PHOTOS FROM THE GROUND: Ushering in prosperity with pineapple tarts

Jan 27, 2017 03.30PM |
 

by Najeer Yusof

THE pineapple tart is an iconic pastry that is found in many Chinese homes during the Lunar New Year. The term for pineapple in several Chinese dialects, such as ong lai in Hokkien and wong lai in Cantonese, sounds similar to the arrival of prosperity. Making the buttery pastry, which comes with a dollop of pineapple jam on top, has been a part of Mr Wei Chan’s family business for 33 years.

The 45-year-old is the current owner of Pine Garden Bakery, a heartland bakery that specialises in handmade cakes and baked goods. He is from the second generation of a line of family members who ran the bakery before him. His mother, a former seamstress, decided to open the bakery with a few relatives after realising that her tailoring business was not doing well. The recipe of pineapple tarts was passed down from her mother, Mr Chan’s grandmother. Although Mr Chan has made minor alterations to the recipe to make the tarts softer, he has retained the gist of it and still has the tarts handmade.

The pineapple tarts are made only during the Chinese New Year period and the preparations begin about a month and a half in advance. Here’s how the tarts are made:

MAKING THE PASTE: Mr Chan sources the pineapples from dealers in Malaysia. He obtains samples from them and decides on the best one before placing his order. The pineapples used to make the tarts have to be half-ripped and must not be sweet. They are skinned, grated and made into paste. The homemade paste are then stored in a refrigerator until it is time to make the tarts.
MAKING THE PASTE: Mr Chan sources pineapples from dealers in Malaysia. He obtains samples from them and decides on the best one before placing his order. The pineapples used to make the tarts have to be half ripe and must not be too sweet. They are skinned, grated and made into a paste. The homemade jam is then stored in a refrigerator until it is time to make the tarts.

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ROLL AND CUT: The base of tart is made from a mixture of butter, plain flour and salt. The batter is rolled out using a roller, to ensure even thickness. Subsequently, the base of the tart is shaped out from the flattened batter, using a cutter.
ROLL AND CUT: The base of the tart is made from a mixture of butter, plain flour and salt. The dough is rolled out using a roller, to ensure even thickness. Subsequently, a cutter is used to cut out the tart base from the flattened dough.

 

IDEAL WEIGHT: The pineapple fillings are weighed on a scale to exactly eight grams. They are then hand moulded into round shapes and placed onto the tart. The portion of the filling has to be exact, to ensure the best taste.
IDEAL WEIGHT: The pineapple fillings are weighed on a scale to obtain a weight of 8g. They are then hand-moulded into balls and placed onto the tart. The portion of the filling has to be exact, to ensure the best taste.

 

NEAT AND TIDY: After the pineapple filling is placed onto the tart, the filling is pressed to ensure that the tarts have a smooth top. Since fresh pineapples are used, the fillings contain pineapple fibers. Pressing the fillings helps to prevent these fibers from sticking out.
NEAT AND TIDY: After the pineapple filling is placed onto the tart, the filling is pressed to ensure that the tarts have a smooth top. Since fresh pineapples are used, the fillings contain pineapple fibres. Pressing the fillings helps to prevent these fibres from sticking out.

 

SEE AND SWITCH: A worker inserts a tray of pineapple tarts into the oven for baking. This is a 40-year-old oven and it has four decks. Each can fit four trays. The trays in each deck are switched among one another during baking, to ensure even baking. The worker has to observe the colour of the tarts to know if they are baked proper.
SEE AND SWITCH: A worker inserts a tray of pineapple tarts into the oven for baking. The oven is 40 years old and has four decks. Each deck can fit four trays. The trays in each deck are switched around during baking, to ensure even baking. The worker has to observe the colour of the tarts to know if they are baked properly.

 

WORKING TEMPERATURE: The tarts are made in a enclosed room with a room temperature between 19 to 20 degrees celsius. Since the batter is made with butter, a cool temperature is needed to prevent the butter from melting and making the batter too soft.
WORKING TEMPERATURE: The tarts are made in an enclosed room with a room temperature that is between 19 and 20 deg C. Since the dough is made of butter, a cool temperature is needed to prevent the butter from melting and making the dough too soft.

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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