Tarts with heart
As much as I love a good home-made tart, I’ve probably only made them once since moving to Australia. This resistance stems from the years of being roped in as Mum’s little helper during her pineapple tart bakefests. At first it wasn’t too bad, a few dozen tarts here and there for family and friends. Then folks started ordering (and paying for) her tarts and we’d literally make hundreds each festive season. Sealed Nespray (powdered milk) or Milo tins, filled with tarts, stacked around the kitchen meant that New Year was fast approaching. Luckily, I think Mum got a bit tired of it after a while and we stopped, but not before I suffered tart burn-out ☺
What’s so bad about making these pastries you ask? It wasn’t hard work, but it was repetitive, time consuming and messy. My job was to smooth down the pineapple jam in each tart case, then lay the pretty pastry strips over the top and go over the whole lot with crimpers. The feeling of sticky jam on your finger is quite annoying, and the restraint required to not lick it off - monumental for a child! Occasionally she’d rope my little brother in too, but I think he managed to get off by annoying her more than helping (nice tactic boy-o). Sometimes Mum would pay us to help – the princely sum of $5 (malaysian ringgit) if I remember correctly! (See the sucker sign on my forehead?).
But as I made these tarts for Malaysian Monday, I feel as if I’ve come a full circle. True, I hadn’t got the kids helping (they were asleep), but I feel as if I’m carrying on a family tradition. I will definitely try to bake another batch with the girls soon, and hopefully share a little bit of their grandmother’s baking history with them.
Have a good s-tart to the week ☺
(depending on how many tarts you intend to make, the amount of jam needed will differ. These are my measurements, working on a ratio of 1 ¼ parts sugar to 2 parts pineapple puree. I didn’t end up using all of the jam, there was a small amount left over)
2 cups pineapple (I used one medium sized, fresh pineapple) – roughly pureed in a food processor or blender, or finely diced by hand.
1 ¼ cup sugar (adjust to taste – the jam on its own is quite sweet, but works well in the tart base)
1 star anise (optional)
Drain the puree through a sieve - do not push down on the puree, the aim is just to reduce the amount of juice. Catch the juice and use for something else. (I made an awesome pineapple mojito!)
Pineapple mojito: Muddle a slice of lime, some mint leaves and abt 1 tsp sugar in a glass. Add a dash of rum, then crushed ice. Fill with pineapple juice. YUM!
Place sugar, puree and star anise in a heavy based saucepan over medium low heat. Stir thoroughly to make sure sugar dissolves, bring to a low simmer. Keep stirring constantly until mixture starts to thicken (about half an hour or so). Reduce heat to medium low and keep stirring, you should be able to see the bottom of the pan which each pass of the spoon. The mixture will be golden and translucent. Keep cooking and stirring until the mixture is fairly dry and when a spoonful is lifted up, it should “plop” back into the pan, rather than drip. It should start to look a bit “strandy” as well (pineapple fibres can be seen). After another 10 minutes of cooking, the mixture should be just about ready (timing depends on the amount of heat etc, so if it doesn’t look dry enough, keep cooking). It’s a fine balance – too runny and the jam will be a dribbly mess, too dry and the tarts won’t be as tasty. The jam also thickens slightly upon cooling. Make sure jam is completely cool before using. Feel free to make ahead and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Hearts and tarts (Chinese New Year happens to fall on the same day as valentine's day this year)
Pastry (for jam tart base)
(there are a few different ways to make the tart pastry. One recipe, which I found in mum’s recipe book, recommends creaming butter with egg yolks, then adding these to the flour. Mum also tried to explain, over the phone, how she made her pastry by melting margarine and mixing it into the flour. Unfortunately, her instructions went something like this “ you just add the melted margarine to the flour and you look at it, then see if you need to adjust how much flour you need”. Hmmmm…I think I’ll stick with a shortcrust pastry type version, at least I know how to make shortcrust pastry!)
Makes at least 40 mini tarts (I stopped counting)
360g plain flour
50g icing sugar
250g butter(very cold)
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
(1 extra egg yolk and some milk or water to make an eggwash - make sure it's quite diluted or it will brown too much)
Sift flour, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. Grate butter into the flour, then using fingertips, gently rub the butter into the flour mixture. Don’t overwork. The mixture should end up resembling damp sand. Don’t worry if one or two visible bits of butter remain.
Add egg yolk and use a spatula (or pastry scraper if you have one) to “cut” and mix the dough together. When it looks like the dough is starting to come together, carefully gather together with your hands. Pat out onto a piece of plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to about 170˚C.
Roll some dough out between two sheets of plastic wrap, cut out with tart cutters. Place on lined baking trays and refrigerate again for about 15 minutes. Use a couple of teaspoon to place blobs of jam into the tart cases. Smooth tops (ha! I’m not doing it with my finger, can’t make me). Decorate as desired, brush with a little eggwash (just the pastry, not the jam bit). Bake until golden. Cool on wire racks.
If you don’t have cutters, you could also roll small balls of dough, then flatten. Put a small bit of jam onto the centre, gather it up and seal, make a pineapple-ish shape. Snip decoratively with scissors. Place seam side down on baking trays, chill for 15 minutes, eggwash then bake.