Ahh..Pineapple tarts - buttery and sweet. To me, the number one sweet treat that I associate most with Chinese New Year is pineapple tarts.
I've baked pineapple tarts so many times, I've lost count. And each time I bake these tarts, I'd experiment with different types of pineapples, various baking ingredients and their proportions, methods of mixing, assembling, baking temperature and time, even which side of the baking tray to use! After many, many baking sessions in my little kitchen, my recipe is finally printed in my first cookbook 'Delicious Asian Sweet Treats'!
The ingredients used here in the recipe below are a bit different from the ones I used in my recipe in the 'Delicious Asian Sweet Treats' cookbook. This recipe contains egg yolks (the one in my cookbook does not contain egg yolks, so it's great for vegetarians), and I used caster sugar instead of icing sugar (for those of you who do not usually buy icing sugar).
450g of pineapple filling (commercially-bought or homemade)
360g plain flour plus extra for dusting (3 cups minus 2 tbsp)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
280g cold unsalted butter (2 sticks plus 1 tbsp)
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Egg glaze: 1 egg yolk mixed with a few drops of water (to thin it)
• Sift flour and sugar. Mix well.
• Cut butter into small cubes and add to flour mixture. (See 'Brands of ingredients I use'.)
• Use fingertips to rub the butter into the flour.
• Lightly beat egg yolks and vanilla essence and add to butter mixture. Combine and knead lightly to form a dough. Wrap the dough in clingwrap and chill it for an hour to firm it up. Chilling the dough makes it easy to handle.
• Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Divide dough into two portions. Keep one portion chilled. Roll the other portion (on a floured surface) to a thickness of about 7mm. Dip cookie cutter in flour and cut out shapes.
• Use a scraper (or knife) to lift the shapes and place on the tray. (See 'Baking equipment' for a photograph of a scraper.)
• Create a dent in the middle of the cookie shape.
• Brush egg glaze over the edges of the shapes.
• Pinch about 1/2 tablespoon of pineapple filling and neaten it to form a ball. Compress it lightly, then place on a cookie shape.
• Preheat the oven at 190°C (375°F) for 10 minutes.
• Place some dough in a disposable piping bag and snip off a little at the corner to create a small hole. Twist the top of the bag and pipe patterns on the pineapple filling.
(See 'Baking equipment' for alternatives to piping bags.)
• Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Using a flat spatula, transfer the tarts to a wire rack. Allow tarts to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. (See 'Types of containers'.)
Note: Compressing the pineapple ball filling gives it a lovely slight 'flattish' shape when baked (see picture above)
I used the above dough to make these 'closed' pineapple tarts. They taste great too! The one on the right has a clove stuck in it. It is to be removed before eating. Cloves add a wonderful fragrance to pineapple tarts.
But here, I made the mistake of brushing the egg yolk glaze before baking, which explains for the 'dry-looking' appearance. What I should have done is bake them for 6 minutes, then remove them from the oven, brush the egg glaze, then pop them back to be baked for a further 6 minutes.
• During baking, the dough will flatten slightly and spread a little. Therefore, when shaping the dough, do not roll it too thinly or the tarts will turn out flat and unattractive.
• Due to its high butter content, the dough may be sticky and hard to handle. Lightly flour the work surface, rolling pin and cookie cutter often. Also, leave half of the dough chilled in the fridge while you work with the other half.
• Pineapple tart cookie cutters are available at some supermarkets and baking supply stores. Look for them at the kitchenware or baking equipment section. They come in two parts – one cuts out the dough and the other creates a dent in the centre. See picture above. If unavailable, use any round cookie cutter to cut out dough, then use your thumb to create a dent in the centre.
• Due to the absence of egg, yellow food colouring is added to the dough to give it some colour.
• If the tarts spread too much during baking, increase the baking temperature slightly (200°C) for a few minutes at the start (this slows down the spreading), then lower the temperature to 190°C and bake till the tarts are done. Bake longer if you prefer crisper tarts.
• To store, use greaseproof paper to separate layers of tarts in an airtight container.
Rub-in method versus creaming method:
The rub-in method is one where you use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour. I use this method in this recipe because I want the pineapple tarts to retain its fluted edges as much as possible. If I had used the creaming method (where the butter and sugar are whisked and mixed, and the flour added after that) instead, the tarts would lose its defined fluted edges.
Difficulty in handling buttery dough:
When the weather is warm and humid, the dough is hard to handle and often sticks to the rolling pin. This is what I do to remedy the situation:
- sprinkle flour on my work surface and rolling pin
- leave half of the dough chilled to keep it firm, while I work with the other half
- dip the cookie cutter in flour often
- do away with the rolling pin; take a fist-sized amount of dough and use my palm to press and flatten it.
- turn on the air-conditioning!
It's vital to use a scraper:
A scraper is simply a small, smooth, hard and very flat plastic or metallic object. I use it to scrape and lift up cut-out dough shapes. It is impossible to lift the shapes up without one, due to the tenderness of the dough. If you don't have a scraper, use a knife. But do be careful that you do not accidentally hurt yourself!
One more recipe note: Icing sugar and caster sugar can be used interchangebly in this recipe. Both serve to sweeten the buttery dough a little. But caster sugar is used in lesser amount (2 tbsp as opposed to 60g icing sugar) because it may cause the tart to lose its melt-in-the-mouth texture.
I hope the above inspires you to bake your own pineapple tarts. It's really not that difficult. Make the pineapple filling first, then freeze it. It will keep for a month this way. Then gather a bunch of friends or relatives on a Saturday afternoon and have fun making pineapple tarts together!