Wednesday, February 02, 2011
It’s Chinese New Year eve and I promised yesterday to tell you about this tart. I know it has been all about cookies lately around here but I think you wouldn’t want me to talk about this after the festivities having possibly gobbled up a good amount of them yourselves.
Festive cookie baking was not really on my original agenda. With my mum coming over to Singapore, there’s enough work to be done for a proper preparation – spring cleaning, marketing, shopping, more shopping... you get the idea. However, one month before the New Year colleagues at work began almost daily discussions on reunion dinner menus and various assortments of festive cookies to bake. Three weeks to go and I got to sample some homemade pineapple tarts, almond cookies and arrowroot chips.
With my love to eat these completely-bad-for-you-once-a-year evils and the substandard products people sell out there nowadays, it would be ridiculous for me not to make them myself. Last year I bought some great homemade ones from Bel's Tearoom but this year since we’ll not be going back for the celebration, it’s imminent that the oven will be fired up for some action – time consuming processes be damned.
I checked out Bee's and Mandy's recipes as a rough guide and later found Lai Kuan’s to be very interesting as I wanted Nastar-style rolls with fibrous grated filling. Ju and Shirley's extremely cute open-faced versions also gave my tart-making spirit a good boost.
So I hankered down with two weeks to go and started with one recipe worth, making them a tad bigger without weighing the rolls. Half of that went to the office with me and disappeared by 4PM (with more tarts and the recipe demanded), the other half gone the next day. With requests from a few friends and bosses, I stirred another five-pineapples-worth of jam - this time rolling the tarts to size about an inch each, yielding more numbers. After packing the giveaways into gift containers I realized that there wasn't enough left for us so yet another five pineapples came back with me last week along with the ingredients for tonight’s reunion dinner.
The recipe gave me just what I want – a soft, crumbly pillow of melt-in-your-mouth pastry wrapping inside it a fibrous filling. If this is your kind of pineapple tart, go on, knock yourselves out but be prepared to run a few clicks after realizing you ate just one too many. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Gong Xi Fah Chai to all my Chinese readers!
Pineapple Tarts (凤梨酥/菠萝酥)
Adapted from Lai Kuan’s Food4Tots. Head over to the recipe for very useful tips. Handmade Nastar roll instructions from Billy Law’s A Table for Two.
Makes about 90 inch-long tarts
Note: I modified the filling recipe, using rock sugar instead of granulated sugar to make a stickier jam. This will yield a darker filling so if you’re particular about the color of the jam, stick with granulated sugar.
- 2 half-ripe pineapples, grated
- 200 grams rock sugar (adjust according to your preference)
- 4 cloves
- 2 star anises
- 1 cinnamon stick (5cm long)
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 250 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 50 grams icing sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 360 grams plain flour
- 2 tablespoons corn flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon milk/water for the egg wash
Make the filling: Skin pineapples and remove the “eyes”. Cut each pineapple into quarters lengthwise. Grate the pineapple using the special pineapple grater (I use the pointy side of a cheese grater and that works) until it reaches the core (the tough centre). Discard the core.
Drain the grated pineapples with a large sieve. Use a ladle to press the juice out until it is 90% dried up. Retain the pineapple juice for cooking later. Using a wooden spoon, cook the grated and drained pineapples, putting in half portion of the sugar, cloves, cinnamon stick, star anise and lemon juice in a large pot under moderate heat until it begins to boil.
Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. From time to time, add the pineapple juice little bit by little bit when the juice in the mixture is almost evaporated. Repeat this step until all the juice is completely used up for the cooking. Add the remaining sugar bit by bit until the desired sweetness is achieved. This step can be done close to the end of the cooking.
When all the juices are used up and the mixture has started to look dry and caramelized, reduce the heat to low. Keep stirring until the mixture is almost dry and sticky with a golden-hue. This will take about 1 to 1½ hours. Remove cloves and cinnamon stick (I skip this part and remove them while rolling the filling into balls). Set aside to cool and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Make the pastry: Sift the flours together into a bowl. Cream the butter and icing sugar until light in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Add in salt and vanilla, beat until fluffy. Reduce speed to low and beat in the sifted ingredients (divided into 2-3 times) and combine well into a firm dough. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
Assemble the tart: Preheat oven to 180°C and center the rack. Prepare two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Roll the pineapple filing by taking 6 grams or about ½ teaspoon heapful of filling and shaping each ball into a small and short elongated roll. If the filling sticks, wet your hands with some water and pat on a tea towel after each 2 to 3 rolls.
Remove the dough from the fridge. Take about 8 grams worth dough and roll it into a ball. Roll the ball into a long strip about 6 to 7 cm long. Press the strip of dough flat into a long rectangle on your palm. Place pineapple filing at the bottom end of the rectangle strip and gently roll up the pastry, like so in a Swiss roll, enough to enclose the jam. Do not overlap the pastry.
Arrange the rolls on the baking tray. Score the tops with the tips of a fork or the back of a small knife across the short end of each roll. Brush each roll with egg wash. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Turn the baking sheet 180 ° and continue to bake for 2 minutes or until golden brown.
Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container. The tarts keep well up to two weeks (if you’re like us, not a chance) at room temperature.
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