Chinese New Year: Pineapple tarts

The past two years I've had a rough time blogging. Through my masters research, an overly busy apprenticeship, graduating, struggling with my health, moving, being utterly useless to eventually finding a job - my life has known so many ups and downs in that time that my blog often had to be put on hold. Slowly now I'm picking myself back up, but I'm terrified of starting my blog up again. Because what if I somehow get stressed again, and have to set my blog aside to cope with it? Somewhere I'm not sure I can take failing something I care so much about again.

So here's to that brave big step - right into a new year on the Chinese calendar. I've made pineapple tarts: a type of cookie that you really can't be missing out on during the Chinese New Year. A cookie that is said to bring lots of good fortune.

The Chinese New Year is about blasting off fire crackers and dragon dances to scare the evil spirits. It's about handing out red envelopes for good health and good fortune and wearing red for good luck. It's also about a whole lot of cookies. Actually it's about eating in general. The Chinese New Year officially lasts two weeks in which people get together and eat - with family, with friends, with colleagues, with more family and friends.

Although it's obvious the Chinese New Year is a lot about eating - I actually never knew cookies were such a big thing as well. Pineapple tarts are a must, but you will also find almond, walnut and peanut cookies, tapioca coconut cookies, salted egg yolk cookies, rosette cookies and even a variety of cornflake cookies. I'm not even trying to name what cookies are served at this point - there are so many I'm almost certain anything you can imagine already exists. In other words, Chinese New Year is about eating cookies.

Pineapple tarts
makes 20-40 cookies - from The best of Singapore Cooking

280 grams flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
170 grams butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1-2 drops yellow food colouring
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons boiling water
pineapple filling (see recipe below)
cloves (optional decoration)
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

1. Sift the flour and baking powder together.
2. Rub the butter into the flour until the texture resembles breadcrumbs.
3. Mix the sugar, yolks, vanilla, food colouring and salt together and add it to the flour. Add the boiling water and knead until you have a consistent dough.
4. Leave the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 175°C or 350°F.
5. Roll the pineapple filling into balls or cylinders, depending on the shape of the tarts you're making.
6. Roll the dough out until it is roughly a 1/2 cm thick. Cut out the shapes you need to make your cookies: for the pineapple-shaped tarts in the picture above you need a circle cutter, for the rolls in the back you need long rectangles.
7. Now make your cookies. Wrap the pineapple filling in the dough. For the pineapple-shaped tarts you press together the edges of the circle and pinch off any excess dough. Roll the ball in your hands to shape it. Lastly, use scissors to cut little triangles and press a clove into one end of the pineapple. The rolls are easier to make: roll the dough around the pineapple filling and pinch the two ends together. Use a knife to make the stripes on top.
8. Mix the egg yolk and tablespoon of water together to make a glaze. Gently glaze the top of all your cookies.
9. When all cookies are ready, place them in a preheated oven of 175 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 150 degrees Celsius or 300 degrees Fahrenheit and continue baking for about 15 minutes, until the tarts are light brown.
10. Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Chinese New Year!

Pineapple filling

1-2 pineapples
sugar *
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise star

1. Remove the flesh from the pineapples and chop it very fine. Squeeze out any excess juice.
2. Place the chopped pineapple, sugar and spices in a pan. Cook on medium, while stirring occasionally, until the mixture feels dry. This can take up to an hour. Do not be tempted to use high heat too long to quicken the process as the sugar can burn or crystallize later on.
3. Remove the spices and continue cooking and stirring the pineapple filling until the mixture is thick. Once the filling resembles a thick jam, take the pan off the heat and leave to cool. Note that the jam will continue to thicken once it cools down. 
4. Place the filling in the fridge overnight until ready to use.

* You need sugar equal to the amount of pineapple you have in volume. For instance, if you have 1 cup of drained and chopped pineapple, you add 1 cup of sugar.
**Another note: I used (light brown) cane sugar since I like the flavour. If you use plain white sugar you will end up with a much lighter pineapple filling.

Every traditional Chinese New Year cookie has it's own meaning. For example: Pineapple tarts symbolize prosperity and good luck for the household. Pineapple is generally associated with good fortune. By giving out sweets during the new year you wish people safety, good fortune and a 'sweet' new year.

It's a bit late but - Happy Chinese New Year!! Gong Xi Fa Cai! I wish everyone lots of happiness, love, luck and good health in this new year.

Don't forget! leave a comment below (like - How did you celebrate the Chinese New Year?), follow me on Facebook or Twitter and/or come back soon for a new recipe!