I can almost hear the firecrackers and clangs of Chinese New Year as we approach one of my favourite celebrations of the year.
An excuse to have food in abundance, be surrounded by family and a period of guaranteed laughter. A celebration steeped in superstitious beliefs where this one short moment in the year will dictate how the rest of the year will turn out, and I totally love it. Because what’s not to love about an abundance of food, laughter and noise.
The season where the scent of buttery treats fills the air – sweet, savoury and full of decadence.
Honestly, it might even be better than Christmas for me.
In short, it’s the time of the year where I know that I’ll definitely have a smile on my face.
But being an ocean away from home means that I will be missing out of the celebrations but I am not going to let myself miss out on festive treats.
And one of the best snacks (if not the best) are pineapple tarts.
Gooey sweet and sour spiced pineapple jam encased in a buttery shortbread crust. Golden in colour to represent those golden nuggets of wealth.
They come in all shapes and sizes but as you can imagine, this is my favourite style. The ball ones which are a perfect one bite morsel encased in buttery pastry. I personally love a higher ratio of pastry in my pineapple tarts but… I’ve kept it as per the more normal balance of pastry to jam in these particular ones.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to find pre-made pineapple jam in packets. And if that’s the case, all you’ll have to do is to portion them out and roll them into balls. However, should you be in a country without ready made jam, you can use my recipe to make your own at home.
This is a labour of love but the happiness and deliciousness of the final product will be worth the effort.
The key to this is pineapples (after all, we are making pineapple jam)
So to begin, you’ll need pineapples. If it’s expensive where you are or simply not in season, fret not, have a look at tinned pineapple that is store in pure pineapple juice. This will still suffice as a replacement.
What you do not want is additional sugar or additives in the tinned pineapples that you get. The brand I used in my video is pineapple in pure pineapple juice. Some acidity regulators is fine but nothing that will hinder the flavour too much.
The only key thing to note with the pineapples in a tin is that your finally jam will be softer as tinned pineapples have been cored leaving behind the softer parts. Canned pineapple also tend to be softer in nature, potentially due to the heating process during canning.
Is this an issue? Well, it depends on how you like your jam. Smooth and soft or chewy and firmer. If you are after the later, as a work around I’ve done a few things.
- Maltose – Maltose gives it that density and chewiness. It also assists with caramelisation. But should you not wish to use maltose, you can sub it with light brown sugar or regular sugar. When working with maltose, if you find that it has firmed up and is hard to work with, simply heating it in a microwave will soften the maltose to a more “scoopable” consistency. This stuff is extremely sticky so be careful working with it.
- Processing it – I use a blender but on it’s lowest blend settings. As a blender tends to puree things rather than “slice” them due to the way the blades and container is structured, I keep the settings as low as possible so that it “chops” up the pineapple slowly. The less you process the pineapple = the longer the fibers = the more texture you’ll have.
- Sugar – As with many recipes, I know that there is chance you are looking to reduce the sugar. I have already reduced the sugar in this recipe and this is where I like it the balance to be. Beyond adding sweetness to the pineapple filling, it also is a preservative. Pineapple tart with lesser sugar tend to last for a short period.
- Acidity – Should you find the filling too sweet, you can add lemon juice to increase the acidity and make it a little more tart.
- Cooking it – it’s definitely the most important bit. The longer you cook it the stickier it gets, which in turn means you’ll have a firmer jam that’s easier to handle once cooled. You will also notice that the as the sugar caramelises the darker the jam will become. A softer jam will be harder to work with but it will contribute to your tart having a lighter texture.
- Moisture – For a firmer jam, you will want to cook off the moisture in the filling as much as possible. Once most of the water has evaporated, you will notice that the filling getting sticky. At this stage, keep your eye on it and stir often to prevent burning. You will also want to keep the flame on a lower settings. But please take note, if you cook up too much moisture, there will be very little left to tenderise the pastry.
- Consistency – The jam is firmer when cooled as compared to whilst it is warm so do keep that in mind when cooking it to the desired consistency.
- Butter – I finish off the jam with butter to soften the filling and to give it a more buttery finish. It is optional but I do like it. just be sure to mix it until it is as incorporated into the jam as you can if you do plan on adding it to the jam. Depending on how firm you cook your jam to, not all the buttery might be absorbed into the jam but that is fine.
- Spices – Tradionally cloves and cinnamon are all is added, but I like adding a little more just to give the pineapple filling a little more flavour.
When it comes to the cooking of the jam, I suggest using one with a wider base. The bigger the surface area the quicker it’ll evaporate and cook down.
As mentioned above, the longer you decide to cook it for, the firmer it will become as the sugars start to caramelise and moisture evaporates.
At the beginning of the cooking process, you can leave it to simmer whilst the moisture evaporates, but once most of the excess moisture has evaporated, you will want to keep and eye on it stirring often to ensure that the paste doesn’t burn.
Some recipes call for straining the the liquid to speed up the process of making the jam, but I personally find that the pineapple juice gives it an extra depth of flavour and thus choose to leave it in.
This is my favourite bit. Savoury, sweet and buttery. The key is the savory bit.
You will have noticed in Asia that there have been many different flavour of pastry shells for pineapple tarts in recent years, but most of the variation on the crust will take on the savoury note.
It just pairs better.
That salty sweet combo makes it so easy to pop one tart after another and keep you going back for more.
You will see flavours like salted egg, cheese and many others when it comes to the pastry options but I have tried to go with the classic one in this route.
And yes, I did use cream cheese in my pastry, but rather than being able to taste the cheese in the dough, the main thing is to give some depth of flavour and a savoury edge to the crust. It also adds moisture and softens the dough giving it that light and melting texture.
As you will also notice, I had used both milk powder and custard powder in the recipe but you can definitely go down the route of just using milk powder and substitute the custard powder with more corn flour. These are all just a way to introduce and compact the flavour in the pastry.
But please do not replace the milk powder. This is a important ingredient.
Milk powder + Custard Powder
Now here is the thing with this ingredient. You know how everyone goes about talking how “umami” is the new in thing. Well, to me cream cheese is my “umami” for baking (amongst other ingredients).
It provides moisture and fat, but also has a structure to it that doesn’t just pool into a liquid mess. In other words, I love the consistency and the flavour it imparts.
It brings an additional depth of savoriness which the addition of pure salt can’t give, but also doesn’t have an overwhelming cheesy flavour. It’s like a good aged steak or a lovely slab of cultured butter, you tend to find that they all hold a “cheesy” note but you aren’t eating cheese (if you get what I mean).
To increase the creaminess, in the pastry, we add milk powder. So to increase it even further, I asked myself why not cream cheese, and after doing a few batches letting my friends blind taste test, the result was clear and they love the cream cheese one without knowing what it contained.
The texture of these are light yet flavourful and after letting it age to soften, it takes on a stronger melt in your mouth profile. And whilst every tart is different, I do hope you enjoy these.
Lastly, the butter.
I chose to use Golden Churn butter in a tin as it provides that unmistakable buttery scent/flavour.
That fragrant scent of Asian butter goods is honestly thanks to tinned butter in my opinion.
There is a special something about it, it has a strong “butter oil” scent which may not translate to creaminess but does translate to a heavenly scent once baked.
This butter also has a savory note to it which I find to be really pleasant for this pastry.
There is also a refrigerated Golden Churn butter option but the flavour isn’t quite the same.
Should you not be able to find Golden Churn, you can definitely look at replacing it with a good quality salted butter with a nice flavour and fragrance to it. A good cultured butter is usually a nice alternative.
If opting for unsalted butter, simply add 1g more of salt to the dough for the quantity of dough in the recipe (total salt should be 1/2tsp + an additonal 1g to make up for the loss of salt from the unsalted butter).
With such minimal quantities of 10g of pastry to 8g of jam, you need the pastry to be really flavourful in order to stand out. Sure, you could simply add more pastry and that way you will be able to taste more of the flavour of the pastry, but you are also going to be consuming more pastry and the ratio may be off for you.
If you are playing around with your pastry dough, I would recommend thinking of what the flavour of 10g of pure butter will taste like and then consider if it were a pastry dough, how much of it is flour and sugar etc. yet with the aim of wanting to impart more flavour to go against a flavourful and condensed pineapple jam. It’s restrictive, but I am just happy that I finally got there with this pastry.
There are many things people are after with the glaze. Colour, Visuals, Taste, they are all considerations.
Cracks In The Crust
I know that many deem a “cracked” crust to be a fault but after many tries and test, I have decided to forgo the visual of a perfectly uncracked crust. Should you be really hung up on having a crust that doesn’t crack, then feel free to follow the notes in the next part.
If you want a crust that doesn’t crack, you can increase the amount of flour in the pastry to ensure that it stays in shape as it bakes. Naturally this will also affect the final outcome but I shall leave that choice in your hands. The up side is that if the pastry were to contain more flour, it would also be easier to work with.
So that is the first part, as it bakes the pastry moves and will form “cracks”. But, the next but is the glaze, which in all honesty is the real reason why you see cracks. As the glaze is the thing that actually cracks, I recommend baking it for 5 mins before glazing it and placing it back into the oven for another 7 mins. However, should you wish to go down this route, I recommend either keeping the amount of water added to 1 tsp or none at all. I would also suggest double glazing, what i mean by that is to glaze it once and then once you have done every ball, to then glaze it a second time before placing it into the oven to bake.
Why I chose to do what I did
One thing for me is the taste, I like my glaze light. I like it to look golden but without tasting too eggy which is what I find a heavier yolk glaze tends to do.
The other thing is that, even whilst you make have taken the tarts out of the oven after 5 mins, the base will still continue bake on the tray from residual heat. This will then result in a darker base than what I would prefer.
Depending on how golden you like your tarts and the flavour of your glaze, you can use less water, or simply use only egg yolks.
Baking Trays and Times
A light weight baking tray will not retain as much heat which will help with having a lighter base but at the same time it may spread a little more. A dark colour baking tray will definitely heat the base faster and bake it darker. So just be cautious when picking a baking tray to bake these on. I just use my usual baking tray which is a decent weight that’s neither too heavy not is it a light tray.
Texture and Aging
Now, this is where things get funny.
I wouldn’t suggest eating the pineapple tarts immediately.
As with any cookie or shortbread, things fresh out of the oven tend to be crisp and they will soften over time.
This is no exception.
I have found that the tarts tastes best after sitting on the counter in an airtight container for at least 3 days or ideally even more. Yes, you heard me right.
But that is not to say it doesn’t taste good straight out of the oven, it just tends to be crumblier and softer. Should you decide to add more flour to allow it to keep its shape, you will notice that your pastry will be firmer.
Another thing that I feel is key to the pastry being nice and soft is the humidity in tropical climates. Moisture = Soft. Too bad it isn’t quite as humid here in Melbourne but they still taste good to me.
Regardless of what you choose to do, my personal recommendation is to let it age to get that soft familiar pineapple tart texture.
Honestly, is this the best ever pineapple tarts that I have eaten? No.
In my memory, I hold the pineapple tarts that I have had at house visits on a pedestal. My memory may have made things appear more perfect than what it probably was but I stand by it that there are many many great pineapple tart options out there.
But if you are asking if I would ever want to buy pineapple tarts again after playing around with this recipe, well… I would if I was feeling lazy or curios but would rather just make my own tarts if I have the time. It gives you more control.
This recipe is a great family baking project, or a one person therapeutic zen moment to have by yourself. (I am the latter of course). The main thing is that this recipe gives you control to make the tarts the way you would like it to be.
Melt In Your Mouth Pineapple Tarts
What you’ll need
(Makes 22-25 x 8g fillings)
- 400g pineapple, tinned or fresh
(I used tinned pineapple that’s been stored in pure pineapple juice)
- 50g white sugar
- 20g maltose (alternatively swap in light brown sugar)
- 8 cloves
- 2 star anise segments
- 4 green cardamom pods, cracked
- 4 black peppercorns
(you can choose to crack it or leave it whole depending on how much black pepper flavour you would like)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 20g unsalted butter
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- Cheesecloth, or empty spice/tea bag
- Disposable Gloves
(Makes 45 x 10g portions of dough) (you can choose to half the quantity if you are making only 1 batch of filling)
- 130g golden churn butter, tinned, softened
(alternatively, if you can’t find golden churn you can use any other salted butter *see notes above)
- 50g cream cheese, softened (I used philadelphia brand)
- 40g icing sugar, sifted
- Scant 1/2 tsp fine sea salt (I like the savoury edge to my pastry, but you can opt for 1/4 tsp should you wish for a less savoury pastry)
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 30g milk powder
- 10g custard powder (replace with corn starch should you not wish to use custard powder)
- 36g corn starch
- 130g cake flour (protein content approx 8.5%)
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tsp water
- 1/4 tsp melted butter
- pinch of salt
If using fresh pineapples, please remove the skin and eyes from the flesh. You can choose to leave some of the core behind for texture otherwise simply use the softer flesh. The core doesn’t really carry as much flavour but it definitely has more texture and is more fibrous.
I am using tinned pineapple stored in it’s juices in this instance for both quality consistency and convenience as it is also not as easy to find consistently good fresh pineapples here.
Process your pineapple flesh until it is fine. Using a food processor will give you more control in ensuring you do not end up with a puree too quickly, but I use a blender on it’s lower settings for convenience. Using the lowest settings will help chop up the pineapples to ensure they are not too fine. I like my pineapple mixture to have some pieces left in it as it gives it more texture and tinned pineapples tend to be softer in nature to begin with.
Place your spices (cardamom, black pepper, star anise, cloves) in a spice bag or tie it up with a cheese cloth. It makes it easier to remove them without digging through the mixture. Crack your cardamom gently before placing it in the bag, and if you crack your black pepper it will also release more heat and flavour, but cracking the black pepper is optional.
In a wide pot, add your pineapple, spices, cinnamon powder, sugar, maltose, salt and heat over medium flame.
Your mixture will not need as much attention at the start as it bubbles away, but do stir it occasionally. However, once 75% of the moisture has evaporated, you will need to stir it more often to ensure it doesn’t burn.
Cook your mixture to a sticky consistency. The longer you cook it for the firmer it will be. As it cools it will firm up slightly, if you are unsure, simply take some out of the pot and place onto a plate and into the fridge for a short period just to quickly chill it down to room temperature. This will provide you with an idea of the final consistency. If your mixture is too firm, you run the risk of the pastry not getting enough moisture from the filling to soften as it ages.
Once the mixture is to your liking, adjust for sweetness and acidity. If you find that your jam is too sweet because your pineapples were really sweet, you can add some lemon to balance it off.
Turn the heat down to low and add the unsalted butter to the pot and stir to incorporate. If your mixture is really firm, you might find that not all of the butter will incorporate into the jam, but just try your best to mix it as well as you can, it is fine if there is excess butter.
Turn off the flame and add the vanilla extract.
Remove from the pot and let cool until it’s a temperature which you will be able to handle with ease.
Wearing disposable gloves portion the jam into 8g rounds and place onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper or any tray that will fit into your freezer.
Freeze the jam until needed.
- The disposable gloves makes it easier to handle the jam and also more sanitary. Should you not have gloves and find the jam sticking to your hands, simply add some oil to your palms to prevent it from sticking.
In a medium size bowl, whisk cream cheese, butter, sifted icing sugar and salt until pale and creamy.
Add egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until pale and creamy.
Add cornstarch, milk powder, custard powder and whisk well to incorporate. The mixture should feel really fluffy and light. You do not have to worry about over mixing and creating a tough pastry at this stage because there is no gluten in this just yet.
Switch to a spatula and fold in your sifted cake powder.
Gently fold it until you no longer see any streaks.
The pastry dough will be really soft at this stage so we will be refrigerating it to allow it to firm up and make it easier to work with.
Refrigerate for at least a few hours or overnight.
Preheat your oven to 180C.
Make the egg wash by mixing all the ingredients together until smooth.
If making large batches, you will want to work in smaller batches to ensure that the pastry and filling is kept cold, but this will simply depend on how warm it is where you are.
Portion your pastry into 10g portions and using palm of your hands, flatten it and encase the filling within.
Note: for those pastry lovers out there, you can use 12g balls of dough instead of 10g. Bake time will be the same. If you are in a really humid climate, you might notice your flour doesn’t absorb as much or asian cake flour might be a little softer than what I used in Australia so add a touch more flour.
Roll it into a smooth round ball and place it on a baking tray.
This dough doesn’t spread as much but please ensure that each ball has sufficient spacing between them. Ideally at least 1inch.
Repeat until your tray is full.
Brush on egg wash and bake at 180C for 11-12 mins rotating the tray midway.
Let cool on the baking tray and store in an airtight container at room temperature in a cool place.
These are best consumed after allow it to sit for at least 3 days as it allows the pastry to age and soften and for the flavours to meld together better.
This will last for at least 2 weeks (but usually longer).
15 Comments Add yours
Hi there! I was wondering if I could replace the cream cheese with something else. I normally don’t have it on hand but would love to try out this recipe.
Love this recipe. It’s a labour of love type recipe but the pineapple tarts turn out amazing. Discovered this right when the recipe and video came out and have made this a few times already. Will be a staple for special occasions – thanks for sharing and the detailed instructions!
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I commented at your Youtube video but was put on restricted mode. So I’m wondering if you only selectively accept comments. I must reiterate again that this recipe is BAD. Too many things going on at the pastry and it spoiled everything. The cream cheese, milk powder and custard powder…?? Like seriously? There is no need to be so many ingredients. Please keep it simple. Less is more. I did this recipe with one batch and nobody seems to like it at home. Sorry this is my honest opinion, hope you can improve that time. This recipe REALLY CANNOT.
Hi Brian, appreciate your honest thought and opinion. But as you can see, many of us here actually find the recipe to be great and the tarts to be enjoyable. I personally think there are better ways to give constructive feedback than to downright insult someone’s hard work. “I find that there are too many unnecessary ingredients for the pastry, and managed to simplify it while still yielding a great result. Perhaps something to consider for the rest, if you don’t have access to or don’t want to use cream cheese, custard powder, etc.” could be a start. You contributed literally nothing through your negative comment.
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Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy this recipe but am glad that you found an alternative one that you like. 🙂
With regards to the YouTube comments, I do not screen them and simply allow for the default YouTube settings for comment restrictions to occur which might explain what may have happened with your comment from back as it may have been auto marked as spam if it still hasn’t shown up on the video.
Hope you are baking more of your pineapple tarts this lunar new year for your friends and family. Take care and thanks for giving the recipe a go even if it didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to.