Happy Lunar New Year! Chinese Singaporeans and Malaysians celebrate by eating and serving several lucky dishes to usher in the new year. One of these snacks is the pineapple tart, which is a bite-sized butter pastry topped with pineapple jam. By eating and serving pineapple tarts, you’re inviting prosperity to the household.
I was never a huge fan of pineapple tarts because store-bought versions have too much spice in their jam that hides the taste of the pineapple. I’ve never thought of making my own until I read the deliciously brilliant food memoir, “A Tiger in the Kitchen” by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan. The author was born and raised in Singapore but currently lives and works in New York City. The book chronicles her experiences as she moved back to Singapore for a while to learn how to cook her grandma’s dishes. A pivotal chapter is about Cheryl learning how to make pineapple tarts from her aunts and she even included her family recipe in the book.
Cheryl’s story and her grandmother’s pineapple tarts recipe really inspired me to make my own pineapple tarts this year.
If you have a juicer, mixer and cookie press, you can follow her recipe to a T. However, I had to make tiny changes because I lacked some of the kitchen appliances mentioned in the recipe and I also halved the amount. So if you lack the same appliances, here are some updated tips:
1. Slice the top and bottom of the pineapple and then down the sides to cut out the outer layer. If you have sensitive skin, then it’s best to wear plastic gloves while you hold the pineapple. I learned that the hard way! Cut out all the eyes and leftover hairy bits then cut into fours length-wise. Grate into a deep plate and then add the pulp and juice into a strainer over a large bowl to separate the pulp from the juice. Use a fork to squeeze out all the juice into the bowl. Reserve the juice for cooking the jam.
2. The pineapple I bought was ripe and sweet so I only added ½ cup sugar while stirring the pulp in a pot. I also lacked cinnamon sticks so I added ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon powder. Cook for three hours in low heat and stir constantly. When it’s ready, your jam will be a golden brown color and of a sticky consistency.
3. When I tasted the pineapple jam, it wasn’t as sweet as I thought. So I decided to add 4 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar into the dough. If your jam is really sweet, then you can definitely eliminate the extra sugar in the cookie dough. I mixed the dough by hand and kneaded until the dough was no longer sticky or dry. Add flour to a clean surface and roll out the dough until they’re about roughly ¼ inch thick. It would be easier if you work in batches.
4. I don’t have a cookie press, instead I have an old-fashioned plastic cookie cutter that was fiddly at first, but I soon got the hang of it. Apparently you need to push it down and wriggle it before it can pop out, and be really gentle when you peel the dough away. You can use any cookie cutter of your choice for the pineapple tart. One year, my friend made hers in the shape of a rabbit because it was the Year of the Rabbit! Brush the top of each piece with egg wash and bake them in the oven for about 5 minutes.
5. Form your pineapple jam into little balls, like the size of a gumball. Take out the pre-baked pastry and brush each piece with more egg wash before placing a piece of pineapple jam in the middle of each tart. Bake in 350°F (175°C) for another 15 minutes until golden brown.
Treat yourself and your loved ones to some homemade lucky pineapple tarts! Thank you Cheryl for your advice and encouragement! Everyone should pick up a copy of “A Tiger in the Kitchen.” You will be moved, you will be intrigued, but most of all, you will be hungry!