There are several different styles of pineapple tart. In Taiwan, they tend to be small square or rectangle blocks of pastry filled with pineapple jam. In Malaysia and Singapore, they take on different shapes, including quite realistic and very cute little pineapples with snipped pastry (for the spikes) and a whole clove as the crown. My favourite pineapple tarts have a relatively large amount of pineapple jam compared to the pastry.
It's not easy finding pineapple jam in the supermarket shelves - if you do, feel free to use that instead of making your own. Homemade pineapple jam is delicious, but takes a lot of time to cook, in order to tenderise the tough fruit. This pineapple jam recipe makes several jars, and once you have it (and the pastry dough) on hand, the tarts are fairly quick to make. Salting the pineapples makes the fruit less acidic.
The pastry dough is based on a recipe in The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I always use weight measurements when making pastry because it's more accurate.
There's no need to use all the dough or jam at once. When I bake them, I count on at least two tartlets per person. The excess dough can be stored in the fridge for about two weeks, or longer in the freezer. The leftover jam keeps for at least a month in the fridge.
Use a sturdy bread knife to cut off the top and bottom of the pineapple. Stand it up on one flat end and, using a sawing motion, cut off the skin from the top to the bottom, following the contour of the fruit.
Once all the skin has been trimmed off, examine the pineapple - you'll see that the "eyes" run in a diagonal pattern across the flesh. Following the diagonal, remove the eyes by cutting shallow V-shaped wedges around them. Quarter the pineapple lengthwise and cut out and discard the core. Cut the pineapple into 5mm (¼in) pieces and place them in a large colander.
Sprinkle the pineapple with salt (about 25g/2tbsp) and mix with your hands so the fruit is evenly coated. Put the colander in the sink and leave for about 15 minutes, mixing occasionally. Rinse the fruit thoroughly with cold water to wash away all of the salt - taste several pieces of the pineapple to make sure it doesn't taste salty.
Drain the fruit then weigh it, then weigh out half the amount of sugar (so the proportions are two parts fruit to one part sugar). Put the fruit and sugar into a large, sturdy pan.
Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the tiny seeds. Put the seeds and scraped-out pod into the pan, along with the cloves, cinnamon and about 150ml (⅔ cup) of water. Place the pan over a low flame and heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook the ingredients over a low flame for at least two hours, stirring frequently and adding water as necessary to prevent the jam from sticking to the pan. When it's ready, the jam will be thick and deep golden brown - stir it constantly towards the end to make sure it doesn't burn. Fish out the vanilla pod and the pieces of cinnamon stick. Ladle the jam into sterilised jars and put on the lids, then cool completely before storing in the fridge.
While the jam is cooking, make the pastry dough. Whisk the egg yolk with the cream and vanilla extract, then refrigerate until needed. Cut the cold butter into 1cm chunks.
Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the chunks of chilled butter and process until they are the size of peas.
Put the mixture into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the yolk-cream-vanilla mixture, then use your fingertips to combine the ingredients to make a dough that’s neither dry nor sticky. If it’s dry, drizzle in a little more cream. Shape the dough into a flattish disc then wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour. If the dough has been refrigerated for longer, let it soften slightly at room temperature.
To make the tarts, pinch off chunks of dough that weigh about 10g (⅓oz) and shape them into roughly shaped balls. Press the balls into small (one-bite) metal tartlet moulds. The dough should be very thin about 2mm (less than ⅛in) thick at the edges and even thinner at the base. Use your thumbs to remove the overhang of excess dough, and place the moulds on a tray.
Roll some of the scraps of dough between two layers of parchment paper, until the dough is about 2mm (less than ⅛in) thick. Remove the top layer of parchment and cut the dough into strands that are about 2mm (less than ⅛in) wide and 2cm (⅞in) long. Refrigerate the tartlets and dough strands for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Spoon some of the pineapple jam into each tartlet moulds, mounding it at the centre. Put two strands of dough in a criss-cross shape over the jam.
Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the tartlets are golden brown. Cool the tartlets before removing them from the pans and serving with hot tea or coffee.