I sniffed the pineapple tarts in front of me with skepticism.
I had eaten Taiwanese pineapple pastries before but never really quite liked them. My parents, on the other hand, absolutely loved them and would make the special effort to buy them every time they travelled to Taiwan. I just never understood why. Why not grab some chocolate instead?
I examined the pale exterior of the cookies again. THESE particular ones in front of me looked a little different. They were Singaporean Pineapple Tarts shaped into sausage rolls and stuffed with pineapple filling. I looked around to see the excitement on the faces of the 3 other girls – was it really that good?
“Try it it’s good!” my friend nudged me.
I reluctantly picked up the nearest one to me and crammed it into my mouth. I felt my eyes fly open. I was surprised by the flavor of the warm buttery cookie melting onto my tongue accompanied by the sweet fruitiness. It was almost as if I was in the Tropics, enjoying a warm fresh-out-of-the-oven shortbread cookie. It wasn’t just good. It was really REALLY good.
I noticed Zoe’s hand immediately stick out to grab another one off the baking tray. I couldn’t wait any second longer for a second piece, then third, then fourth. Before we knew it, all of us had almost cleaned out the entire tray.
Ever since I’ve had homemade pineapple tarts there really was no turning back. It’s sort of like having homemade brownies or chocolate chip cookies, because for some reason homemade baked goods always taste exceptionally delicious. Maybe it’s the fact that you can eat it warm out of the oven, or maybe the acknowledgement of the effort that someone you love has put in. And since then, I’ve always dreamed of being able to eat those homemade pineapple tarts.
Turning these Singaporean Pineapple Tarts paleo, gluten free, dairy free and vegan was a HUGE project for us. How on earth do you make these Classic Tarts taste the same without any of its traditional ingredients? It was such a challenge to find a dough recipe that would hold and wrap around without having to use too much oil. After, experimenting with this recipe many many times (and failing most of it), we finally decided to do it one more time in honor of my favorite Chinese festival – Chinese New Year. Across Southeast Asia, especially in Malaysia and Singapore, Pineapple Tarts are extremely popular especially around Chinese New Year. It is well-loved treat that family and friends enjoy as a snack. Although our family never made homemade Pineapple Tarts during Chinese New Year, it is definitely a well-loved treat!
After much research and planning, we finally settled on combining a Paleo Hamantaschen recipe with a very simple/quick pineapple jam filling. We put it to the test by baking a batch of these beauties for a Chinese family gathering (without knowing they were allergy free). I watched as my uncle took the first bite. Then my aunt. The next were my parents. I heard lots of “mmmhhmms” and multiple hands sneaking to grab seconds. Then, a few voices spoke up, “Can I have the recipe?”
I simply smiled, “I guess you’ll have to wait for our next blog post!”
But I do have to say that the funniest was probably my little sister who grabbed one right off the tray when we first took it out of the oven. I asked how it turned out and she turned to me and said, “I won’t know till I have another one. It was too hot. Can I have another one?”
That was the moment I knew we had a winning recipe! And are they the real deal? So far I have to say its the closest we have ever gotten.
Pineapple Tarts (鳳梨酥) is a Southeast Asian treat that originates from Malaysia and Singapore. It is usually eaten during the Lunar Chinese New Year Celebration. This utterly delicious – buttery, soft, flaky pastry filled with caramelized pineapple jam can be found in all shapes and forms. Sometimes they are shaped into rolls, other times they can be found as open-face tart. The rich pastry case is complimented perfectly by a homemade spiced, fruit jam making this an elegant and delicious treat to share with family and friends. You can find these in many stores in Southeast Asia and is a favorite amongst tourist! A variation of this is the Taiwanese pineapple “cake” which is a rectangular shaped pastry stuffed with pineapple or winter melon jam.
Crust Adapted from Ooosha
Ingredients – makes 26 pineapple tarts
- 2 cups Almond Flour
- 1 cup Tapioca Starch
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup coconut oil (preferably solid)
- 1/3 cup honey/maple syrup/agave
- 20 oz can Pineapple
- 1/2 cup Honey/Agave/Maple Syrup
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
- 1/2 star anise (optional)
Vegan Egg Wash:
- 2 tbsp coconut milk/non-dairy milk
- 1 tsp agave/honey (NOT MAPLE SYRUP)
How to make:
For the Pineapple Jam:
- Drain a can of pineapples and wash the excess syrup off thoroughly with some water.
- In a blender, add your pineapples and pulse till you get a mushy paste.
- Pour all of its contents into a small saucepan along with the honey, cinnamon stick and star anise.
- Bring the mixture to boil and then lower to simmer for 20-25 minutes OR until most of the liquid/moisture has boiled away. Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from burning. Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise. Set aside to cool to room temperature and place in the fridge till you are ready to use.
For the Crust:
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a bowl, mix together the almond flour and tapioca starch.
- Make a well in the center and add in your wet ingredients. Use your hands to combine the ingredients and to knead in the solid coconut oil. Make sure you do this till no visible lumps of coconut oil can be seen.
- If the mixture is too dry add in 1-2 tsp water to help it bind.
- Once well mixed, take your pineapple jam and measure out 1 tsp of filling. Roll it into a small ball and place onto a plate. Repeat this till you have made 26 of these.
- Now, take 1 tbsp of your dough. Flatten it in your palm. Place one of your prepared filling into the center and gently wrap the dough around it.
- Use your fingers to gently press the edges of the dough together. If there is excess dough one one side, you take a little bit and use it to patch up other parts of the tart. (I spent some time tearing and re-patching the dough over and over again. It takes a little more effort, but it will be worth it!) You will see cracks, but as long as the filling isn’t spilling out it will hold up just fine.
- Place your finished tart onto a lined baking tray.
- Mix together the ingredients for the vegan egg wash. Brush each tart with the egg wash and put into the oven to bake. Bake for 13 minutes.
- Turn your oven to broil and broil the tarts for 1 minute, turning if necessary for even browning. (This step is optional but it gives it a nice golden color). Watch it carefully – you don’t want them to burn!
- Take out of the oven to cool slightly. Brush each of the tarts with the remaining pineapple jam for a beautiful, sticky glaze. Serve immediately or store in airtight container for up to 3 days.
Our original singaporean pineapple tarts was also a delicious rendition of this beautiful, classic treat. However the dough was quite difficult to work with because it was so crumbly. When doing any sort of gluten-free or paleo baking it is best to use a mix of flours to achieve the most ideal consistency and texture. The addition of tapioca starch works beautifully, making it much easier to work with.
We also wanted to “veganize” this recipe. The iconic golden sheen on pineapple tarts is usually achieved by using egg wash. After much research we discovered that using a mixture of milk and sweetener “imitates” the role of egg in giving that browning effect you typically see. You can use maple syrup but it may cause excessive browning.
Pineapple: You can use whole, crushed, tidbits – whichever you like. You may also use fresh pineapples but you will have to adjust the sweetness according to how tart or how ripe your pineapple is. I find it much easier to use canned pineapple and then rinsing off the excess syrup.
Zoe & Mia
(This Post is featured on Allergy Free Thursdays, Think Tank Thursday, This Is How We Roll Link Party, Healthy Vegan Fridays, Weekend Potluck, Traffic Jam Weekend, Twinkly Tuesday, Hearth and Soul, What’s Cookin’ Wednesdays, Moonlight & Mason Jars)