Tuesday, February 28, 2017

CNY pineapple tarts

February 7-11, 2017

This Chinese New Year, I graduated from peanut cookies to pineapple tarts. Thankfully I had our host Steph's guidance in the process; she'd already veganised this delicacy and blogged it in three parts. I spliced these with another non-vegan recipe for open tarts to try something that worked for me.

I perceived all my challenges as being about textures: was the jam too runny to hold itself up? what thickness and how crispy or tender should the pastry be? I haven't eaten quite enough pineapple tarts in my life to know exactly what I should be aiming for. (For the to-do list: eat diverse and numerous pineapple tarts!)

The materials to hand made some of those decisions for me. My pastry dough was quite soft and sticky, even from the fridge, so spreading it thinly wasn't really an option. I rolled some of it into 'thumbprint cookie' balls to support the maybe-too-runny jam, and then pressed others with a fork for more decorative, flatter tarts. The jam supported itself through the baking better than I expected, and I double-baked many tarts with an extra dollop on top.

I suspect the pastry was my shortcoming - Steph describes fondness for dry crumbling, while mine were more like soft cookies. I might try for more flour in any future doughs, so that I can roll the pastry more thinly, perhaps use cookie cutters, and then bake it more crisply. My glaze was unwieldy too, and I might just prefer plain soymilk.

Conversely, I loved the pineapple jam. It was sweet, pulpy sunshine with hints of the cloves and star anise I'd infused. It's the reason I came back repeatedly to the snack plate on Saturday night, and why I'll come back to this recipe to try, try again.

Pineapple tarts
(adapted slightly from Vegan About Town,
taking jammy inspiration from Loving Baking)

1 fresh pineapple
70g castor sugar
6 cloves
1 star anise

120g cup apple puree
220g margarine, cold
2 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon icing sugar
3 teaspoons soy flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 shakes salt
1 tablespoon soy milk

Cut the skin off the pineapple, trim out the tough spiny bits, and cut away the core. Chop up the pineapple flesh and puree it in a blender with the sugar. Transfer the puree to a large saucepan and add the cloves and star anise. Simmer the jam over low heat for 30-60 minutes, until it becomes a thick paste. Refrigerate the jam for at least a few days (I stored mine for a few days).

Pour most of the apple puree in a medium bowl, leaving 1 tablespoon aside for a glaze. Add the margarine to the bowl and beat it into the apple puree with a fork. Sift in the plain flour, icing sugar, soy flour, cornflour and salt; stir until just combined. Refrigerate the biscuit dough for at least an hour (I left mine overnight).

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with paper. Whisk together the remaining apple puree and soy milk.

Roll generous teaspoons of the biscuit dough into balls and place them on the tray. Use a wooden spoon handle or similar to imprint a little round groove into each biscuit. Use a teeny teaspoon to drop pineapple jam into the groove. Use a fork to imprint lines in the dough, radiating out from the jam in the centre. Brush each biscuit with the apple-milk mixture.

Bake the tarts until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool in the tray for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to bring them to room temperature.