The Lunar New Year comes rather early this year, at the tails of my birthday no less! We’ve hardly had any time to breathe and properly digest all the birthday food and suddenly here comes the New Year food. Though I must admit, we don’t celebrate the Lunar New Year as much as the other people who follow the lunar calendar do, because where I live, we follow the Western calendar and celebrate more of the same things that Westerners do. But being Chinese, it’s only natural that we would do a little bit of the traditions passed on to us by our ancestors. Temple visits and incense lighting aside, I decided to make these adorable little pineapple tarts that seem to make its way around the blogosphere most prominently around this time.
I often get my fair share of a variation of these pineapple tarts on visits to Taiwan, or when my godfather from Taiwan comes over for a visit. The stores selling these pineapple tarts are everywhere over there, and these pastries are vastly popular not only among locals but mostly among visitors. Almost everyone gives these to their foreign guests, or even to each other during special occasions, and I don’t see why not. Most of the pineapple tarts being sold in Taiwan bakeries are perfectly packaged in cute or grand boxes, making them look a thousand times more impressive (and expensive than they actually are)!
The version from Taiwan is very different from this one in that those are made with a thick shortbread outer crust, and a sweetened, almost dried filling of pineapple. Mine is a bit flakier and thinner, more reminiscent of a pie crust than anything else. I suppose you could call this a bite-sized hand pie.
You begin by cooking crushed pineapple with some sugar and cornstarch until the colouring darkens a bit and the mixture thickens. Then you can pop it in the fridge to let it cool while you prepare the crust. I didn’t follow the original recipe’s 10 tablespoons of sugar so I don’t suppose my pineapples are as candied as usual. I decided to scale back the sugar by half thinking that canned crushed pineapples are usually soaked in sweet syrup, therefore the filling might end up being too sweet for my taste if I added too much.
The crust is fairly easy to make, but the first thing to remember is to use quality butter to keep the dough easy to handle and flaky all throughout. From the website I got this recipe from, a lot of people were complaining that their dough wouldn’t come together when they began forming the tarts, and the solution provided was to add half a tablespoon of water at a time until the dough comes together. I’ve made this recipe twice and I never encountered this sort of problem, never needing to add any water to the dough that might compromise its flakiness.
I will confess, the most difficult part about this recipe was forming the tarts. The recipe yields quite a few of them, so it takes some time and energy to finish making them all. The first few tarts were really fun, and I was so enthusiastic! Ten tarts later, I saw I had 14 tarts to go and I was already feeling a little tired. I would suggest shaping the tarts sitting down, or better yet, with a little help from others! But once I finished all 24 on my own, began marking the tarts with my fork, then brushing on the egg wash, the excitement began to build up again!
Pulling them out of the oven gave me such a sense of accomplishment, because I knew I put in a lot of effort to create these most perfect tarts! They are just so flaky, the pineapple just rightly sweet and soft to the bite, and guests were rightly impressed!
Just so you know:
- When is the best time to make this recipe? Aside from as gifts or party treats for the Lunar New Year, you can really make these anytime you want. The ingredients are simple and available in your nearest supermarket.
- Anything special we should know about before attempting this recipe? As I mentioned above, despite the recipe being very basic and simple, the tart-forming step of this recipe is the most time-consuming and effort-requiring of all, so it’s best if you get someone to help you make the tarts. If not, grab a comfortable chair and shape the tarts sitting down on the kitchen table. I tried it standing up hunched over my counter once and my back ached after it was done. (Oops.) And if you find your dough not coming together as was the complaint of some others who tried this recipe, add half a tablespoon of water at a time. I didn’t encounter this issue because I used good-quality butter, so I’m suggesting you should too.
- Did I change anything from this recipe? I only lessened the sugar for the filling by half when I was cooking the pineapples, but other than that, I didn’t change anything. I keep coming back to this recipe because I love it so much!
adapted from Rasa Malaysia | Makes 24 tarts
For the dough:
2 1/2 cups (350g) all-purpose flour
2 sticks butter (8 oz./1 cup/225 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch (corn flour)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten for egg wash
For the pineapple filling: (you might not end up using all of them)
2 20-ounce cans crushed pineapples
10 tablespoons sugar (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon cornstarch (corn flour), mixed with 1 teaspoon water
1. Prepare the filling: Drain the crushed pineapple and then squeeze the extra water/juice with your hands. Mash the canned pineapples with fork over the strainer to make it a bit more mushy, about 10 seconds.
2. On medium heat, cook the pineapple and sugar until most liquid has evaporated, and the filling darkens into a slightly golden colour. Stir constantly using a wooden spoon to avoid burning. Taste, and add more sugar if needed.
3. Add in the cornstarch-water mixture and mix to thicken the filling. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool in the fridge.
4. Prepare the dough: Sieve the flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar into a medium bowl. Cut in the butter until the dough begins resembling course crumbs. Add in the egg yolks and knead with a pastry cutter or with your hands (this is better) to form the dough.
5. Make the tarts: Divide the dough into 24 equal rounds. Flatten the dough with your other hand until it is palm-size, then scoop about half a tablespoon of filling into the centre of the dough round.
6. Take the ends of the dough facing you and fold them over the filling, one end on top of each other. Then take the other two ends and fold them to seal the tart into a rough rectangle. Smooth out the dough seams with your hands until you form an even oblong about 1.5 inches long. Place the tart onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with rest of the dough.
7. Halfway through forming the tarts (after making 12 tarts), preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
8. Once all 24 tarts are done and resting on the baking sheet, use a fork to make criss-cross patterns on the tart and then brush it with the egg wash.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tarts are light brown in colour. Tarts can be served slightly warm or at room temperature.
Storage: Tarts may be stored at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.
I hope it’s not too late to get this to the table in time for a Lunar New Year spread! And if it is… Well there is no rule saying you can’t have it for a post-New Year treat now is there? (Plus there’s always next year!) Tell me, how can you resist this deliciousness!
Happy Lunar New Year, everyone! 恭喜發財!!!