Rustic Pineapple Balls (Lunar New Year Recipe)

Healthy Pineapple Balls Recipe

Pineapple pastries, usually in the form of tarts, are a common sight in Singapore and Malaysia during Chinese New Year. Pineapples represent prosperity and good luck in some Chinese cultures. The name also sounds similar to “fortune, come” when said in Hokkien. In Singapore, after moving into a new house, Chinese folks often roll whole pineapples on the floor as it symbolises “rolling good luck” into the new house.

Crumbly, soft and a delightful blend of sweet and sour flavours. Not perfectly round and smooth but hey, it’s homemade!

I developed this recipe with a single purpose in mind – to be able to stuff myself without feeling sick! As I got older, my body doesn’t seem to like buttery, oily and sugary foods as much as before (the same reason I created my old tempeh bak kwa recipe). I wanted delicious pineapple tarts that won’t be heavy on my stomach, so I can have energy to make hundreds of dumplings (recipe in my book)! 

Secret ingredient 🙂

Instead of vegan butter, which is expensive and highly processed, I opted to use coconut oil instead. Before you exclaim “coconut taste!!”, I’m here to assure you that it’s not that unpleasant coconut aftertaste. The almost pungent coconut aftertaste usually appears when the food loses its freshness (thus storage for this is important, see notes), or when low quality coconut ingredients were used. Good quality coconut milk/oil gives a pleasant sweetness and fragrance that’s unique to this versatile tropical fruit. Furthermore, coconut pairs well with pineapple – it’s not exactly the same as traditional pineapple tarts, but delicious in its own way.

Peeling and coring pineapples is really a lot more work, but it tastes much fresher.

If you’re in the tropics, you have to refrigerate your coconut oil to get it solid enough. It should not be liquid-y but yet soft enough for you to scoop out of the jar. There are 2 types of coconut oil – unrefined (also known as cold pressed) and refined. Unrefined coconut oil is the one with the sweet coconut fragrance and rich flavour. It has a lower smoke point thus is more suitable for baking. Refined coconut oil has no coconut flavour at all, it’s more suitable for high heat cooking like frying as it has a higher smoke point. For this recipe, I have tried with both types. The balls made with refined oil turned out really bland. The ones made with unrefined coconut oil was delightfully buttery with a natural sweet fragrance. However, it develops a strong coconut aftertaste after 3 days at room temperature. Thus, this recipe produces a small amount as I recommend you to finish it within 3 days – shouldn’t be a problem!

Cooking pineapples and reducing them to jam takes at least 1 hour, so best to make it in advance.
The dough will come together once solid coconut oil pieces are mixed in.
The dough needs to be handled carefully due to the characteristics of coconut oil.

RUSTIC Pineapple Balls (eggless, dairy-free)

Makes about 20-24 bite-sized balls

For the pineapple jam (can be made 1 day in advance, makes 2 batches of balls)

  • 2 medium pineapples, peeled, eyes and cores removed and cut into chunks
  • A pinch of salt
  • 70g sugar, or to taste (depends on the sweetness of your pineapple)

Use a blender or food processor to puree the pineapple. In a pot, add blended pineapples and water. Bring to a gentle boil. Add sugar and salt, let simmer over low heat till it’s reduced to a paste. To prevent burning, mix it with a spatula every 5 mins or so. It might take 50-60mins to reduce, depending on the natural amount of moisture that your pineapple has. Once it reaches a jam-like consistency, remove from heat and transfer to a clean airtight jar. Place in the fridge to cool. It can be refrigerated for up to 5-7 days, depending on the temperature of your fridge.

For the pastry (can be made 1 day in advance)

  • 150g all-purpose/plain flour
  • 30g potato starch
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 25g sugar
  • A pinch of turmeric (optional, for colour only)
  • 100g coconut oil (soft solid)
  • 1 tbsp soy milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract (for best results, avoid vanilla flavouring)

 

For the egg-free wash (can be made 1 day in advance)

  • 2 tsp gula melaka/sugar
  • A pinch of turmeric, for colour
  • 1 tsp soy milk
  • 1 tbsp oil

Mix flour, starch, baking powder, turmeric, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Weigh out your coconut oil and cut it into small pieces. Add the coconut oil pieces, vanilla paste and soy milk into the flour mixture. Use your hand to gently squeeze and mix till the oil is mostly melted and incorporated into the flour. Mix and knead gently till you get a dough. Transfer onto a cling wrap and flatten the dough. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Remove it from fridge at least 20 mins before shaping as the dough will harden when chilled.

Preheat oven to 165C. Shape pineapple jam into balls of approximately 1 cm diameter, line them up on a clean surface. Shape a piece of dough into balls of approximately 2 cm diameter and flatten with your palms. Ensure the dough is as evenly thin as possible. Place a pineapple jam ball onto the edge of the flattened dough and roll both jam and dough gently downwards. Pinch the sides and any other openings to close. Finally, roll between your hands to ensure the ball is evenly round. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Repeat these steps till you use up all the jam/dough.

For the egg-free wash, mix all ingredients in a bowl with a food-safe brush. Brush the top of each ball gently. Transfer to oven and bake at 165C for 20-22 mins, till the balls are darkened and slightly expanded. Remove from oven and let it cool on the tray for 1 min. Then, transfer onto a wire rack and let cool completely, which might take up to 1 hour depending on your room temperature. Transfer to an airtight container to store.

Warning: addictive.

Notes:

  • Do not add too much turmeric or it’ll interfere with the flavours. Since we used coconut oil not butter, turmeric can help boost the yellow colour.
  • Since we are using coconut oil, dough may soften at room temperature. If dough is too wet or soft, refrigerate it for 5 mins to stiffen.
  • Best consumed within 3 days, if stored at room temperature. Can be refrigerated for up to 7 days.
  • This recipe doesn’t seem to work well with plastic tart moulds due to the dough being slightly unstable at room temperature. I prefer making balls as I don’t like having to many things to wash!
  • If you’re someone who dislikes coconut no matter what, replace coconut oil with 125g dairy-free butter and omit soy milk.