Saturday, December 18, 2010

Grandaunt's Pineapple Tarts

Early last year, I was blogging about my attempts at making pineapple tarts. This year, I wanted to do another batch of tarts and decided that it was a good opportunity to go back to the good old days when the family was roped in to share out the tedious work. And so I got my cousin involved with the jam and tart-making.

This year, I had also managed to lay hands on my Grand Aunt's recipe, courtesy of her daughter. The basic ingredients were similar to those in my recipe posted up last year with one small, but critical difference - the inclusion of 3 teaspoons of lard every 250g of butter. And, she used egg yolks only instead of eggs, reserving the whites to glaze the tarts and to mix with the pineapple jam to get that nice, smooth surface.

I decided to stick to my tangy jam recipe (since I rather liked the inclusion of the pineapple juice rather than sugar to sweeten the jam). I also had problems finding zero-transfat shortening (I was not going to use lard) so we omitted that for the first batch of tarts.  Anyway, we started off with the jam-making process.  My dear mother was only too happy to show how dextrous she was with her knife, as she expertly removed the pineapple skin and eyes, chopped it up and readied it for the blender.  We then blended the pineapple with the juice and stood over the stove for simply ages, stirring and waiting for it to reduce down, change colour from pale yellow to that wonderful orangey brown.  At least we could chat a bit.  Making jam alone is indeed lonely work.

The next day, I popped over to my cousin's to make the pastry (she has a better oven).  Here, we had the benefit of getting assistance from her young nephews, our bakers' apprentices.  I was amazed by the conscientious attitude displayed, especially by the older of the two.  His task was to cut out the pineapple tarts using the cutter and the mould.  It's not an easy task as the pastry mould must be pressed down just so in order to leave an imprint on the dough.  The tart must also be carefully peeled away from the mould without breaking the dough. No small feat for our young apprentice to master.  We completed a batch of some 100+ tarts, from our 500g of flour. 

I subsequently made a second batch of tarts to finish off the jam.  This time round, I got the Crisco from Phoon Huat.  I also bought a plastic pineapple tart cutter/mould for our keen young apprentice chef, which he could use when his aunty makes tarts. I thought the top of the plastic cutter was less sharp than the metallic one, and so he could cut the pastry happily without inadvertently injuring himself.

So is it better with shortening, or without?  My verdict: Go with the shortening - it really gives it a much better, more crumbly texture.  Which makes the ingredients for the pastry as follows:

250g flour; 125g butter; 1-2 tsp of veg shortening; pinch of salt to taste; 1/2 tablespoon of sugar, 1.5 egg-yolks, water.

Rest of recipe and the process remains the same as in the earlier recipe.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Problem of Conversion

In baking, the Europeans use weight measurements; the Americans use volume measurements.  The Europeans also use metric, except for the Brits who stick by their pounds and ounces (as do the Americans).  Most of the time, cook books sold in Singapore use metric weight measurements.  So most of the time, my little weighing scale does the job for me.  And, for older recipes in old cookbooks (which are in pounds and ounces), I have my mother's old measuring cup.

So, I thought I had it all covered.  Until I looked at my grandaunt's recipe for pineapple tarts and found out it was in "katis".  Katis?  I have never cooked anything in katis (although vague memories emerged of visits to the wet market and my mother making her orders in katis).  Going down the pages, I did find a metric-based recipe (I assume my aunt updated her mother's recipe more recently), but my curiosity was piqued and I decided I would find out more about the "kati".

So I tried Ellice Handy (the doyenne of Singaporean cookbook writers).  Surely a book written in the 1960s (or so) would have kati conversion.  And indeed she did.  From katis to pounds and ounces.  Well, that was indeed useful.  So I would have to do a double conversion.  According to Handy,

1 kati = 16 tahils (what is a tahil!)
1 tahil = 1 ounce
16 ounces = 1 pound
Therefore, 1 kati = 1 pound.

Reading another cookbook, I got 1 kati = 21 1/2 ounces (!!)

I decided to check on-line.  Here I found that the "kati" or "catty" weight was used in China and Japan.  And depending on which country it was, the conversion factors are different.  For example:

1 kati (China) = 500g = 17.636 oz
1 kati (Japan) = 600g = 21.164 oz

Don't believe me?  Fiddle with the conversion here.

Going through Wikipedia, I found some more intriguing references to the kati.  First, I found out that the term "catty" is also used in Hongkong (which reinforces the Chinese linkage).  According to the Hongkong weights and measures ordinance

1 catty (kan) = 0.60478982 kg
1 tael (leung) = 1/16 catty
(i.e. my second cookbook appears to be more correct).

I was also delighted to come across, for the first time, a Singlish dictionary! I leave readers of this post to explore the dictionary on their own.  But let me, for the record, reproduce here its definition of the kati:

kati /ke-ti, ˈkɛtɪ/ n. [Mal. & Jav. kātī, katī; > Eng. catty] hist. A unit of weight equal to 16 Tahils, that is, about 1⅓ lb. avoirdupois or 625 grammes (more accurately, 0.604790 kilogramme).

1894 N.B. Dennys A Descriptive Dictionary of British Malaya 177 Kati. – Frequently written “Catty,” a weight of 1⅓ pounds avoirdupois; the kati contains 16 taels, and 100 katis make a pikul, or picul, literally “a load.” The tael, the kati, and the pikul are native words, but the weights they express are Chinese. 1947 Richard Olaf Winstedt The Malays, ch. 6, 112 Soon after the founding of Malacca Chinese annals under 1416 record.. that, ‘tin.. is cast into small blocks weighing 1 kati 8 tahil or 1 kati 4 tahil official weight... They use these pieces of tin instead of money.’ [1955 R.J. Wilkinson A Malay–English Dictionary, vol. 1, 516 kati. .. «catty»; a measure of weight of sixteen tahil or about one and one-third lb. avoirdupois.] 1970 Metrication Act 1970 (No. 52 of 1970), s. 5(b). Conversion of imperial standard units to metric system units. The values expressed in terms of .. the local customary system of weights and measures, may be converted into the values expressed in terms of the International System of Units in accordance with Schedule C. .. Schedule C .. Conversion of Local Customary Units to Equivalent SI Units .. 1 kati = 0.604790 kilogramme approximately 1972 The Straits Times, 25 November, 15 col. 1 The gold bars, weighing 15 katis seven tahils.
Goodness.  I am just glad that we have shifted to metric and so not have to worry about these complicated conversions.


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