Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Recipe: Chinese New Year Pineapple Tarts, The Best Recipe Ever!

By far my favourite thing to do for Chinese New Year is to bake pineapple tarts. The reason I like this is just because home-made tarts are the best. Also, to stamp out the tarts kind of neccesitates sitting around the kitchen table for a fair period of time, which is great for bonding.

The recipe for this is very simple and very, very good. You have to make the pastry dough first because it has to chill overnight (I've given the dough recipe in the previous post). This recipe is courtesy of my Peranakan aunts, who make flawless home-made New Year goodies and this recipe really does receive lots of compliments. Or maybe home-made pineapple jam is just one of those modern day luxuries.

Each year, I use about 8-9 pineapples and the secret to this jam is to chop the pineapples up by hand. If you blend it into a food processor, you will cut all the fibres and the jam will have less flavour and no body. That's why store-bought jam disintegrates in your mouth and never gives the luscious mouth-feel of a home-made or artisanal jam.

Pineapple Jam
6 pineapples

The jam is an easy if tedious recipe. Get your fruit seller to slice the skins off the pineapple and choose dark yellow, sweet pineapples with a good nuanced flavour. It doesn't really matter how many pineapples you use, as the jam recipe is scalable. The recipe calls for 6 but I use 8 or 9 because I don't like to have remainder dough afterward. Now, although I said to hand-chop all the pineapples, you can blend up to a third and chop up the rest, it will have the same effect. Mash up the remnants and chase all the juice and the pinapple from your chopping board into a pot. You should get something similar to what is pictured in the photo above, loose smashed pineapple.

Use about half the amount of sugar to pineapple (measure with the same bowls you used for the pineapple). I generally put Less than half and that works out for slightly not-so-sweet tarts. Throw in the cinnamon and cloves, about 4 or 5 cinnamon sticks in each pot and a handful of cloves in each. I like to use more spices-pineapple tarts are usually so sweet, I like to make mine a little less sweet and with a complex and deep fragrance and flavour.

Boil on high heat till all the pineapple jam warms through and then lower to a simmer for a couple of hours. You will know when the jam is done, because it changes colour slightly as the sugar caramelizes, the jam turns from a light or medium yellow to an almost orangey colour. Also, it becomes thicker and the juice starts to evapourate and the cinnamon sticks unfurl. You can cool and refrigerate the jam overnight, or else just wait for it to cool sufficiently.

This is what the jam will look like after being cooked for over 3 hours, a beautiful caramelized amber, dry, slightly stringy, thick and packed full of deep fruity goodness. When making the jam, be careful that the sugar has not all sunk to the bottom of the bowl and started to burn. You need to stir it throughly for the first half hour to distribute the heat. If the bottom of your jam Has burned, do not stir the burnt bits through- remove the jam to a clean pot, leaving the burnt pieces at the bottom of the first pot and begin the heating process again, in the new pot.

To assemble, just take your cookie stampers and stamp out the tarts and line them up on a silpat, or a parchment paper-covered tray. Some people like thicker tarts and some like thinner ones. The advantage of doing it yourself is that you can dictate exactly what sort of tarts you get! Then roll large and generous balls of jam and sit them in the center of the tarts, flattening the tops slightly. Remove the cloves from the jam when you come across them and decorate the tops of the tarts if you like with some spare dough strips or cloves. This is the part of the process that is very repetitive and which you can do without thinking; perfect for chatting across the dining room table.

Brush the pastry with egg yolk and bake in the over for 20 min at 140C. Don't overbake them as the dough will get dry. If you need to, you can lower the temperature and move the tray up toward the fan to dry out the jam. These are heavenly when warm and just out of the oven! I brought a freshly-baked tray out to dinner and it's amazing how quickly them little fingers move to grab the tarts!

You can also cool them, stack them and store them in prefably air-tight containers between greaseproof paper as they dent more easily then the harder store-bought tarts.

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