunks
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
couple tbspn ice cold water
  1. Combine flour, salt and baking powder, mix well
  2. Rub butter into flour mixture
  3. Using a butter knife, mix in the egg yolks with a cutting motion
  4. Add the ice water 1 tbspn by 1 tbspn, cutting with the butter knife and checking its consistency after each addition. This is probably the most tricky part to making the pastry. Add too little and your pastry will fall apart, too much and it will be mushy. To test readiness, pinch a small amount together. If it founds a soft dough, its ready.
  5. Gather the dough together into a disc, refrigerate for 20 minutes before use. When making the tarts, use the dough portion by portion, keeping the rest in the fridge. The dough becomes hard to handle once it is warm.
Pineapple Jam
* PLEASE don't use the ready made ones. I am not being snobbish here, I have nothing against pre-made stuff if it makes life easier, EXCEPT when they taste like crap. If you are going to use pre-made, just buy the tarts and save yourself some trouble.

Ingredients:

5 smallish pineapples
1 stick of cinnamon
2 star anise
1 cup of sugar [You can add up to 2 cups. My parents prefer the cookies to be less sweet, so I only added 1]
  1. There are many ways to prepare the pineapple, depending on what kind of consistency you like your jam, and how much time you are willing to spend. My mom likes the jam with long strand of fibers, so she grates the pineapple. I think that's way too troublesome, and I don't particularly like fibers, so I either chop [more time consuming but gives more bite] or blend the pineapples. So, whichever way you chose, first step is to massacre the pineapples.
  2. Drain the pineapples if you want the juice or if you want to reduce the cooking time. I like to leave the juice, because they add flavor
  3. Pour pineapple into large pot, add the rest of the ingredients, switch on some music and stir for around 2 hours, until the mixture caramelize, dry up and looks like jam. Remove the spices.
  4. Let cool and its ready for use. You can make this way in advance and freeze it. It should keep interminably.

Assembly

  1. With the basic pastry and jam, you can assemble this in any number of ways. My family likes the open face tarts, so that's what we have here.
  2. Using special pineapple tart molds, cut out the tarts.
  3. Roll a small amount of the jam into a ball and place into the indentation
  4. Cut out a tiny decorative piece of dough to place on top of the jam. I don't really know why we do this, just that my mom taught me to do it this way and now tarts without that little dot on top doesn't look like pineapple tarts.
  5. GENEROUSLY go over with egg wash. Just remember: wherever you want the tart to appear golden, egg wash it.
  6. Bake at 180 degree celcius until golden
  7. This recipe makes around 100 tarts, which sounds like a lot, but they will actually disappear with alarming speed under the combined assault of relatives.

3 comments:

Hynavian said...

Ah they look so nice! We should exchange pineapple tarts in school. (:

jan said...

*gasp!! i loooooove pineapple tarrts

Mrs Erg├╝l said...

Woooooooo I admire you! I haven't had the courage to make my own pineapple tarts!