Tis the season again! It’s less than a month away from Chinese New Year and the supermarkets are filled with sweet and savory snacks and cheesy piped-in music. This year’s celebration will prove to be much different from last year’s because the Covid19 infection hadn’t quite blown up then. Last year there were rumours of a worrying new virus in Wuhan, but travel in and out of China was still bustling. Even so I remember a week after the Lunar New Year celebration that I wore an N95 mask throughout the flight to Chiang Mai. Masks were already hard to find and on the last day of the trip we managed to find adult and child sized masks from a pharmacy. There was a sense of uncertainty and impending danger especially with the shortage of protective gear in the early days.
How the year has spun by and what a different world we live in now. Covid19 has infected 99 million people and killed 2 million. With these grim statistics I can only be grateful that we live in a relatively safe bubble in Singapore, thanks to active case tracing and strict border controls. However, because of the creeping numbers with phase 3 reopening, Singapore just announced another restriction on movements – no more than 2 visits on any day in the CNY season and no more than 8 visitors once a day. This is mind boggling since we’re so used to having multiple visits during the day and huge gatherings at any one time. It will certainly be a quiet CNY this year.
Nonetheless, there are some traditions that hold strong and this year, I made an extra effort to decorate the home to increase the festive feel at home. I had been felled by a nasty infection recently but the time-off allowed me to make some of my own CNY decorations. I used to have a clinic assistant who was amazingly talented and she used to make lanterns and all manner of decorations with Ang Pow (red packet) paper. The cute goldfish were the only things I managed to learn from her (mainly through dismantling one of her fish decorations to figure out how she did it!).
Of course the other must-have for Chinese New Year are the snacks. I think the kind of snacks we have in South East Asia are different from other countries that celebrate CNY. It was only when I was living overseas that I discovered that besides 年糕, there is little similarity between my childhood memories to what food is made for CNY in Mainland China. The New York Chinatown didn’t have the snacks and treats I grew up with! And even the oranges were different. I never loved pineapple tarts so much as when I couldn’t have them! So when I got back to Singapore I signed up for a pineapple tart making class with Christopher Tan. The tart recipe was not bad but over time I had learned from other baking guru friends and had finally perfected the pineapple tart recipe.
Then I went low carb and I thought that was the end of pineapple tarts. Strictly speaking, I could have still eaten them but a little tart weighing 20g with a carb count of 15g would mean that I could only eat one tart as a full meal! So over the years I’ve been trying to solve the tart problem. Somehow almond flour doesn’t give the “melt in the mouth” feel of a good pineapple tart. Also somehow the almond flour pastry tends to soften and fall apart over time and can’t be stored for long. And over the years I had tried different kinds of flour, the worst probably being last year’s attempt with quinoa flour – the tart had a kind of raw vegetable taste and a weird chewy texture.
Recently I discovered that Indonesia has a keto flour that is made mainly of casein, whey protein isolate, egg yolk powder, egg white powder and inulin powder. It’s also 1 g of carbs, 40 g protein and 5 g fat per 75 g of flour which makes it truly keto compliant. This keto flour can be bought online on Shopee or via some local distributors. I wasn’t convinced that the flour could be used 1 for 1 as an all purpose flour substitute so it was a bit of an experiment working with the proportions of egg and butter to try to get a decent shortcrust pastry end result. Truth is, the tart pastry for pineapple tarts is not easy to make because it has to have a smooth buttery and slightly crumbly feel to it. It also contains what Paula Deen would describe as “a gracious amount of butter”. The keto flour also seemed to absorb more fluid and so I used more butter and eggs than I would have with a regular flour recipe.
Anyway here is the pineapple tart recipe. This is the first batch of low carb pineapple tarts that I have felt comfortable enough giving away as food gifts. It’s still not a truly low carb product because of the pineapple in it but I figured that with this recipe the carb count is only 3g per tart compared with a regular pineapple tart that is 15g thanks to the sugar and flour content. Going at 3 g per tart, one would still only be able to take 2-3 tarts at a go which needs self control, but it’s a good solution compared to avoiding pineapple tarts altogether.
This recipe is a lot of hard work. But I seriously think it’s worth it. The grating of the pineapple has to be done manually because just blitzing with a food processor will take away the strands of fiber that gives the pineapple filling a beautiful texture. So making these tarts is usually a 2 person job as my helper does the tart filling and I usually make the tart base. In the past, it was the tart pastry that was the most challenging – even regular store bought tarts fall short of the ideal and excellent pineapple tarts seemed to be the purview of a few Peranakan matriarchs who guarded their family recipes jealously. So it is with a huge sense of satisfaction that I can sat that this keto tart pastry is not bad – the flavour is a shade different from regular tarts but I think I finally got the texture right this time and so it’s a good number of pats on the back for me!
Low Carb Pineapple Tarts
- Tart Filling
- 6 fresh pineapples
- 1 1/4 cups of sugar substitute (I used Lakanto monk fruit and erythritol combination. This may need to be adjusted based on how sour the pineapples are.)
- 1 large cinnamon stick (about 2-3 inches long)
- 450g butter (at room temperature)
- 200g Swerve confectioner’s sugar
- 5 egg yolks
- 500 g of Keto flour (Genki Plant Keto Flour)
- 1 tbsp arrowroot flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tbsp water for egg wash
- Peel the pineapples and remove the eyes. Slice into wedges and grate pineapples till fine, leaving the hard core of pineapple ungrated.
- Plut the grated pineapple in a large non-stick pot over low to medium heat. Let it simmer with sugar substitute and cinnamon stick for 30 – 40 minutes over high heat, stirring with a flat wooden spoon to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Stir till the pineapple filling has thickened and the juice has dried up.
- Leave to cool and shape into small balls about 9 g each. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 140 deg C.
- Cream the butter and confectioners sugar together. Add in egg yolks and vanilla essence together and beat at low speed for 1 minute.
- In a separate bowl, mix the keto flour, arrowroot flour and baking powder together. Fold in flour mix gradually into the wet ingredients. Mix well.
- Take a handfull of dough and roll it into a large ball. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper till thickness of about 0.7 cm.
- Use tart mould to press out dough, place 1 ball of pineapple filling in centre of tart and press down slightly so that the filling fills the tart base completely.
- Use tart pincer to pinch ridge patterns on edge of tart.
- Brush tarts with egg wash.
- Bake for 17-18 minutes. Allow the tarts to cool on the pan before removing (the tart pastry does harden up slightly on cooling). Serve when cool, or store in air tight containers.