Chúc mừng năm mới!
Happy Lunar New Year!
(Crossing fingers that those are written correctly!)
If you didn’t already know, Lunar New Year is upon us and the Year of the Fire Monkey has officially begun! I wish that I had a personal anecdote about Lunar New Year, but my one experience with Chinese New Year was actually a non-experience because I missed all the festivities. I was studying abroad in Singapore and was excited to be in a Chinese-majority country for the holiday, until I realized that aside from the annual parade (which I missed completely), the week-long festival is more of a family holiday. For nearly a week, everything was closed and nobody was available to hang out because they were all having a jolly good time with family (as they should be!). This year, I hope to make up for my Singapore CNY fail by going to San Francisco’s famous Chinese New Year parade, which boasts thousands of firecrackers and a 200-foot long Golden Dragon!
During my time in Singapore, I found out that aside from the well-known customs for Chinese New Year (like red envelopes, the lion dance, firecrackers, etc.), there are also a lot of interesting superstitions that can affect one’s luck for the entire year. For example, you shouldn’t sweep on the first day of the year because you might sweep away all your good luck (don’t have to tell me twice). It’s also said that you should pay all your debts by the new year and refrain from lending money on the first day, or your finances will be in poor shape for the rest of the year. Auspicious foods that will bring good luck include tangerines, whole chicken or fish, yuanbao dumplings, long noodles, and pineapple tarts.
For this special holiday, I bring you a recipe for the aforementioned pineapple tarts, which are a CNY phenomenon from Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Pineapple tarts, or nastar, are a buttery, crumbly, bite-sized tart filled with a sweet filling of pineapple jam. I made round pineapple tarts, but other variations include an open-faced “nyonya” tart and a rectangular cookie that can be open-faced or enclosed in dough. Even if you don’t celebrate Lunar New Year, these cookies are auspicious, and in my humble opinion, delicious!
Pineapple Tarts (Yield: 50 cookies)
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons heavy cream
½ cup condensed milk
2 egg yolks
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
For egg wash:
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon condensed milk
For pineapple jam:
3 cans pineapple (20 ounces each)
1/3 cup sugar
¾ teaspoon vanilla
- Prepare the pineapple jam by draining the pineapple and squeezing out excess juice. Blend in a food processor until it forms a paste and no chunks remain. Mix pineapple, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan and cook on medium heat on the stove, stirring intermittently, until it forms a thick paste and is a dark golden color (around 30 minutes). Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Cream together the butter, condensed milk, and heavy cream. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Gradually add in the flour, salt, and cornstarch and mix until well-combined. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 20-30 minutes in the refrigerator.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease cookie sheets. Prepare the egg wash by mixing together the egg yolk and condensed milk.
- When both the pineapple jam and dough are cool, roll the dough into gumball-sized balls, then flatten into a disk in the palm of your hand. Place a teaspoon or less of pineapple jam in the center, then bring up opposite sides of the dough together to close around the filling (If dough is too sticky, chill some more, or flour your hands so that it doesn’t stick). Close the dough around the filling, then roll in the palm of your hands to make the ball more uniform.
- Place the cookies on the cookie sheet and brush with egg wash (At this point, you can also use a cookie stencil or other fun shapes to imprint lightly on the top of the dough before brushing with egg wash. I used a flower stencil on my cookies, but others use a grid pattern. Just remember to imprint lightly so that the cookies maintain their round shape).
- Bake cookies for 20 minutes or until they are golden brown. Allow to cool and enjoy!