Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy year of the sheep… or is that goat, or even ram? Chinese New year was officially on 19th February this year and continues with 15 days of celebration. As customary tradition dictates I had my family ‘reunion dinner’ the evening before on 18th February. And as family tradition dictates I also get reminded to bring them some of my annually made Pineapple Tarts, so I thought I’d share my recipe.
I really do only make them once a year because well, they truly are a labour of love. But honestly, home made Pineapple Tarts wipe the floor with any shop bought versions and are in my opinion a must have treat during Chinese New Year. You will need either a pineapple tart cutter or a small round cutter and something you can use to create a circular indent in the middle.
Yields approximately 150 tarts
4 large ripe pineapples
400g caster sugar (more or less depending on how sweet your fruits are)
2 sticks of cinnamon
Juice of half a lemon
855g plain flour
60g icing sugar
1.5 tsp sea salt
600g butter (salted)
6 egg yolks
3 Tbsp ice cold water
1 Tbsp milk
Ideally you either want to make the jam a day or so in advance, or you’ll need to block out an entire day for this bake.
1. Start by preparing your pineapples into easily grate-able chunks. If you’ve not cut up pineapples before see below for a quick tutorial.
2. Then either by hand or in your blender, grate up all your pineapple. I like to do a mix of both to vary the texture. Blending will of course get you a nice smooth pulp, but hand grating gives you a bit of courser texture too which I really like.
3. Now here’s the really important bit. Drain as much liquid from the the pulp as you can! You can save the juice for other things or simply chuck it. Basically the more you can drain, the less time you have to spend stirring on the hob!
4. Put your pulp and other jam ingredients into a large pan and gentle bring to bubbling with a medium to low heat. Make sure you keep an eye on it and stir it frequently so that it doesn’t burn.
What you’re looking for is a wetter jammy consistency. Firm, but still moist. Yes, that is the only way I can think of to describe this! You have to remember that your jam is going to cook further in the oven for 25-30 minutes so if you dry it out too much at this stage you might end up with slightly hard/chewy jam in your end product.
Once you’re jam is ready leave it to cool overnight or for at least a few hours. In the meantime move on to preparing your pastry. I generally make the pastry in 3 batches and all the quantities above should divide easily as such.
1. Combine flour, cornflour, icing sugar and salt. Then either rub in the butter or whizz everything up nice and quick in your blender.
2. Add the eggs and water and ‘cut’ it into the flour. It may not seem like enough liquid at first, but trust me it will come together. A metal knife or spatula works really well for this. You don’t want to mix, but slice and fold the liquid ingredients in.
3. When everything has clumped into larger pieces empty everything on to a clean surface and gently bring the dough together with your hands. Try to handle the dough as little as possible at this stage.
4. Again refrigerate overnight or for at least a few hours.
This next step is optional but I find it makes tart assembly so much easier. You basically want to pre-ball your jam. I use a 1 tsp measure to roughly scoop up some jam before rolling it into a little ball in the palm of my hand. It also gives you an idea of how many tarts you’ll make save for the few balls of jam you swipe during the balling process!
Ok, we’re finally there. We can actually put the tarts together!
1. Pre-heat your oven to 165 degree / 155 degrees fan and line 2-3 trays if you have more than 1 with baking paper.
2. Take out one batch of pastry at a time. On a hot day I’ll cut these in half and work with smaller amounts.
3. You want to roll the pastry on a floured surface to about 4-5mm thick before cutting out your tart shapes. I tend to have some extra flour on the side that I dab the cutter into each time to prevent the pastry from sticking as you’ll be pressing down fairly firmly to get the spiral detail.
4. Once you’ve filled your first batch of trays lightly glaze each tart using your mix. Then add a jam ball to the centre and gently press down with your finger to fill the indent.
5. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes before baking for 25-30 minutes until they have a light golden brown tint.
Repeat from step 2 until you’ve used up all your pastry and jam.
If you can wait, let them cool before completely devouring. These tarts in general should store for quite a while. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to test this much since they’re usually all gone within a few days. If you are storing them however, keep them in air tight containers with a sheet of baking paper in between each layer to prevent them from sticking to each other.
I know there are a lot of steps but I promise you it’ll be worth it. Let me know how you get on :)
How to cut a pineapple
Cutting up pineapples isn’t as daunting as it seems once you get the hang of the method.
1. Slice the top and bottom off then slice off the skin vertically all the way around.
2. You then need to remove the pineapple’s ‘eyes’. These are those barky looking marks all around the surface.
3. Use two diagonal slices to cut them out (like the bottom of a diamond shape). It’s easier if you go at a 45° angle to the pineapple. You’ll end up with a spiral effect once you’ve gone all the way around.
4. You can then quarter the pineapple lengthways and then slice off the woody core.