Growing up, I knew tarts as something else other than what to me looks like miniature pies. I knew them as these flower shaped, buttery treats with a ball of sugary pineapple "jam" sitting in the middle. Made right, they are the perfect blend of saltiness you can only get from a flakey pastry that balanced out the rich, sweet pineapple.
My Mama would make these by hand every year, rolling the dough, delicately brushing them with an egg wash right before dropping the pineapple filling over which she spent hours laboring because she made it from scratch. I'd watch her, always eager to help and do SOMETHING but she (like I've become) was a bit of a control freak and perfectionist and needed to focus and no way was I going to ruin anything. Sometimes she'd give in and let me place the little diamond shapes of dough on top of the mound of pineapple but that was it. But I watched her, oh I did, and I knew how much work and care she put into her tarts and you could taste it too because there's isn't much that's better than home made and even less that's better than my grandmother's baking.
She'd make enough for our family to share when we entertained over the 15 lunar new year days, enough for close to 100 people who come through our door. Sadly, age has caught up with my grandmother who is much older now and the days of her making these tarts have come to an end. Now, we either buy them from Chinatown or the grocery, or my mom's baking enthusiast cousins bring them by. None could ever compare.
This year, I wanted to honor the Lunar New Year by making some myself. I research several recipes, and ended up adapting Rasa Malaysia's tart crust recipe. Side note: I'm so glad I found that blog because she makes food I've come to crave as time goes by, food that's familiar to me and that I find at home. If you haven't seen her blog, you must.
The filling was trickier and a lot of people who have made it before also use cloves, cinnamon, some even use maltrose (wha?!) but I kept things simple. You'll see why. Please to enjoy, Pineapple Tarts.
Pastry (Recipe adapted from Rasa Malaysia)
- 2 1/2 cups (350g) all-purpose flour
- 2 sticks butter/8 oz./1 cup/225 grams butter (cold)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
- 2 tablespoons corn flour
- 1 tbsp of cold water
- 1 egg yolk (lightly beaten for egg wash)
- 4 fresh pineapples
- 200 - 250g sugar
- Powdered cinnamon to taste or 2 cinnamon sticks broken into inch-long pieces
- 1/4 cup of pineapple juice
Make the filling first:
Remove the pineapple shell and core. Finely grate the pineapple over a cheese cloth over a sieve to let the juice drain into a large bowl. Squeeze as much of the juice out of the grated pineapple using the cheese cloth. Cook the grated, squeezed pineapple in a pot (I used my le creuset not because I'm fancy but because the enamel helped keep the pineapple from sticking too much). Cook over low heat to start with the pineapple juice and pieces of cinnamon if you're using fresh. STIR NOW, don't let it sit too long in one spot to keep it form burning or sticking.
Add about 150g of the sugar to start, adding a little more as you go to make it as sweet as YOU want it. Sprinkle cinnamon (I used about 1/2 a teaspoon of the powdered cinnamon for a bit of a spice but not overwhelming) and stir. Stir some more. Turn the heat up a little but not much once you hear the pineapple sizzle you've turned it up too high. Turn it back down. Keep stirring.
You will do this for at least an hour, more if you increase the portions. Be patient. You'll be done when the consistency is very sticky, dry and it's a golden orange.
Let it cool before rolling into 1" rounds. You can even make the filling and roll into balls the day before.
Pre-heat the oven to 325˚F. Sift the flour, corn flour, salt and confectioner's sugar into a large bowl. Add the cold butter and, using a pastry cutter or a fork, start blending the butter with the flour mixture till you get a corn-meal texture. You can use your fingers to break up the little lumps of butter if you want - wash your hands with water as cold as your tap can manage to cool them down a little.
Add the egg yolks and mix it in with the flour to create a dough ball, adding the cold water bit by bit till you form a dough ball that's pretty firm.
Break the dough into two, if it's warm when you're doing this wrap the one ball in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill while you roll out the other on a floured surface. Roll it to about 0.5cm thick. Using a pineapple tart dough cutter, cut out the shapes and place on a lined baking sheet.
Using a small brush (I now have a dedicated brush just for tart egg wash, it's just a little, clean paint brush) apply the egg yolk wash to the surface of the pastry. Place the dough balls in the center of the pastry. I like to flatten them a little at the bottom before placing them on so they're more dome shaped than a sphere. If you're adding little shaped pieces of pastry on top, cut them out before you apply the egg wash. Dab the egg wash on your shapes as well.
Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes till the pastry is golden brown.
Let them cool completely, store in an air-tight container lined with parchment paper. If you're stacking them, line each stack with parchment paper.
Let the tarts cool COMPLETELY before eating one. Now I know why my mama never let me eat them till almost an hour later because that pineapple filling will scald your tongue. Give it at LEAST 30 minutes but more to be safe.
Fresh pineapple is a bitch to grate. It has tons of tiny seeds in it that you'll be picking out. I had a lot of advice from people telling me to use canned pineapple and while I do see the convenience, there's this really nice tang to fresh pineapple. Plus, now I have a lot of fresh pineapple juice my husband can use in his smoothies and that I can add to club soda for a refreshing beverage. Win.
My filling recipe is a lot less fancy than many other recipes you'll see online. Traditionally, cloves are used but I personally don't like how they taste. Mine's probably the simplest recipe you'll find and I assure you, it tastes just as good. I did squeeze half a lemon in there but I don't have much of a sweet tooth and this may have helped a little. Oh also, I like less filling in my tarts so I rolled them into slightly smaller pieces.
Do not, as tempting as it is, turn the heat on your stove up. The pineapple can sizzle a LITTLE but not much. Low heat, patience, it'll come together. You don't want to burn it, least of all after you went through all that work of grating and what not.
Thank you also to a spoonful of sugah for responding to my email about the filling. VERY helpful!
Enjoy and Gong Xi Fa Cai!