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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Pineapple Tarts inspired by Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge

Pineapple Tarts inspired by Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge
Today I'm happy to be hosting a book tour stop for the third book in the Singaporean Mystery series by Ovidia Yu called Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge. I mention all the time that I prefer to start a series from book 1, but I jumped in right at book 3 due to time constraints...and the fact that I forgot it was a series until I picked this book up to read. I will say that while I was entirely able to get into the story and understand this book without having read the previous two, there were times I'd wished I'd read them first because the characters referred back to what happened in them.

Culinary mysteries are pretty much my favorite kind of book to read, so Aunty Lee and her escapades are right up my alley. A widow who is known throughout Singapore for her amazing food and the fact that she's helped the local police solve some murders, she thrives on being both nosey and nurturing.

"People as disparate as psychiatrists, librarians, and urban social landscape planners saw their professional craft as an art shaped by vocation, and like them Aunty Lee found it difficult to draw a line between feeding people a customers and nurturing them as family." (p.71 ARC)
Pineapple Tarts inspired by Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge
When some locals that she is fond of wind up being murder suspects, even the twisted ankle that's temporarily slowed her down won't keep her from getting to the truth. I thought the characters were well developed, but honestly, I guessed at the twist and the whodunit pretty early on. That being said, I still enjoyed seeing the story unfold amidst a Singaporean backdrop that was heavy on food and gave intriguing glimpses of culture and tradition.

The story is so food-heavy that I can't list everything, but I will share a few of the descriptions and offerings that made me wish I was actually sitting in Aunty Lee's cafe while I was enjoying this book.
  • light fragrant prawn crackers that were crispy and savory
  • curry puffs
  • flaky mushroom and (halal) chicken pastry squares
  • juicy shrimp wontons in the steamer
  • a dish of fragrantly crispy savory anchovies and peanuts (I almost made these!)
  • "Traditional moon cakes were heavy palm-sized baked pastries containing lotus seed paste and often a salted egg yolk."
  • nasi lemak
  • a bowl of milky sweetened bean curd and a dish of mango chunks
  • crispy-coated prawns in sweet-and-sour chili sauce
  • black pepper crab or chili crab

I could go on.
Pineapple Tarts inspired by Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge
But when trying to decide what I wanted to make inspired by this book, I had it narrowed down to 4 things that all sound like pretty traditional Singaporean food:
1. the crispy savory anchovies and peanuts I mentioned above (I was going to use this recipe for Ikan Bilis with peanuts)
2. nasi lemak, which is a rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf
3. prawn crackers
4. pineapple tarts - which are mentioned no fewer than 4 times in this book.

Pineapple Tarts won out. Every time they were mentioned, I wanted them a little more. After doing a little research and seeing a several different ways to make them, I went for it. Since I've never tried them before, I'm not sure if they tasted how they were supposed to...but they were INCREDIBLE with a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth outside and a sweet 'n tangy pineapple jam filled center that was mellowed by a bit of vanilla. Definitely worth mentioning a handful of times in a single book. Wouldn't Aunty Lee be proud?

Pineapple Tarts
Sweet and tangy pineapple jam enclosed in a delicate, melt-in-your mouth cookie shell.
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Pineapple Tarts inspired by Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 80 minutes (filling) + 25 minutes (tarts)
Keywords: bake dessert vegetarian nut-free soy-free pineapple cookie Singaporean

Ingredients (serves 16)
    for the pineapple filling:
    • 2 pounds pineapple (peel before weighing)
    • 3 ounces brown sugar
    • pinch of sea salt
    • pinch of ground cinnamon, optional
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    everything else:
    • 8.25 ounces (16.5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (2.5 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
    • 2 egg yolks, divided
    • 12 ounces (336 grams) all-purpose flour
    • pinch of sea salt
    • big splash of milk or cream
    make the pineapple filling:
    Puree the pineapple in a food processor until smooth. Pour into a wok and cook over medium-low heat until most of the liquid has evaporated, ~20 minutes.

    Stir in the brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon, if using; reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring now and again, until thick and golden, 55 to 60 minutes. Stir in the vanilla just before removing from the heat.

    to make the dough:
    Combine butter and sweetened condensed milk in a large bowl. Use a hand mixer to cream until smooth. Beat in one yolk, then add 1/3 to 1/2 of the second yolk, reserving the last bit of yolk for later. Add flour and salt and continue to beat until you have a soft, smooth dough.

    to make the tarts:
    Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

    Scoop the pineapple filling into scant 1 ounce portions. Roll the dough into 16 (1.5 ounce each) balls. Flatten each dough ball and set a portion of pineapple filling in the center. 
    pineapple filling
    Wrap the dough around the filling, pressing to seal. Roll between your palms into a circle or oval shape. Use a plastic bench scraper or knife to cut lines resembling the outside of a pineapple into the dough. Set on prepared baking sheets. 
    scored dough
    Repeat until all of your dough is filled and formed (you will have some leftover pineapple jam).

    Beat the remaining bit of egg yolk together with a splash of milk or cream to make an egg wash, then brush it over the top of each tart.
    tarts ready for oven
    Slide into preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes, until lightly golden in spots and on the bottom. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

    -adapted from Nasi Lemak Lover
    Pineapple Tarts inspired by Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge

    Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge by Ovidia Yu

    Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge
    author: Ovidia Yu
    series: A Singoporian Mystery Book 3
    publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
    source: TLC Book Tours
    soft cover:368 pages

    "foodie" read: YES!

    random excerpt: "So tell me your version," Aunty Lee suggested. She liked to hear all sides of a story. It was the same way she always approached a new dish. The more recipes you started with, the easier it was to get to the essence of a dish and put together a version that worked for you. (p.55 ARC)

    teaser: Rosie “Aunty” Lee—feisty widow, amateur sleuth and proprietor of Singapore’s best-loved home cooking restaurant—is back in another delectable, witty mystery set in Singapore.

    Slightly hobbled by a twisted ankle, crime-solving restaurateur Aunty Lee begrudgingly agrees to take a rest from running her famous café, Aunty Lee’s Delights, and turns over operations to her friend and new business partner Cherril.

    The café serves as a meeting place for an animal rescue society that Cherril once supported. They were forced to dissolve three years earlier after a British expat killed the puppy she’d adopted, sparking a firestorm of scandal. The expat, Allison Fitzgerald, left Singapore in disgrace, but has returned with an ax to grind (and a lawsuit). At the café one afternoon, Cherril receives word that Allison has been found dead in her hotel—and foul play is suspected. When a veterinarian, who was also involved in the scandal, is found dead, suspicion soon falls on the animal activists. What started with an internet witch hunt has ended in murder—and in a tightly knit, law-and-order society like Singapore, everyone is on edge.

    Before anyone else gets hurt—and to save her business—Aunty Lee must get to the bottom of what really happened three years earlier, and figure out who is to be trusted in this tangled web of scandal and lies.

    about the author: Ovidia Yu is one of Singapore's best-known and most acclaimed writers. She has had more than thirty plays produced and is also the author of a number of mysteries. She received a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Iowa's International Writers Program and has been a writing fellow at the National University of Singapore.
    author Ovidia Yu

    connect with the author: facebook | twitter

    recipe inspired by the book: Pineapple Tarts

    tlc-tour-host I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.