The Chinese New Year is only two weeks away and I've been a very busy man slaving over hot stove (or oven) lately. Last year we had friends coming up to the Central Coast and we had so much fun celebrating the new year with a 9-courses Chinese dinner banquet. And I am doing it again this year with a buffet style dinner, so that I can spend more time socialising instead of running like a headless chook in the kitchen the whole time. It should be good and I can't wait.
This year I've also decided to make some of my all time favourite cookies and cakes to usher in the Year of the Tiger. I have made the peanut cookies from last year again, kuih loyang (recipe to follow) and also these mouth watering pineapple tarts.
This little golden morsel has a crumbly texture like shortbread, and inside is filled with a soft chewy pineapple jam filling and simply melt in your mouth. Different places have different names, the pineapple tart is also known as pineapple roll, pineapple nastar roll, kueh nastar, just to name a few. Whatever its name is, I have not encountered anyone that doesn't like it.
Making pineapple tarts can be very time consuming, a lot of effort put in but yield very little in return. It looks difficult but once you get the hang of it, the pineapple tarts are actually surprisingly easy to make. It can get very messy and fiddly, but so long you work out a routine with some trial and error, you will be able to churn up around 40 pineapple tarts within two hours (including making pineapple jam filling).
To make the tart, first you have to make is the pineapple jam filling. I've made two batches, first with canned pineapples, and another batch with fresh pineapples. It is debatable whether the jam filling actually taste better with fresh pineapples than canned ones. Initially I believed the fresh pineapple jam filling definitely taste better and more like a pineapple, whereas the canned one is sweeter from the syrup it soaked in no doubt. However, they both actually tasted almost the same after baking, except there is still a little bit zing tingling on the tongue from the tart made with fresh pineapples. So it is totally up to you either way, they both taste great nevertheless.
You know what, this is the first time I played with glucose syrup and boy, what a total bitch to work with. The glucose syrup is called for in the recipe to thicken the jam for a chewy texture. It is extremely thick and sticky, makes rolling the pineapple jam filling into tiny balls before assembling a very messy job. But it is a very important step, and will make the process a whole lot more efficient later on.
This particular version of pineapple tart sometimes also called the pineapple nastar roll, because it is usually made by using a Nastar piping tip to pipe the pastry with a corrugated appearance. Since I don't have the Nastar piping tip, I had to do it manually with a fork, the old skool way. It is not perfect, and I squashed the tarts a little without the lady touch, I'll just redeem myself and called it the "homemade" look. HA!
And do you know why pineapple tart is always popular during Chinese New Year in Malaysia? It is because the phonetic sound of 'pineapple' is similar to the word "properous" in Chinese, making the pineapple tart an auspicious cake to have during the special occasion. So let's make some and share the fortunes with friends and families, and welcome the Year of the Tiger with more deliciousness.
Pineapple Tarts for Chinese New Year - 凤梨酥/黄梨酥 Pineapple Filling Ingredients: 3 baby pineapples (or 2 cans of shredded pineapples)
200 gram sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
150 gram liquid glucose
2 tbsp wheat flour (all purpose flour) Method: 1. Slice and grate pineapples till fine. You can use a food processor do grate it.
2. Strain the grated pineapple till dry.
3. Let it simmer in a wok toll the juice has dry up. Add sugar and, star anise, cinnamon stick and clove.
4. Stir till the pineapple has thickened and dry. Add maltose or liquid glucose.
5. Stir till the pineapple filling is thick, sticky and dry.
6. Add wheat flour. Continue to stir for about 10 minutes or until filling is dry.
7. Leave to cool and shape into small balls.
Pineapple Tarts - 凤梨酥/黄梨酥 Ingredients:
250 gram butter
50 gram icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg yolk (for glazing)
350 gram plain flour (all purpose flour)
50 gram corn flour
IMPORTANT: YOU MUST first roll the pineapple jam filling into balls, resembling a silkworm cocooon. Set aside on a plate.
1. Cream butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until light. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, until well combined. Add vanilla essence and salt and whisk until fluffy.
2. Fold in sifted dry ingredients (plain flour & corn flour) and mix to form a dough. It should be a light crumbly shortbread texture.
3. Roll a tablespoonful of dough into a 5-7cm long tube in your palm, then gently press down with index finger to flatten the dough into an oblong shape, around 0.5cm thickness and 3-4cm wide. You will get the hang of it after a few trials.
4. Place the rolled-out pineapple jam ball on the edge of the strip and roll the dough to wrap around it to form a small elongated roll. Place the roll on a greased baking tray. Repeat until all dough mixture and jam filling used up.
5. Preheat oven at 180°C. Use a fork and draw lines on top of the tarts. 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.