14 February is a super-happy day. It’s the 15th day of the Chinese new year (based on the lunar calendar), and Valentines day. It’s an all-red, all-pink, all-red lantern and tanyuan, all-roses, teddy bears and glitter, kind of day.
Even though it’s way past midnight here, so I’ve kind of missed the boat, this post is for the 15th day of the Chinese new year and Valentine’s Day and Angie’s Fiesta Friday.
Last year, I cooked a CNY feast for, oh, lots of people. It involved, among many, many other things, Beggars Chicken: whole chicken stuffed with savoury delicacies and covered in a clay shell and baked. It was epic.
This year, reeling from Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Australia Day, etcetc, we had a quiet Chinese new year’s eve dinner. To make up for that, I’ve been inventing silly names for everyday dishes. Like Lucky Fortune Golden Dragon bolognese, or Year of the Golden Pig shakshuka (Year of the Golden Pig was 2007, it’s still Mr Gander’s favourite-named year).
It was during this mad, faux-festive period that the cheese pastry pineapple jam dumpling was born.
Start with pineapple jam
I don’t actually remember having pineapple tarts during CNY, back in China. BUT these little flower- or roll-shaped things seem to be everywhere in Singapore. Pineapples – because they have an auspicious name, and the jam is pretty over-the-top sugary tasty. Usually the tarts are made with a soft, shortbread-like buttery dough (that uses custard powder for extra softness – !!), but I’ve also seen a couple of recipes that grate some cheese over the pineapple rolls before baking.
Pineapple jam is not hard to make, you just need a bit of time, patience, and a willingness to stand over the stove and stir and stir. And stir. The traditional recipe uses grated fresh pineapples, but a number of bloggers have used canned pineapple with little difference.
Then comes the cheese
I had made pineapple jam, fully intending to make the traditional CNY pineapple tarts. But somewhere between the jam cooling and heading out to buy custard powder, I had another thought.
Instead of the traditional butter dough (because, well, I didn’t really fancy using custard powder, yet that’s probably what gives the tarts that distinctive soft creamy buttery taste), I wondered if I could make it with a cheese pastry.
Like, if a rugelach met a pineapple tart and fell in love, multicultural Valentines Day style.
Having the noodle dumpling dream
Looking at the shape of the crescent cookies, I also began to wonder if it could be turned into dumplings. (Yes, Mr G also wonders about the way my mind works)
The rest, as they say, is history.
A note on shaping and baking. The cheese pastry I used is one that’s been floating around the interwebs, originally from the Gourmet Cookie Book and popularised by Smitten Kitchen. if you try to use the cheese pastry recipe for this or other shapes – the pastry dough melts before it is cooked, so anything that is too structural (ie straight-up pointy bits) is likely to droop and wilt. The squat dumplings held up pretty well. The thinner dumplings with higher pleats drooped (probably inauspicious, oops). What you see in the photo are the squat ones.
And the ‘dipping sauces’? They are: nutella, sweet red bean filling, and a gorgeous date palm syrup I found in an Indian grocers. They were styling props, but with different fillings, they could have been for real. ie, nutella filling dipped into more nutella = double nutella dumplings.
Please treat this as an idea or a bit of a lark rather than a strict recipe. It was an excuse for me to play with food, and pretend it’s for the CNY festivities. In the spirit of festivities, I’m sending this to Angie’s Fiesta Friday – go check out the other Fiesta-goers at Angie’s blog!
Pineapple jam cheese pastry dumplings
(a SG original, based on various tried-and-true components)
Pineapple jam, barely adapted from A Table For Two
2 cans of crushed pineapples or pineapple pieces (I used two 450 gram cans)
200 gram sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
150 gram liquid glucose (I think this is very similar to corn syrup…)
2 tbsp plain flour (all purpose flour)
1. Strain the grated pineapple till dry. I didn’t bother, and the jam took longer to cook down to the right consistency. Whizz the pineapple in a food processor until pulpy.
2. Let pineapple simmer in a non-stick saucepan till the juice has dry up. Add sugar and, star anise, cinnamon stick and clove.
3. Stir till the pineapple has thickened and it looks like all the liquid has evaporated or become part of the pineapple syrupy mass. Add maltose or liquid glucose.
4. Stir till the pineapple filling is thick, sticky and dry.
5. Add flour. Continue to stir for about 10 minutes or until filling is dry. At this point, my pineapple mixture had also become darker in colour, maybe I over-cooked and was starting to caramelise it.
6. Leave to cool. I covered with cling wrap and kept it in the fridge for 2-3 days, and it was fine.
Cheese pastry dough, from Gourmet Cookie Book/SK
2 sticks (1 cup, 8 ounces or 227 grams) unsalted butter, softened
7.5 ounces (212 grams) farmer cheese (a lowfat cottage/ricotta-style cheese; I couldn’t find it so drained cottage cheese overnight)
2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 30 grams) sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups (8 3/4 ounces or 250 grams) plain / AP flour, plus additional for rolling out
1. Cream butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth, or I did this by hand once the butter became really soft in the Aussie summer kitchen.
2. Force cheese through a sieve right onto creamed butter and stir it in. Add the sour cream and combine the mixture well.
3. Whisk or sift together flour and salt in a separate bowl and gradually blend it into the cheese mixture. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill it for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Make the dumplings!
1. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Take the cream cheese pastry and divide it into small balls. Mine were about 25g each – rather than weigh them individually, I just added dough balls to the scale, and made sure the weight went up in roughly 25g increments. If the weather is hot, place the pastry doughs back in the fridge and take them out one by one.
2. For the pineapple jam, either roll it out into roughly 1/2 – 3/4 tsp balls and end up with ultra sticky fingers, or just use a teaspoon to dollop them out as you need them. I did the latter.
3. Take one pastry dough ball and flatten it between the palms of your hands. Either use a rolling pin and a generously floured surface to roll it out (like a real dumpling dough), or keep flattening the pastry using your palms and fingers until it is quite thin. This should be round, unlike the original recipe which asks for the cheese dough to be cut into squares.
4. Place a pineapple jam ball or scoop some pineapple jam into the centre of the round.
5. To make the dumplings: place the dough with pineapple jam in the centre of your palm, gently bring two opposite edges together so the dough is almost folded in half. Start at one end, make small pleats on one side, pressing each pleat onto the dough on the opposite side, until the dumpling is sealed. Pleating on one side gives the dumpling that curved shape, like traditional ingots – more auspicious stuff!
Or, twist the top together to form money bags (not too thick, or it will take longer to cook). Or, freeform! When I was young and helping the adults at the dumpling making odyssey, I just did whatever I could to seal the dumplings, so please feel free to do the same and call it a postmodern dumpling.
If the weather is super hot and humid, after you make each dumpling, place them back in the fridge on a plate until ready to bake.
6. Place dumplings on a lined cookie tray – the ones without rim will be best as it’ll be easy to slide the dumplings onto the cooling rack. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the pastries are looking a bit puffed up and the edges have turned a gorgeous golden brown (start checking from 10 minutes in case the edges start to brown too quickly). The body of the dumpling won’t colour, just the edges.
7. Cool for at least 30 minutes. Dust with icing sugar and start munching.
Tagged: A Table For Two, cheese pastry, Chinese new year, CNY, crescent jam and cheese cookies, dumplings, faux CNY food, Fiesta Friday, Gourmet Cookie Book, ideas in food, making dumplings, Novice Gardener, pineapple jam, pineapple tarts, playing with food, Smitten Kitchen, Valentines Day