Bake Someone Happy !
Tat Nenas is a firm favourite among Malaysians! What’s not to like about aromatic and chewy, sweetly spiced pineapple jam that is encased within a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth pastry?
The nenas (pineapple) is auspicious in Chinese culture; it symbolises prosperity, wealth and abundance of luck – thus, the tat nenas is an embodiment of all things good. Growing up, I can vividly remember the excitement whenever my parents would get us ready to visit family and friends hosting open houses; my brother and I had a secret seal of approval on some of the tat nenas sampled from various households. For me at least, that superceded the lure of the red ang paos. Indeed this is such an iconic treat that love of pineapple tarts has spread to our other cultures, and you’d even find tat nenas during Hari Raya (Eid-ul-Fitr) and Deepavali. The Malaysian pineapple tart here is a bit of a misnomer; it resembles nothing of its Western counterpart because it can present itself as an open-faced tart as well as (as I have prepared), a closed one. The pastry for the open-faced pineapple tarts are usually cut from a biscuit mould, and are as varied as they are glorious in presentation. Click here to be gobsmacked by the luscious golden globes.
Being the tropical paradise that is Malaysia, pineapples are a perennial fruit. There are quite a few species.
How many species, you may ask? Well there are those that are cultivated for canning (N36, Gandul, Moris), those great eaten fresh (Josapine, Johor 1, Sarawak, Crystal Honey, Maspine) and those that have, one way or the other, found its way into many a Malaysian pot/tummy (Nanas Hijau, Moris Gajah, Yan Kee, Giant India, Hana, and even one incredibly named Sleeping Beauty!).
However for the purposes of making pineapple jam for our tat nenas, we’d hit gold with the Moris pineapple (sometimes also spelt as “Morris”). Think of the Moris as the rebellious teenager of the pineapple family: sour, tart, tough. And just like any angst-y teenager, we need to ply on the sugar, yet give them the heat, and eventually they will break down and turn to the dark side, so to speak.
Mangled mixed metaphors aside, begin by breaking down a pineapple.
Unlike the instruction in the link above however, please keep the core.
I started out with one Moris pineapple, and after all the needful trimming, I was left with about 950g of the edible bits. I then pureed the lot (core and all); and then bunged the puree into a large pan. If you have a wok (I don’t), please use it instead as it allows for the best dissipation of heat to reduce the pineapple puree, and quickest evaporation of the liquid.
I then threw in a couple of star anise and cinnamon sticks. You should cook the lot on high heat for about 20 minutes before turning down the heat to medium or medium-high (depending on how big your pot is). At that point I added in a cup of loosely packed light brown sugar. You may also want to throw in 5 – 8 cloves as well, but pick out the cloves (and the other spices) when the jam begins to thicken. If you leave the cloves in for too long, it will be harder to pick them out when the jam gets thick and brown. The star anise-cinnamon-clove aroma is the one to beat!
The jam will take about 40 – 45 minutes to cook; then let it cool sufficiently. When the jam is cooling, you can make your pastry.
The recipe I used was from the Kitchen Tigress blog and her instructional video.
After the pastry had rested for about an hour in the fridge, I used a 1/2 tablespoon scoop to portion both the jam and the pastry dough evenly, and then rolled them into balls with the palms of my hands.
The tat nenas I made is styled after the Kueh Nastar (Indonesian pineapple cookies), which are round – one of the easiest methods of preparation, heh! From my jam yield, I had 21 evenly scooped portions of jam, and so prepared the same number of pastry balls. (Note: there is a lot of pastry excess still sitting in my fridge, waiting for another bake).
To shape the tat nenas, flatten one round of pastry dough between your palms, then coax the pastry “skin” over the ball of jam. Once sufficiently covered, give the jam-filled pastry another few rounds of rolling in your palms to smoothen. You could bake them immediately, or freeze the portions.
I chose to bake them immediately.
Before going into the pre-heated oven (170°C), give the tarts an egg-yolk wash and push one clove into each centre. These tarts will not puff out while baking; I placed all 21 of them onto the same tray, leaving about 1.5 cm between each tart. Watch the tops go golden brown (it will take about 20 – 25 minutes).
The aroma of baking pineapple tarts is absolutely arresting.
I guarantee you, it will take all of your willpower to stop yourself from eating a hot off-the-oven, molten-cored tat nenas.