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Ah, Chinese New Year (CNY). The time of the year that you either embrace with glee or just want to grab your passport and jet off to another country (For the record, I love CNY).
Whatever it is, chances are if you are Chinese and living in a region of sizeable Chinese population, there will be celebrations around and, of course, celebratory food. CNY treats will be abound (especially cookies)!
What to do if you are doing Paleo or even AIP? If you’re Paleo and doing it for fitness reasons you could probably get away with the occasional Chinese restaurant banquet, non-paleo bak kwa (Chinese jerky), or pineapple tart, but if you’re like me and doing the AIP because of an autoimmune disease, chances are you don’t want to ‘cheat’ and end up increasing inflammation in your body.
So what can you do? You can be prepared by making your own treats, such as bak kwa! Always a great idea especially if you don’t live in a place where Chinese New Year is observed (like me).
For today’s post, I’m sharing a recipe for the quintessential CNY pineapple tart, especially popular in South East Asian countries. They look nothing like western-style fruit tarts though. I would say the open-faced types resemble thumbprint cookies instead, but with more substance!
These buttery bite-sized morsels are usually made with wheat flour, eggs and dairy products and stuffed with a dollop of thick sugar-sweetened pineapple jam, but in my totally AIP version they are filled with a homemade pineapple paste made from scratch.
Traditionally made over the stove top involving laborious stirring of grated pineapple and sugar for 4 hours or so, I have eliminated that step by making use of the oven. I figured, if fruit leather can be made in the oven, why not pineapple paste? I was very happy when it worked! It was a simple matter of blending the pineapple paste ingredients together and spreading it onto a glass casserole and set in the oven at a low temperature for it to cook/ evaporate the liquid. No sweat! As coconut palm sugar and dates are used in place of refined white sugar, the resulting paste is dark brown instead of the golden or pale brown colour of traditional pineapple paste. It is also less gummy due to the reduced sweetener quantity.
In my instructions, you can choose to make either small pineapple tarts or two-bite pineapple tarts. If you prefer popping them into your mouth with no mess, go for the smaller ones. The bigger ones have more oomph but watch out for the deliciously crumbly pastry!
My aunty Susan makes the best pineapple tarts around (ok, I may be biased but those tarts sure have set the bar high) and her tarts formed the template for my AIP version. Flaky, melt-in-your-mouth crust, with aromatic pineapple filling accentuated with the fragrant aroma of cloves. I’m so happy that the AIP pineapple tarts fulfil all those criteria. I may not be able to enjoy her pineapple tarts anymore as they contain ingredients I can’t take, but I’m so glad she makes them so well for them to have such an impression on me!
Where to get certain ingredients online:
- Medjool dates
- Coconut sugar
- ground Ceylon cinnamon
- ground clove
- cassava flour
- Tapioca starch
- Coconut butter
- Maple syrup
- Coconut oil
- turmeric powder
- whole clove buds
- FOR THE PINEAPPLE FILLING
- 2 pineapples (5 cups/ 980 g after peeling and dicing)
- ¾ cup packed (165g) pitted medjool dates (10 dates)
- ¼ cup (45g) coconut palm sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- FOR THE PASTRY DOUGH
- ½ cup + 2 teaspoons or 80 g cassava flour
- 6 tablespoons or 48 g tapioca starch
- ⅔ cup or 160 g softened coconut butter/ manna (not liquid but should flow very thickly after stirring)
- 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons or 52 g maple syrup
- ½ cup or 104 g softened coconut oil (not liquid but the consistency of softened butter)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Pinch of ground turmeric (optional, for colouring purposes)
- FOR DECORATING THE PINEAPPLE TARTS (optional)
- 20 or 40 whole clove buds
- Equipment: Sharp, clean scissors
- MAKE THE PINEAPPLE FILLING (You can make this a day or more in advance to spread out the work)
- Cut the ends off, then slice the peel off the pineapples and cut the flesh into quarters lengthwise, before dicing them roughly. Blend with the rest of the ingredients until a textured puree is formed.
- Spread out on a large glass casserole and bake at 170F to 200F (77C to 93C) for 10 - 12 hours, stirring from time to time (What I did: 250F/ 120C for 4 hours, stirring occasionally, before going to bed, then lowered to 170F/ 77C to cook for 7 - 8 hours)
- Once a thick and dark brown (not black) paste is obtained, remove to cool completely before storing in a covered container in the refrigerator (Filling will solidify further upon refrigeration)
- Once chilled, divide into 20 (16 g) or 40 (8 g) cocoon-shaped ovals
- Store in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the pineapple tarts
- MAKE THE PASTRY DOUGH
- In a stand mixer, mix the coconut butter and maple syrup until fluffy
- Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined (it may not form a ball of dough but will do so when gathered in your hands)
- If the dough is very soft and oily, place in the refrigerator for a while to firm up just a little
- ASSEMBLING THE PINEAPPLE TARTS
- Preheat the oven to 350F/ 175C
- Divide the pastry dough into 20 (22 g) or 40 (11 g) balls and flatten slightly
- Place an oval of pineapple filling on the flattened pastry
- Shape the pastry around the pineapple filling until it is evenly enclosed to form an oval pillow shape
- Using the sharp pointed scissors (held palm facing downwards), make small snips at an angle along the top of the pastry (3 across, tapering to 2 snips at the bottom)
- Insert the star side of a clove bud into the top end of the pastry
- Arrange on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet
- Lower the temperature of the oven to 325F/ 165C and bake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until slightly golden brown
- Remove to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely (tarts will firm up upon cooling)
- Store in a covered container in a cool place (or in the refrigerator - remove to warm up slightly at room temperature before serving)
You can make this with only tapioca starch if you are unable to get cassava flour, though cassava flour is highly recommended. However, the resulting texture of the baked pineapple tart with only tapioca starch will be somewhat floury (akin to a shortbread crossed with kueh bangkit/ tapioca-coconut cookies).
You can also simplify the design by omitting the clove and snips on the pastry and they will be just as good!