You know what gets me excited each year during Chinese New Year?
The food. Yes. And specifically the jam tarts. Pineapple tarts.
Not the store-bought stuff in their garish, plastic containers. Where there’s hardly a whiff of rich butter or the fragrance of fresh pineapple jam.
Pineapple tarts are a fave among Malaysians of all ages.
Who can resist biting into a homemade pineapple tart which just melts in your mouth, releasing a smorgasbord of salty buttery flavour and sweetish but at the same time, tangy pineapple jam?
But it’s a killer making these tarts yourself. I used to help my mum bake these tarts when I used to live at home. It was a must-have during Chinese New Year and my sisters and I were often the little ‘elves’.
In the 80s, one never took shortcuts. Neither did my mum. Jam tart making started about three weeks before CNY. Unlike other types of CNY biscuits, jam tarts do not keep well – for two reasons: everyone’s sneaking one into their mouth when no one’s looking and the jam, as a result of its sugar content, attracts mould.
I would get to drink lots of pineapple juice when we were making jam tarts as one started off by scraping ripe pineapple, squeezing the juice out of the pulp. The pulp was retained, and as anyone knows, there’s really very little pulp from an average sized pineapple. And when it’s cooked as a jam, it’ll be reduced even further! So many, many pineapples had to be scraped by hand (yes, by hand!) and by the end of the week, we’d run at the sight of pineapple juice!
The pulp would be slowly cooked with sugar to make the jam. This also meant stirring the jam over a hot stove. Something like making dodol.
Next came the pastry. The flour and butter ratio is sometimes a secret because a slight mistake and one might end up with hard tarts.
The tarts were also fashioned according to the times. In the 80s, the style was country. It meant moulding out little “flower” shaped bases, with centres filled with a heaped teaspoonful of jam. If one wanted more elegance, one could cut out little X’s and place them on top of the jam. And glaze the tarts with beaten egg yolk for a lovely golden sheen once they’re baked.
In the 90s, it was a true pineapple look. The jam was rolled into the centre of the pastry and totally covered. Painstaking cuts with scissors on the surface of the pastry were made so that the tart resembled a mini ‘pineapple’.
Now, it’s rolled up. Take a blob of jam, roll it between a long strip of pastry and that’s it. The jam is exposed on both sides.
Whatever style or look, jam tarts are a perennial fave among Malaysians.
If you want some homemade jam tarts (she only sells during this pre-CNY season and so you only get it once a year), order from Mrs Wong.
Mrs Wong is my aunt and she also makes the most scrumptious cheesecakes. She takes orders from Penangites only (she lives in Jalan Mesjid Negeri, Penang) and you’d have to collect from her too but I can tell you, it’s worth it. And her specialty for CNY has always been jam tarts. Ask for Mrs Wong at 04-6579 409.
(I’m not the only one crazy over her jam tarts… my friends are also waiting for their deliveries to arrive too!)
Mrs Wong’s monster jam tarts…yummilicious!