I first attempted to bake pineapple tarts last year. This is decidedly the most popular Chinese New Year cookie among my family members and friends. I have a friend who would order his $1.50/piece pineapple tart every year without fail and it is not uncommon to pay $1/ piece for home-made pineapple tarts nowadays.
In case, you are reading this in the hope to pick up a recipe so that you can make your own tarts and save a few quid, I need to be upfront and urge you to abandon your wishful thinking. The ingredients which include primarily pineapples(lots of them) , good butter, some flour and eggs are not going to be cheap. Then when you factor in the tediousness of grating your own pineapple, stirring the jam cauldron for 2-3 hours and fiddling with the pastry to shape them into pretty little morsels, you just want to give up.
I kind of did...give up. Not wanting to repeat the same old same old as last year, I decided to work with 2 different recipes, one for the open tart and another for a closed tart. Thanks to Valerie Kong's Traditional Chinese New Year Goodies class, I think I have truly found a melt-in-the mouth pineapple tart recipe. Contrary to what most food bloggers believe, you don't need corn flour to achieve the tender melt-in-the-mouth texture. Her recipe appears to be simple enough, with flour, butter, egg yolk and milk powder. I am uncertain if it is the golden ratio of her recipe or if it is the technique of incorporating the flour with the butter that delivered the melt-in-the-mouth end result.
The cookie turned out to be one of the most tender and delicious pineapple tart I have eaten. My dad couldn't stop eating them and at one point, was stuffing 2 cookies at one time into his mouth! Kind of funny to see the old man behaving like a kid.
I was feeling ambitious and attempted one of the most traditional closed tart design. This entails wrapping the jam with the dough and shaping it into an acorn shape before making little snips around the tart to achieve the semblance of a little pineapple. The whole process of shaping and snipping was so laborious that I only managed to get some 20 tarts in close to an hour. I gave up and chose a simpler shaping method which only required me to roll the round dough across a little ribbed plastic panel.
I have just finished cooking my second batch of Pineapple Jam and can't wait to bake another batch of closed tarts.
I shall not publish the recipes of the pineapple tarts here as I know Valerie conducts the classes every year. If you are interested, please check in with Shermay's Cooking School or contact Valerie for class schedules.
In the meantime, if you do not already have your own 'heirloom' pineapple tart recipe, I welcome you to start here.