Having two new year festivities per year is pretty sweet. Chinese New Year has a particular symbolic resonance among those who celebrate it; it’s a time for families to be together, to clean away the past year in order to forge a way ahead for the new year, and of course, excessive eating.
It’s also the time to check the forecast of the year ahead for your Chinese zodiac sign. I was born in the year of the Snake, and last year wasn’t a great year for me as a result. It’s said that if it’s a year that corresponds with your sign, that’s the year that you need to be a lot more cautious and not take risks. While horoscopes are not something I would go out of my way to follow, I at least like to keep them in mind. This is apparently my personality for the year ahead:
” People born around from the Snake are charming, romantic, have excellent manners, and enjoy being in charge. They’re an art communicator and also have a good temper, yet calculating and frequently conservative and suspicious. They love books, photography, music, clothes, fine food, and luxurious furnishing surroundings. They have the persistence to wait for a right moment to attain their set goals.Calm and attentive to the desires of their conquests, they’re known as experts in the art of seduction. Their intuition guides them strongly plus they be capable of select a companionship that provides them strong support and love. “
….Well, I don’t know about the “experts in the art of seduction” part, but I definitely can’t deny my love of fine food, that’s for sure ;)
So keeping in mind that I’m supposed to be cleaning out the year just gone, I had frantically cleaned the house the couple of days before the eve of the new year. I also remembered that I needed to make a symbolic offering on the evening to my ancestors, and after a brief scroll through my Instagram to get some ideas, I decided to make some Pineapple Tarts.
My parents have previously bought boxes of Pineapple Tarts back from Taiwan, little rectangular blocks about 6cmx4cm, with a rich egg-yolk pastry and filled with a very sweet pineapple jam. They’re extremely buttery and rich, but what’s disappointing is that they are never that fresh, being produced for commercial purposes.
I was fortunate enough that Billy Law from A Table for Two had a recipe up from 2010 that looked quite do-able and scrumptious at the same time. I tackled it over the course of two nights after work just so I didn’t exhaust myself: making the jam on the first night and rolling it into balls before resting them overnight, and then making the pastry, rolling them and baking them on the second evening. So these could easily be completed in one sitting over a couple of hours. These were the first time I made these, and I was thrilled about how well they turned out! Everyone who tasted them had nothing but praise, and my Sister, who has, like me, grown up on the commercial stuff, couldn’t suppress a muffled “Mmmmmmm” when she bit into her first.
This recipe will make you about 35-40 tarts, depending on the size of each. You can also elect to use fresh baby pineapples (which you will need to trim and grate), or tinned shredded pineapple. It depends on how committed you are to the cause, really. But if short on time, I’d recommend tinned.
For the pineapple jam, you will need:
- 3 baby pineapples, sliced and grated/2 cans of shredded pineapple;
- 200g caster sugar;
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves;
- 1 cinnamon stick;
- 1 star anise;
- 150g glucose syrup;
- 2 tablespoon plain flour.
Line a tray with non-stick baking paper. Strain the grated pineapple until dry, and then put it in a large frying pan. Allow it to simmer until the juice has dried up.
Add the sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick and clove powder. Use a real clove if you have it, but I didn’t so the ground stuff sufficed for me.
Stir until the pineapple mixture is very thick and the liquid has reduced. Add the glucose syrup. Stir until the pineapple filling is thick, very sticky, and reduced. Add the flour and continue to stir for about 10 minutes or until it’s mostly “dry”.
Leave to cool and shape into small balls. Place these onto the prepared baking tray, cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight if starting the pastry the next day.
For the pastry, you will need:
- 250g butter;
- 50g icing sugar;
- 2 egg yolks, plus one extra for glazing;
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste;
- 1/4 teaspoon salt;
- 350g plain flour;
- 50g corn flour.
Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until light. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, until well-combined. Add the vanilla paste and salt and whisk until fluffy.
Sift in the plain flour and corn flour and mix to form a dough. It should be a light and crumbly shortbread-like texture.
Roll a tablespoonful of dough into a 5-7cm long tube in your palm, then gently press down with the index finger of your other hand to flatten the dough into an oblong shape, around 0.5cm thickness and 3-4cm wide.
Place a pineapple jam ball on the edge of the strip and roll the dough to wrap around it to form a small elongated roll. It takes a while to get a hang of it, especially when it was a warm night and the pastry was melting away in my hands, but I eventually managed to get them together! If you need to, put the dough in the fridge or every now and then wash your hands under cold water and dry them to cool down.
Place the roll on a tray lined with baking paper. Repeat until all the dough mixture and jam filling is used up.
Repeat until all of the dough mixture and jam filling is used up. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celcius. Use a fork to draw lines on top of the tarts and brush the rolls with beaten egg yolk.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks before storing in an airtight jar…
Although I couldn’t wait until they were cool as with the aroma of the buttery pastry wafting through the house at 11am at night, I had to have one right now! Straight out of the oven….it was crumbly and crisp, melt-in-the-mouth on the outside, the slightly tart yet irresistibly sweet chunky jam in the middle still piping hot. My first taste of a fresh pineapple tart is something I will never forget.. xx