Pineapple tarts are little pockets of crumbly, buttery, pineapple-jammy goodness…… the quintessential Lunar New Year’s sweet treat in Malaysia and Taiwan. Making these cookies is a tasty little way to bring a little lunar new year celebration into your kitchen and makes for a fun collaborative cooking project to do with kids or friends. It’s true that they’re a bit time consuming to put together since you have to make pineapple jam in addition to the cookie dough, but all in all none of the steps are particularly difficult. Just make the jam and dough ahead of time and then gather your helpers for a cookie assembly party. Luca, who is 6 was able to assemble the cookies with only very little help from me — thanks to our trusty tortilla press. My little guy loved brushing the cookies with eggwash before they went into the oven.
Having delved into the world of pineapple tarts over the past weeks, I have learned that there are a variety of styles (Malaysian, Taiwanese, different shapes and decorations, filled, open face)….. which means with the basic dough and jam, you can experiment with making the shape and size that appeal to you. The kids and I started off making ovals (more of the traditional pineapple shape), but somehow decided we liked the look of round balls with pineapple-ish slashes on top, glazed with an eggwash enhanced with sweetened condensed milk to make the cookies super golden and shiny.
After making a small test batch of these, I brought some over to Simran and her family for a taste. I didn’t get nervous until I thought about the fact that Simran and her parents lived in Singapore for many years, are total foodies and would most definitely be familiar with this signature holiday treat…and I should probably also mention that they’re not afraid to call out sub-standard food when it crosses their path! So it was a bit like going in the lions den with this one. Luckily, they gave their thumbs up which means that you can feel free to make this recipe with a bit of street cred and that you really should bake some the next time you need to cheer up a homesick friend from Malaysia.
Malaysian Pineapple Tarts (makes about 2 dozen 2″ cookies)
- 2, 20 oz cans pineapple (in juice not syrup), or substitute the same amount of fresh pineapple (about 1 large pineapple)
- 1/4 cup sugar, or more to taste
- Juice of 1 lime
- Whole spices such as star anise, clove or cinnamon stick (optional)
- Puree the pineapple (or put it through the large disc of a food mill if you like a chunkier texture — that’s what I did). Drain, saving the juice for another use.
- In a sauce pot, combine drained pineapple with sugar, lime juice and whole spices if using (I didn’t add whole spices because I wanted a pure pineapple flavor). Stir well, taste for sweetness level and add more sugar as needed. Bring mixture to a low simmer.
- Continue to cook pineapple jam at a low simmer, stirring frequently to avoid scorching, until it has thickened and turned a deep golden color — about 45 minutes. Remove whole spices and store in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to several months.
I made a half recipe of this excellent dough recipe from the blog, House of Annie –– she also offers up great tip for how not to cover your kitchen in flour. Since her recipe is in grams, here’s a quick conversion. The ingredient list below is for a half recipe of dough:
[Annie was born and raised in Kuala Lampur so you know she knows her pineapple tarts. Do go check out House of Annie if you like South East Asian cuisine. After the success of these cookies I can’t wait to go back and try some more recipes!]
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 18 tablespoons butter (2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup dry nonfat milk powder (she substituted powdered coffee creamer)
- 1 whole egg
Eggwash: 1 whole egg whisked with 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
Assembly and Baking
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line your cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper (important since any jam that gets baked onto your cookie sheet will be tough to get off!)
- Divide dough into 24 balls (about 3/4 ounce each if you have a scale).
- Make a flat circle out of each ball (about 4″ across and 1/8″ thick): First, roll each piece of dough between your hands until you have a smooth ball. Then press down with your hands to flatten the ball like a thick pancake. There are several methods to thin out your circle from there. You can 1) Roll it out on a lightly floured surface, 2) Use your hands to pinch and flatten until it’s as thin as you can get it, 3) Press between 2 sheets of plastic wrap using a tortilla press (this is the method we chose and it was super easy, especially for the kids).
- Place a heaping tablespoon of jam in the center of each circle and pull the sides up over the filling, pinching the seams shut as you go. If the dough cracks you can just pinch it closed. We didn’t worry about things being too neat, we just placed the cookies on the cookie sheet with the smooth side up and the seam side down. If you have any holes the jam will seep out a bit — not a big problem, but better to have as few holes as possible.
- If you like, roll the back of a paring knife over the top of the cookie to make a criss cross design. Generously brush cookies with eggwash before putting them in the oven.
- Bake for about 20 minutes until shiny and golden (turn your cookie sheet about halfway through baking).
** We didn’t have any problems at all in working with this dough at room temperature. If you find the dough sticks, you can put the dough in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to firm it up a bit or add a little more flour to your work surface. **