It has barely been a month after Christmas and we are about to usher in Chinese New Year. For the Chinese population in Singapore, Chinese New Year is one of the biggest festive seasons in the year, bigger than Christmas, bigger than New Year.
In preparation for Chinese New Year, every Chinese household will do some form of spring cleaning, put up festive decorations in red and gold, and there will also be the exchange of gifts amongst family and friends (gifting of food items like bak kwa, pineapple tarts, egg rolls, 年糕 etc).
Though I’m not the most traditional, I still enjoy my Chinese New Year snacks, especially pineapple tarts. During visits to the homes of relatives and friends, I will definitely zoom in on the pineapple tarts. I wonder how many of these innocent-looking morsels do I consume each Chinese New Year. I rather not keep track of that.
For those of you whom are unfamiliar with this pastry: pineapple tarts are bite-sized treat made with a sweet shortcrust pastry and pineapple jam (made by cooking and reducing fresh pineapples with sugar and spices). They generally come in two forms: open-faced tart or an enclosed tart (like the one I made).
Even though I’m a purist when it comes to food and I generally believe that I should make everything from scratch if I can, I did not make my own pineapple jam for these tarts. No shame though!
Cooking and reducing your own pineapple jam can take a very long time – you need to grate your pineapple and then keep cooking and stirring it on a large-surface pan over the stove. That can take up two-three hours depending on the amount you are making. Hats off to those of you making your very own jam!
This year, I decided that I would focus on making a good pastry and spend the time making more tarts.
The pastry that I now have is buttery, crumbly and melt in your mouth. I like it a lot.
A container-full of pineapple tarts has vanished over the weekend. That’s definitely a good sign.
However, I can’t help but wonder if I would have any(if at all) pineapple tarts left for Chinese New Year. That’s a happy problem to have!
Recipe: Pineapple tart pastry
Enough to make 60 pineapple tarts
I used this pastry for covered pineapple tarts. It’s just the way I like it. It crumbles gently as you take the first bite and then melts in your mouth into buttery goodness.
If you are brave enough to make your own pineapple jam, please head to my homemade pineapple jam post.
340g plain flour
3 tbsp cornflour
5 tbsp icing sugar/confectioner’s sugar
250g unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
approximately 3 tbsp of iced water
For the egg wash:
1 egg yolk
a pinch of salt (for flavour)
a dash of milk (will help darken the colour of the crust)
1. Sift the dry ingredients and then put it in the freezer to chill for about 5 minutes. You can do this while you prepare your other ingredients.
2. Add the cubed butter to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, combine the butter and the dry ingredients into a sandy-crumb like mixture. It will still look a little dry at this point.
3. Add in the lightly beaten egg yolks and vanilla extract and combine with pastry cutter. Add in 3 tbsp of iced water at this point. Add only as much water as needed until pastry comes together into a dough. Try to work the dough as little as possible as you do not want to overwork the gluten in the flour.
4. Divide the dough into two flat discs and clingwrap it. Leave it in the fridge to chill and rest for at least an hour.
Assemble pineapple tarts:
about 600g pineapple paste or homemade pineapple jam
1. Portion dough out into 12g portions. Portion out pineapple jam/paste into 9g portions and roll them into balls. You can do this in advance and chill in the fridge for them to firm up so they will be easier to work with.
2. Roll out dough with a rolling pin under cling wrap (so it doesn’t stick easily). Place pineapple ball in the middle of the dough. Use palms to round it and shape it like a log.
3. Space the rolled tarts about 1/2 inch apart. Chill the tray of unbaked tarts for about 20 minutes for them to firm up and to relax the gluten. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celcius.
4. Using the back of a paring knife(or a fork), make criss-cross patterns so that the tart resembles a pineapple.
5. Brush the tarts with egg wash. Be careful not to drip excess egg wash onto the baking paper or it will burn.
6. Bake your pineapple tarts on the center rack of your pre-heated oven (180 degrees celcius) for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until golden brown. For the last 5 minutes of baking, shift the tray of tarts to the top rack so that the top continues browning but the bottom does not burn.
*Tips for making pineapple tart pastry:
1. Like working with any form of pastry dough, you should work the dough as little as possible. You don’t want to develop the gluten if not the pastry will be very tough.
2. Always give your pastry dough time to rest in the fridge. Again, we are resting the gluten and keeping the dough chilled would mean that the butter in the dough would not be melting.