Because pineapples bring good luck

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Wait! I need to squeeze in this post before the clock strikes twelve.  Today is the last day of the Chinese New Year celebrations, and I haven’t shared my recipe for spelt pineapple tarts yet!

Chinese New Year is all about the goodies, especially pineapple tarts.  Good luck if you’re trying to cut refined flour and sugar out of your diet.  When it comes to Chinese New Year, no one cares about low GI diets or wheat-free mumbo jumbo.  I could have gone with the tiny voice in my head that whispered, ‘it’s no big deal, it’s just once a year’.  It would have meant more time catching up on Walking Dead or Downton Abbey.  Instead I went with the crazy lalala voice that said “Let’s make our own tarts!  So what if we already have a gazillion things on our to-do list!”

I was warned that the worst part about making pineapple tarts was the pineapple jam.  The mother in law, and every other Chinese mother and grandmother I bumped into, cautioned that it would be a back breaking couple of hours, as the jam had to be stirred constantly.  Turn back while you still can!  Funny thing is, I found this part the easiest.  Here are some tips:

  • Cheat.  Use a blender to break down half the pineapples.  Instead of grating all the pineapples by hand, grate half by hand, and use the blender for the rest.  This way, you still get the juicy bits of fibre in the jam but cut the work by half.
  • Use a HappyCall pot.  This glorious non-stick pot made the job and the cleaning up after a breeze.
  • Do not put in the sugar until after an hour of so, after the juices in the pineapples have reduced significantly.  This way, there’s no need to keep stirring for a full 2 hours since you don’t have to worry about the sugar burning.
  • Go in prepared.  Our grandmothers did not have iPads during their time.  We do.  I sat on a kitchen stool and read magazines while taking occasional glances to make sure my jam didn’t burn.

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After 2 hours, the pineapples break down into a delicious golden, sticky jam.

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Life is fair.  While I had no problems making the jam, making the shortcrust pastry was a pain.  I’m not sure if it was because I was using spelt flour but it took me about four tries before I managed to get pastry right.  I also experimented with different types of tarts.

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Closed tarts

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Open faced tarts.

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And just for fun, tarts that look like pineapples 🙂

The Hubs loved the tarts, and response from the family to these healthier tarts was generally positive.  Though I must warn that these tarts aren’t for everyone.  There were some who didn’t like the taste of spelt flour or found the tarts too bland.  But if you’re looking for a healthier alternative using spelt flour and reduced sugar, then you may want to try these next year.

Dang! It’s now way past 12 but nevertheless, here’s wishing everyone a fantastic year of the Snake filled with wisdom, happiness, good health and prosperity!

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You will need (makes about 100 tarts)

For the filling:

  • 2 regular pineapples (these are the cheap, sour ones you find at the market)
  • 2 honey pineapples
  • 2 cups organic raw sugar
  • 1 small stick of cinnamon
  1. Get the fruit seller to help remove the skin and brown spots on the pineapples
  2. Cut half of the pineapples into cubes and blend.  Hand grate the remaining pineapples.
  3. Cook the pineapples (together with the juices) with the cinnamon stick in a pot on medium high for about 1 hour.  Use a pot with a large surface area.
  4. After 1 hour, most of the juice would have evaporated, leaving you with a thick mixture.
  5. Add the sugar and continue to cook until you reach the color and consistency that you want.  It should take about another hour.  After adding the sugar, keep an eye on the jam so that it doesn’t burn.

For the pastry

  • 1 cup/ 130gm gm white spelt flour
  • 1 cup/ 145 gm wholemeal spelt flour
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • 150 – 180gm unsalted cold butter, cut into small chunks
  • 90 (4.5 tablespoon) – 170 ml (8.5 – 9 tablespoon) ice cold water

By Hand:
Use your fingertips and thumb to rub the butter with the flour. When ready, chunks and chips of butter should range from small breadcrumbs, to small lentils, to a small navy bean.

Using a Food Processor:
If using a food processor, pulse once or twice, or until ready and turn out into a bowl. You are better to pulse as this throws the pastry up, and then drops it, aerating and cooling it. Don’t be tempted to add the water to the food processor it is too easy to overwork the pastry, but rather turn it out into a bowl.

Add the Water – Hydrate the Dough
Using a bread and butter knife, begin to mix a small amount of cold water into the flour and butter cutting and mixing it in with the knife. Only use as much water as you need, with an average of 100ml for spelt. Once all the mix looks moist, bring it together into a ball, do not knead or play with it. Flatten the ball, wrap and chill long enough to take the softness of the butter at least 1 hour, or overnight. The dough can be frozen at this point also.

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