[Free Pattern] Chinese New Year: Pineapple Tart (Kueh Tair) Amigurumi Crochet Pattern

In less than a week's time, it will be Chinese New Year! To welcome the Year of the Tiger, I'll be doing a CNY Special for this local kueh amigurumi project, beginning with the popular CNY festive staple that appears in almost every household in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia: the pineapple tart.

Besides CNY, the pineapple tart is also a festive staple in our region during Hari Raya and Deepavali. Although everyone here knows and loves the pineapple tart, not everyone knows that it is a kueh. A friend expressed surprise when I mentioned that my next kueh amigurumi would be the pineapple tart. "Pineapple tart is a kueh?!" she exclaimed. In fact, I too had the same reaction when I came across it in my kueh research.

Welcoming the Year of the Tiger with pineapple tart amigurumi (IG post). Yes, the pineapple tart is a kueh! They're pictured here together with SIA ang bao, with the Singapore Girl's iconic batik sarong kebaya inspired uniform.

The pineapple tart is also known as kueh tair in Baba Malay, kuih tart or tart nenas in Malay, and kue nastar in Indonesia. For the uninitiated, our local pineapple tart is a bite-sized shortcrust pastry filled with pineapple jam. The pineapple jam is made by slowly reducing fresh grated pineapple with sugar and a mix of spices (usually cinnamon, star anise and cloves). The ideal pineapple tart has soft and buttery pastry that crumbles and melts in your mouth as soon as you take a bite; the pineapple jam should be golden brown, sticky but malleable, and packed with the aroma and sweet-sour flavour of pineapple.

Our local pineapple tarts are not to be confused with the Taiwanese pineapple cake (fèng lí sū鳳梨酥), which has different origins and history. Although similar, the Taiwanese one is typically square shaped, includes milk powder in the pastry, and the filling is traditionally made with winter melon and maltose (though nowadays, there are those made with pineapple only). It arose from the domestic use of surplus pineapple in Taiwan and the Taiwanese wedding custom of gifting cakes to guests. Taiwan was the world's 3rd largest pineapple producer in the 1930s until it was overtaken by Southeast Asia in the 1970s. The wedding custom was probably derived from the dowry cake custom that dates back to the Three Kingdoms period.

Though small, the pineapple tart encompasses stories of our region's local traditions, history and heritage. It arose from the confluence of native, Portuguese and Dutch colonial influences in our region. It was born from the marriage of the pineapple with the shortcrust pastry technique adopted from either the Portuguese or the Dutch, and its inception is widely attributed to the Peranakans. Read on for more about the pineapple tart, or skip to the pattern.

The Tiger is coming; have you gotten your pineapple tarts yet? (on IG)

Pineapples were first introduced to our region in the 16th or 17th century by Spanish and Portuguese colonists and traders during Portuguese colonial rule. In the 1900s, pineapples became a major cash crop in Singapore, grown alongside rubber (the latter was introduced in 1877 by the British, namely Henry Ridley), and for a time, Singapore was also an important centre in the world's pineapple canning industry.

It is generally accepted or believed that the Nonyas created the pineapple tart, creating the pineapple jam used in the tarts. That said, the tart also references the influence of the Dutch, who colonised most of our region in the 17th century (Dutch East Indies and Dutch Malacca). This is evidenced in the tart's Indonesian name nastar or tart nenas, words derived from the Dutch ananas taart (literally "pineapple tart"). Perhaps this Dutch influence also explains why they are still called pineapple tarts instead of pineapple cookies, despite their present-day forms. Christopher Tan mentions in The Way of Kueh, "In Bengkulu, Sumatra, pineapple tarts are still made in classic Dutch form — large-sized with crimped rims and pastry lattices, sliced to serve. Pineapple tarts are also found in other former Dutch colonies, such as Guyana". (The Guyanese pine tart, which seems quite different from ours, also looks super delicious. I want to try it too!)

Pineapples are no longer a major cash crop in Singapore, but they have kind of become a fixture in some Chinese customs in our region. For instance, it is a housewarming fengshui custom in Singapore and Malaysia to roll a pineapple into one's new home. It is also a typical festive decoration for CNY. This is because the pineapple is considered an auspicious fruit to the Chinese in Southeast Asia. The pineapple's many "eyes" symbolises fertility and abundance. Its Chinese name huáng lí黄梨 is pronounced "ong lai" in Hokkien or "wong lai" in Cantonese, and is a homophone for "旺来", which means "fortune / prosperity comes".

Sweet, golden pineapple tarts...for a sweet and prosperous life in the Tiger Year. (IG post)

By and far, no household in Singapore and Malaysia celebrating CNY is ever without pineapple tarts. Even among smaller families with scaled down celebrations. This is largely because during the CNY festive season, it is traditional to serve various treats that have auspicious symbolism. The pineapple tart is both a sweet treat and contains pineapple. Sweet snacks are served during CNY as a symbol of a sweet life in the new year, while pineapples (as explained above) symbolise the arrival of fortune/prosperity. As such, pineapple tarts symbolise a sweet and prosperous life in the new year. (Or the wish for it.)

Pineapple tarts here come in open or closed forms. Here, they are usually open faced with or without a pastry lattice on top of the pineapple jam. The open faced form is typically Peranakan, decorated with crimped edges and a fluted, crisscrossed pastry lattice (called tali) on top of the jam. For e.g. these beautiful ones by Travelling FoodiesBaba Nyonya Peranakans, and in The Way of Kueh. The tarts are also made as open rolls, often with a semperit or nastar mould for a ridged pattern, see for e.g. these pretty ones by, To Food With LoveFood4Tots, and Sea Salt With Food. Very often, they are also made as closed rounds or rolls that are left plain, or decorated to resemble fruits or even flowers (e.g. these rose ones by Huang Kitchen). Popular fruit shapes are tangerines, where a clove is pushed into the top of the round, and pineapples where the hatched pattern is either created in the traditional way with scissors (e.g. these by Violet Oon in this Straits Times video) or fluted cutters, or with moulds (e.g. these by ieatishootipost and Chef in Disguise). Notice they also reference auspicious fruits? The closed round forms seem to be the most common shape sold in bakeries for the festive season in Singapore, probably because they're compact and less prone to crumbling. It is mentioned in The Way of Kueh (Christopher Tan) that the Peranakan's open faced form could be reminiscent of the Dutch latticed fruit tarts (e.g. these appeltaart by Sunday Baker and Sugar Love Spices), while the closed forms may have derived from the Indonesian nastar.

Pineapple tarts are popular Chinese New Year gifts.

In times past, it was common for family and friends to gather shortly before CNY to make pineapple tarts. The tarts, along with other auspicious items, would then be gifted as New Year gifts, a traditional CNY custom to show respect and gratitude, as well as to offer blessings for the coming new year, to the recipients. Some families and individuals still continue the practice of making pineapple tarts, but it is no longer as prevalent because making them is time and labour consuming. And for all that time and work, the tarts are usually gone in a flash!

Back then, every part of the tart, including the pineapple jam, was handmade. As described by Travelling Foodies, making them the traditional way "takes more than a day to accomplish", making the pineapple jam is a "tedious task in its own right" and one still has to crimp the rim of the pastry base, cut the tali (the pastry lattice) and give the pastry a good egg wash. As aptly put in this post by Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, "[done] in the traditional way it is a very, very time consuming task.... The failure rate is also high and the rewards questionable, except the fact that however criticized your delicate small masterpieces would be, any number of them still finish within minutes". These days, there are more shortcuts for those who still want to make them, as the pineapple jam can also be bought pre-made, and even the crimping can be skipped with modern-day moulds. Also, most people now buy the tarts since it is much easier and more convenient (so many options that we are spoiled for choice).

I'm not particularly gifted in the culinary area, but I can still make pineapple tarts for CNY. But instead of mixing, rolling, baking...I am hooking, looping, stitching. The process of making this pineapple tart amigurumi pattern has been full of fun and joy for me. So I hope anyone who attempts this will also have fun and joy.


PINEAPPLE TART AMIGURUMI CROCHET PATTERN

For my pineapple tart amigurumi, I made 4 amigurumi versions, each with different forms: the open faced tart (below), the open roll, the closed tangerine-shaped round, and the closed pineapple-shaped oblong. This pattern is for the open faced tart. I've not had the chance to finish up the others yet, and am still in the process of re-drafting the pineapple-shaped one. So, they will come later...probably in a separate post. I may save them for the next CNY special... (Sorry!)

Materials & Tools:
• Yarn in yellow and amber / golden brown
• 2.5mm or 3mm crochet hook
• Stuffing
• Stitch markers
• Scissors
• Yarn needle
• 4.5mm safety eyes (optional)
• Embroidery thread in rose pink (optional)

For the 6 pineapple tart amigurumi I made, I used Scheepjes Catona No.522 Primrose and No.383 Ginger Gold, 1 pair of 4.5mm safety eyes (black) and 1 pair of 5mm safety eyes (black), DMC 25 No.3371 (dark brown) and scraps of Scheepjes Catona No.409 Soft Rose.

Abbreviations (US Terms):
R : round
MR : magic ring
ch : chain
sl st : slip stitch
st(s) : stitch(es)
sc : single crochet
dc : double crochet
dc3tog : double crochet 3 stitches together
inc : increase
dec : decrease / invisible decrease
BLO : back loops only
(...) : a set of pattern instructions
[...] : total number of sts in round/row

Finished Size:
2.5mm hook: approx. 4.2cm in diameter × 2cm in height
3mm hook: approx. 4.5cm in diameter × 2.3cm in height

Pattern Notes & Preparation:
This pattern includes some crochet techniques previously used in my other kueh amigurumi patterns. For ease of reference, the tutorials I referenced in those posts are repeated here:

The 8-lobed flower shape of this amigurumi is formed by working working 3 double crochets into 1 stitch, creating a fan-like shape (similar to the shell stitch), and later double crocheting 3 stitches together (dc3tog), thus creating a fan-like decrease. For how to double crochet 3 stitches together, see this tutorial by We Crochet, or this tutorial (for the dc4tog) with step-by-step pictures by Underground Crafter.

Not mixing, rolling, baking... but hooking, looping, stitcing.... (IG post)

Despite my original intentions, I elected to use the dc3tog side of the work as the front of my amigurumi. My original intention was to have it be the bottom of the amigurumi. However, it turned out looking rather interesting, and the slightly puffy and slanted stitches looked a little decorative...almost like the crimped edge of the actual open faced pineapple tart. However, either side can be used as the front of the amigurumi. If using the side with the dc3tog stitch as the bottom of the amigurumi, work R8 through both loops of R7 instead of the back loops.

In some of my Pastry Base pieces I worked 4 double crochets and dc4tog stitches in R5 and R7 instead of 3. Overall, I still personally prefer the slightly puffier look the dc4tog has over the dc3tog. It resulted in a slightly larger amigurumi (ever so slightly), and I left my pattern as it is, with the 3 double crochets and dc3tog. However, if preferred, the 3 double crochets in R5 can be substituted with 4 double crochets, and the dc3tog in R7 with dc4tog. Just make sure that whatever the number of double crochet stitches worked in R5 is correspondingly double crocheted together in R7, so that the total number of stitches in R7 is the same as R4 (24 sts).


OPEN FACED PINEAPPLE TART

PINEAPPLE JAM

Using amber or golden brown yarn, work in rounds,
R1. MR, 6 sc. [6]
R2. 6 inc. [12]
R3. (1 sc, inc) 6 times. [18]
R4. (2 sc, inc) 6 times. [24]
R5. 24 sc. [24]
Fasten off invisibly, and leave a long tail for sewing.

PASTRY BASE

Using yellow yarn, work in rounds,
R1. MR, 6 sc. [6]
R2. 6 inc. [12]
R3. (1 sc, inc) 6 times. [18]
R4. (2 sc, inc) 6 times. [24]
*R5. (1 dec, 3 dc in the next st) 8 times. [32]
*R6. BLO 32 sc. [32]
*R7. BLO (inc, dc3tog) 8 times. [24]
R8. BLO (2 sc, dec) 6 times. [18]
R9. (1 sc, dec) 6 times. [12]
R10. 6 dec. [6]
Fasten off and weave the tail through the front loops of the 6 sts in R10 and pull to close.
Hide the ends inside the work.
If needed, use the back of the crochet hook to push out the dc3tog sts in R7.

*Pattern Note:
As mentioned above, you can work 4 dc sts in R5 and dc4tog sts in R7. If you choose to do so, the steps are:
R5. (1 dec, 4 dc in the next st) 8 times. [40]
R6. BLO 40 sc. [40]
R7. BLO (inc, dc4tog) 8 times. [24]

TO COMPLETE

1. If adding safety eyes, insert them between R2 and R3 of the Pineapple Jam, about 4~5 apart. Using pink embroidery thread, embroider just below the safety eyes. See the pictures for reference. Instead of safety eyes, you can use embroidery thread to stitch the amigurumi's eyes and/or mouth.

2. Align the Pineapple Jam on top of the Pastry Base. Match up R5 of the Pineapple Jam (24 sts) with the remaining front loops of R7 of the Pastry Base (24 loops). Pin in place.

3. Using the yarn tail of the Pineapple Jam and a yarn needle, attach the Pineapple Jam to the Pastry Base by whip stitching through both loops of the sts in R5 of the Pineapple Jam and the front loops of R7 of the Pastry Base. Avoid stitching through to the bottom of the Pastry Base. Stuff before closing completely. Secure and weave in end.

And it's done! I hope you have as much fun with this as I did.

A week more to the Year of the Tiger! Closer to the date will be the next CNY-themed kueh amigurumi. I promise it screams Chinese New Year even more than the pineapple tart, though it is not as pretty or as colourful. Hint: it is a kueh that is full of symbolism, superstitions and taboos.

* * * * * * *

While I'm happy to share my pattern without charge and would be delighted to see it being used, please note that my pattern is for personal use only; it is not for commercial use, sale or distribution. If you would like to share this pattern, please link to this post. I would love to see the makes from it, so please tag me on Instagram (@yotsuba_blythes). Thank you.

Comments

  1. Are you selling these crocheted tarts ? My friend has a pineapple tart business and it would be nice to feature these cuties. Please email me at sadunicornkandiez@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jeanette. Thanks for stopping by and for your interest. I'm not making these crochet tarts for sale. However, you and your friend are welcome to make some based on my pattern, which I have shared in this post.

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