Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chinese New Year Caramelized Pineapple Turnovers

I recently finished a Chinese history course in school and we were given the option of doing an extra project and sharing it with the rest of the class. Luckily, a close friend of mine had bought me Pichet Ong's The Sweet Spot for my birthday (along with Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage's Chocolate Obsession), so I had a wonderful source for Asian desserts. Pichet Ong was named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America by Pastry Arts & Design and he is chef and owner of the dessert spot P*ONG in New York City. His recipes put a sophisticated twist on traditional Asian desserts.

Given that the Chinese New Year of the Ox was still fresh in everyone's memories, I settled on these Chinese New Year Pineapple Turnovers. Since tangerines are distributed during the New Year (tangerines are a homonym of "gold" in Chinese), these turnovers are shaped like little golden tangerines with a whole clove for a stem. They are especially popular in Singapore where they are called "kuey taht" and always available during the New Year. The reason that pineapples are used in this recipe is that the word for pineapple sounds similar to the phrase "prosperity to come" in some Chinese dialects.

Note: My project partner, Marielle, and I could not find palm sugar, or custard powder so we substituted with the ingredients I listed in parenthesis. The turnovers were delicious but labor intensive. Fortunately, we had to study for our final exam on the history of China, so the hours of wait (to chill the dough and cool the carmelized pineapples) were well used.


Caramelized Pineapple Filling:

2 small pineapples, peeled, cored, and finely diced

1 c. plus 2 tbsp. crushed palm sugar (or brown sugar)

1 cinnamon stick

1/8 tsp. salt

Pastry Dough:

2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1/3 c. plus 2 tbsp. custard powder (or cornstarch with a swig of vanilla extract)

1 tbsp. dried milk powder

¾ c. plus 1.5 tsp unsalted butter at room temperature

2/3 c. confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp salt

1 large egg

3 large egg yolks, beaten

whole cloves for stems


1. To make the pineapple filling: Put all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan, set over low heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and all the liquid has evaporated, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.
2. To make the dough: Sift the flour, custard powder, and dried milk together and set aside.
3. Put the butter, confectioner's sugar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and creamy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the flour mixture, and mix until incorporated. Add the egg and mix just until the dough comes together; it will be quite sticky. Form the mixture into a ball, press it into a 1-inch-thick disk, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.
4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap the chilled dough and form it into 1-inch balls. Using your fingertips, press one ball into a thin 3-inch disk. Put 1 tablespoon of the pineapple filling in the center of the dough circle, fold over to make a half-moon, and pinch the edges together to seal. Twist off any excess dough, press and gently roll the half-moon shape into a ball. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Alternatively, roll the whole disk of dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 1/8 inch thickness, cut out 3-inch circles with a cookie or biscuit cutter, and fill and shape them. Put the filled balls 1 inch apart on the baking sheets, and chill until firm, about 15 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.
6. Brush the balls with the egg yolks and stick a clove, if desired, in the center of each. Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before serving then enjoy!

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