Pineapple tarts are synonymous with Chinese New Year, and loved for their buttery crust, and sweet yet tangy pineapple jam. So, it’s no surprise that almost every bakery and home baker would create their own version of these yummy treat. For a change, why not make your own tarts this year?
Follow this recipe from The Way Of Kueh for an in-depth guide to one of the best pineapple tarts you’ve ever tasted.
- 2 kg peeled, cored pineapple, cut into chunks
- 880 g sugar
- 10 cloves
- 1½ star anise
- 3 cassia sticks
- 420 g fried pastry flour (see Chef’s Tip below)
- 35 g corn starch
- 20 g icing sugar
- 5 g fine salt
- 170 g very cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 85 g very cold lard, cubed
- 2 egg yolks
- 45 g egg white
- 25 g ice-cold milk or water, plus more if necessary
- Pastry flour and rice flour for shaping
Finely mince pineapple in a food processor or by hand. Pour into a muslin-lined sieve (in batches if necessary) and squeeze out as much juice as you can. You should end up with around 850 g pineapple pulp and 1.15 kg juice. Set pulp aside.
Pour pineapple juice into a wide non-reactive pan. Simmer over medium heat until reduced to about ¼ its original volume. Add pulp, sugar and all the spices, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until jam forms a thick, amber-gold and shiny blob. (If you have a jam thermometer, it should reach no higher than 112 to 114 C.) Scrape jam into a lightly oiled dish. Let cool completely, then transfer to a very clean-lidded container and chill it for at least 24 hours.
Sift pastry flour, corn starch and icing sugar into a mixing bowl. Add salt, butter and lard. With a cake mixer and paddle beater, mix on low speed until fats disperse and mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Whisk egg yolks, egg white and milk together, then mix in on low speed until dough forms a malleable, homogenous ball, neither sticky nor oily. Add a few more drops of milk if needed to help it bind. Wrap or cover dough tightly and chill for 24 hours.
Divide jam into 12 g balls and place on an oiled plate.
Preheat oven to 160 C in conventional mode (top and bottom heat). Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Let dough warm up at room temperature for 15 mins. Unwrap and sandwich dough between 2 sheets of baking paper, and roll it out 4 to 5 mm thick. Dust a 5-cm diameter tart cutter with pastry flour, and cut out tart shells; stamp with the outer sleeve, then press down the inner plunger to indent the tart’s central well and push up its rim. Lift up the cutter and gently peel the shell off the cutter. Place on the baking sheet, spacing shells 2 cm apart.
Gather and re-roll trimmings to cut out more shells. Save about 40 to 50 g dough for decoration, and knead 1 to 2 tsps cold water into it to increase its elasticity, so that it can form thin strips without tearing.
With serrated pincers, dipped sporadically in rice flour to prevent sticking, pinch lines in the tart shell rims (A). Smooth a jam portion into a gently rounded mound in each tart’s well (B). Roll out decoration dough about 2 mm thick, cut it into strips with a plain or fluted knife (C), and decorate tarts with a lattice (D) or as you wish (see Chef’s Tips below for another method!).
Bake tarts on the lowest oven shelf for 25 to 30 mins, until pastry is light golden. If they still look pale after 22 minutes, move tarts to a higher shelf for the last 3 to 8 minutes, but do not over-bake or jam may darken too much.
Place sheet on a cooling rack and let cool for at least 2 hours. Tarts must be cool to the core before being packed in an airtight container for storage, as residual warmth or steam promotes mould growth.
- Use just-ripe pineapples with a tangy, sweet-sour flavour. Sweet cultivars meant more for eating raw make cloying, sticky jam.
- To dry-fry flour with pandan leaves, add 30 to 35 g pandan leaves (cut into 4-cm lengths) to every 200 g flour. Pour into a wide-based pan, stir slowly over low heat with a heatproof spatula until the flour becomes less clumpy and noticeably lighter, and the pandan has released its perfume. Stop frying when the leaves turn papery dry, before they start to disintegrate. Sift hot flour through a fine sieve into a large bowl and let it cool completely. Store in airtight container.
- If only touched with clean utensils, tarts will keep at cool room temperature for at least two weeks, longer in the fridge.
- The jam recipe makes enough to fill 3 to 4 batches of pastry. As a half-quantity takes scarcely less effort or time to make, and the jam lasts for months in the fridge, you may as well make a full quantity. A day’s rest deepens the pastry’s colour and flavour, making it more intensely buttery and encouraging it to brown beautifully.
- Another shape popular nowadays is made by pressing out a dough strip, ridged on one side, with a toothed semperit press. Jam is placed on top of the strip’s smooth side and the strip rolled around it and trimmed, to make a rugged cylindrical tart.
Time for a “Kuehnaissance”
The Way Of Kueh: Savouring & Saving Singapore’s Heritage Desserts is written by Christopher Tan, author of the bestselling Nerdbaker. On his latest cookbook, which showcases our favourite Malay, Chinese, Peranakan and Eurasian kuehs, the food writer says, “I dream of a day when homemade kuehs once again take pride of place on our tables, when festivals are heralded once more by flour-dusted hands, small and smooth, large and wrinkled, working together.”
The Way Of Kueh: Savouring & Saving Singapore’s Heritage Desserts, (published by Epigram), $47.90, is available at shop.epigram.sg.
Photos: Epigram Books