31 January 2011

i HEART pineapple tarts

If there is one thing that I miss about Chinese New Year, its pineapple tarts! Those sweet morsels of spiced pineapple jam sitting on top of buttery, light and slightly crumbly biscuit base.

And not just any pineapple tarts but the good 'ol traditional open-faced sorts. Can't stand those new-fangled ones that have been popping up back home in Singapore and Malaysia. You know the ones - those round ones with the jam completely encased, or the ones that look like rolls or small pillows again with the jam encased. And then there are the awful brick looking things - literally a block of pastry encasing the pineapple jam, which is all a sugary sweet pineapple flavoured mush with gelatine to give it the consistency it needs.

Why go changing something that is perfect?! Why??

The asian stores in Wellington are woefully lacking in decent CNY biscuits and if you look carefully at the date stamps, some even stock expired goods. So after 15 years in NZ, I still get my CNY biscuits sent to me from Singapore. But the quality of the pineapple tarts from 'back home' have seriously taken a dive. To a point that this year, I decided to make my own.

Now expert homebakers will tell you that one needs to be either brave, crazy, bored or desperate to make these tarts at home. For the record - with the exception of bravery, I am 'all of the above'.
So after days (yep - days) of exhaustive searching online for pineapple tart recipes, I found three that I liked. Combining the best bits of the three recipes (and a hurridly bought cookie cutter set - bless Moore Wilsons!), I pressed forward with what I expected to be the worst culinary challenge I would face to-date. Turns out the process was pretty easy, but! Oh yeah...there is a 'but' here...

I have NEVER made (i.e. cooked and baked) anything that took so damn long to put together! Just the pineapple jam alone took like 2 hours cooking time, and that did not include refrigeration time, nor the time required to roll it into balls as pre-prep to place on top of the pastry. Then there's the pastry. And since I could not buy the proper pineapple tart mould, I bought a flutted cookie cutter and manually pressed 'petal' designs with a fork. Talk about long and laborious!!! And all this just for some pineapple tarts.

And what scrumptious tarts they turned out to be... :)))))

(My little pineapple tarts after dinner with a cup of green tea - bliss!)

Maybe I'll make another batch soon. Why wait until the next CNY?

vampiric song

Seems like one of the latest 'in' words is 'obsessed' - that is, if you watch the E-channel. Fad word or not, it does seem to describe quite aptly the behaviour I manifest over the 'song du jour'. Actually its more like 'song du mois' - song (rather than flavour!) of the month.

I was mucking around online and stumbled onto this classic which used to be an old favourite. Ok - so I use the term 'classic' loosely. Its not the realms of 'once upon a time' but it was released in 1992...

So I googled it, youtubed it, downloaded it from iTunes, played it incessantly on my iPod and at home, youtubed it again and took out the DVD to watch again...you get the picture!

Sends shivers down my spine whenever I listen to it.

30 January 2011

a good attempt at domestic goddess-sing

Now if you're reading this blog, you may notice that I haven't posted anything since I started it in 2009. Thing is, I did. But it wasn't really a good time and the handful of blogs I posted were all dribble. A regurgitation of the mess that were my thoughts. I'm now a tad bit more organised, and since I've been made redundant (yet again) and being (or at least attempting to be) a domestic goddess to while away my time, I decided that now is a good time as any to pick this blogging business up again!

And since food is a subject that I'm most fond of and most comfortable talking about, it only makes sense to start this blog (again) on food.

Tarte Tatin

A quintessential French dessert that has had its hooks in me from the very first time I set eyes on it in the food channel. My first attempt was a sorry one - an absolute failure. My second attempt was a resounding succes...except that it wasn't made of apples but pears! It was a hit with my normally savoury-loving boyfriend - which is saying a lot. So I decided to give it another go. This time with apples proper.

I spent two days on the Internet and after an exhaustive search, I found a recipe that I liked the sound of and was easy to follow without having to go out and buy another load of ingredients just to make it. It was a Jamie Oliver recipe - but of course I hear you say!

Now every chef gives his/her Tarte Tatin a different twist. Jamie's (yes, we're on first name basis) recipe asks for Calvados. Lo and behold - I have such a bottle of wonderful apple-ly sweet smelling liquer at home. I bought it while holdaying in Caen, France (famous for Calvados!). Truth be told, I had NO idea what to do with it when I bought it. It was a random impulse souvenir buy. Now I have only enough to make two more Tarte Tatins. Once gone, I wouldn't have a clue where to get another bottle! I've not seen it sold anywhere here.

I digress ( I do this a lot)...

So. Jamie's recipe does not call for cinnamon. But I LOVE cinammon in anything to do with apples. So I bunged in 1 tsp of cinammon. I think it gave my tarte another depth of sweetnes and flavour. I liked it. If you're wanting this recipe, you can find it here.

Now as we all know, Tarte Tatin is made in a pan that is both usable on the stovetop and also oven proof. We have pans coming out our ears at home, but alas, no oven proof pan. I'm a huge fan of kitchen gadgets and love buying bits and pieces to 'aid' in my cooking endeavours. However, since I'm a lady-of-leisure at the moment with only one income coming in, I had to make do and improvise - I cooked the caramel and apples in a pan and then quickly transfered them into a pie dish to finish the baking part of the cooking process.

And I used store-bought puff pastry. Why ever not?! There are a few brands to choose from, they're already pre-rolled, most bake perfectly and they save you a TON of time. So, there's no shame I say, in using store-bought pastry.

The result? Perfection. The apples had a lovely brown/golden colour speckled with insy weensy dots of cinnamon, cooked just right without being mush and gave off a rich, sweet, apple-ly and buttery smell. The pastry was cooked just right and when I very carefully and gingerly turned the tarte out onto a plate...

Eh voila! ce magnifique un délicieux Tarte Tatin!

(My pie dish was square, so I ended up with a square shaped Tarte Tatin. Not traditional, but it tasted and looked right. Me thinks that the Tatin sisters would approve. Afterall the Tarte Tatin was the outcome of improvisation in the kitchen due to a mistake one of the sisters did!)

Tomorrow, the plan is to finish off baking Pineapple Tarts for Chinese New Year. The pineapple jam is made and in the fridge, and so is the dough for the pastry. I'm a virgin pineapple tart maker and let me tell you...its bleedin laborious. Still, both jam and pastry dough looking so far so good. We'll know tomorrow when I try and roll the pastry out...

Until then!