As the Chinese New Year (CNY) draws near (it’s 23 and 24 January this year for those still in the dark – which means yet another long weekend :D ) and my CNY cookie making frenzy heats up, I’ve been thinking about not only the different types of cookies I’m able to experiment with, but also cookies fit for everyone in my extended family to eat. This means that cookies fit for diabetics, celiacs, as well as persons with high or low blood pressure. This also means that I have to experiment with cookie recipes by making some sugar free, some gluten free, and some full of the good stuff (fibre, nutrients, etc), especially for my elders who are getting on in their years ;p

I’ve decided to start simply – by adapting tried and tested recipes to fit these new requirements. This will be the first of a few ‘healthy’ CNY cookies that you too can choose to make if your family suffers from the same afflictions as mine.

I’ve started things off with the most important ‘cookie’ for CNY (in my opinion) – the pineapple tart. We all know that pineapple tarts contain an inordinate amount of sugar – just the pineapple paste itself will contain enough sugar to kill a diabetic (figuratively, not literally I hope). I’m not sure how true this is, but my mom always warned me against eating too many pineapple tarts because according to her, 3 tarts has enough calories for a meal! So I’ve always restricted myself to not more than 3 at a sitting ;p

Now, the use of refined sugar in making the pineapple paste is definitely bad for a diabetic, but I wasn’t too daring to make the paste with sugar substitutes (and also because it would be expensive to do so). So instead, I I decided to substitute pineapple paste with a fruit already rich in fruit sugars – apples. Apple paste, or apple jam or more properly called applesauce is definitely way easier to make than pineapple paste. My applesauce contains no additives and no extra sugar. Any sweetness is derived from the natural sweetness of the apple you use. As such, I highly recommend the use of Royal Gala or Fuji Apples which are ripe and sweet, as well as one Granny Smith, to mimic the tartness of the pineapple.

For the crust, to make it diabetic friendly, you can opt for a sugar-substitute such as Equal or Stevia or xylitol, and mix it with some whole grain flours instead of the refined white flours that we usually use. Why whole grain flours? Well, highly refined products like enriched white flours are not good for diabetics because first, it lacks natural nutrients and it gets translated into the blood sugar very rapidly, causing a spike in blood sugar levels. This is not good because diabetics do not have enough insulin to regulate their blood sugar. So whole grains, are definitely a good choice to go with that sugar-free option when you wish to indulge but don’t want to run the risk of elevating your blood sugar level overly.

Apple Tarts
Makes about 60 pieces, depending on how large or small they are and what decorations you put on top
For the crust:
Adapted from Pierre Herme’s Pâte Sucrée recipe

125g   all-purpose flour

15g     almond flour/meal
45g     icing sugar (or equal amounts of powdered sugar substitute)

75g     unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ tsp   salt
½ egg  (about 25-30g)
Seeds from an inch of vanilla pod
Method:
  1. Sift the flour and icing sugar separately.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter until it softens.
  3. Then, add the following: icing sugar, ground almonds, salt, vanilla seeds and beaten egg. Lastly, add in the flour. Use your mixer on the lowest speed until the pastry comes together in a ball. As soon as it does, stop and flatten it into a disc. You can also choose to use a food processor. Clingwrap it and chill for at least 3 hours before use.
For the Apple Jam:
See my applesauce recipe here
To assemble:

  1. Make the crust first, and place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1-3 hours before using. In the meantime, prepare the apple jam. Basically, use any applesauce recipe and be sure to cook down the applesauce until it is relatively drier than usual.
  2. After it cools, remove the crust from the refrigerator and proceed to roll it out, to about 3-5mm thick, depending on how thick you like your tart.
  3. Portion the jam onto the tarts before decorating with more dough (optional). You can place the tarts relatively close to one another on the cookie tray because they do not spread/expand that much. Before baking, you can choose to use a egg yolk glaze on the tarts. I did not do this as I was lazy.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven at 170°C for about 20-25 minutes or until the tart is slightly golden brown. Note that if you don’t use an egg yolk glaze, your tarts will look like mine below – slightly on the pale side.
Janine’s jots: 
  • Taste: If you like, you can also add some cinnamon to the applesauce, to bring out the apple flavour more.
  • Texture: I would definitely cook down the applesauce a little more since I used my normal method and it was still quite liquid. I thought the applesauce would dry out in the oven when baked with the crust, but it did not and was rather wet still. This meant that the tarts had to be consumed on the day itself, otherwise the tarts turned a tad too soggy.
  • Serving size: The recipe is a quartered version of the original, and will definitely make about 1-2 trays worth of tarts, but the exact number is hard to determine because your tarts may be of different sizes.
  • Modifications: If you want a more healthy option, you can definitely up the almond flour, and substitute the all-purpose flour with a bit of rice or millet flour. This also means you can mix/process the dough longer since there’s no gluten in these flours. Millet also adds a wonderful sweet taste (and browness) to the tarts as well.
  • Storage: My tarts only kept well for 3 days, because it started getting soft on the third day and that’s not the texture you want for a pseudo-pineapple tart.
  • Would I make this again?: I would definitely want to try this again, but making the enclosed version this time because I think the moist apple jam is more suited for a crumbly, melt in your mouth enclosed tart :]

Disclaimer: Please do note that I am not a nutritinoist or medical professional. All recommendations made above are based on what I’ve read on the internet and in books, so please do consult your doctor if you have any doubts.
I am merely stating that this might be a suitable alternative for diabetics craving for that ubiquitous pineapple tart during CNY. The tart might not be safe for diabetics to consume in large quantities, because it still does contain fruit sugars as well as refined flours and sugars. Please do consume at your own discretion, and always remember, everything in moderation!
PS: I know my tarts aren’t very well-made (the filling is so horrible looking) and I have been quite stingy with the filling but this was merely an experiment which went well ;p

10 comments

  1. Zoe says:

    I like the way you transform our traditional pineapple tarts to something that is delicious but with less sugar. This is great!

  2. When I was a teen, I tried pureeing soaked golden raisins and used them to fill the tarts. No one actually knew they were made from raisins and thought it was pineapple. No sugar added at all.

    Maybe you can pipe the applesauce in, then it might look neater. But this still looks fine to me.

    I applause your effort to make these suitable for your family.

  3. Uncle Lee says:

    Hi Janine, love your name. It’s a beautiful name.
    And tarts are always one of my favourites.
    You are very good looking at the texture and colours.
    I can see it just melts in the mouth…..
    Nice display and presentation too, Janine.
    $ Seasons or Sheraton mFB manager would appreciate….

    You have a nice day, and keep a song in your heart.
    Best regards, happy new year.
    Lee.

  4. Ahh those golden tarts! Thanks for thinking of our waistlines :) They always remind me of CNY. I can’t wait for some delicious food!

  5. Your tart is much healthier than pineapple tart..

  6. lena says:

    it’s not easy to make something to fit into everyone’s health concern and i really admire your thoughtfulness in doing so! i guess you must have do a lot of thinking to finally come up with this apple tarts! this is really something no treasurable and of course they look great too!

  7. Thumbs up for being so adventurous with the classic pineapple tart! There should definitely be a healthier version of them :)

  8. Janine says:

    @zoe: thanks!

    @wendy: the golden raisins actually sounds like a super good idea – i might want to try that next time :) yeah I think piping it or spending more time shaping it would make it prettier heh.

    @uncle lee: thanks :)

    @NQN: me too, pineapple tarts are a must have for me!

    @sonia: yes it is!

    @lena: thanks for the compliments!

    @to food with love: perhaps CNY is the only time we can eat such ‘rich’ food without that much guilt ;p

  9. AikoVenus says:

    I love these ideas! ^^ Especially with how you made the pineapple tarts – I never thought about the applsauce!

  10. Shu Han says:

    what a great idea using natural fruits as a sweetener! the pineapple tarts look fab! and it’s even better knowing that they’re actually not unhealthy, so you can pop more with less guilt(:

Leave a reply