Pineapple blooms

This article was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 26, 2014. 

Producing picture-perfect pineapple tarts requires an "eagle eye".

That is Ms Ginny Chan's top tip as she patiently stirs her pineapple jam, her eyes never leaving the pan for fear that something burns.

Every Chinese New Year, the 52-year-old executive assistant to the president of an American multinational corporation bakes her special Blossom Pineapple Tarts in small batches to give friends and family.

Her twist on the tarts is using Dutch edam cheese in the recipe, which is a hybrid of various pineapple tart recipes culled from the Internet. Each tart sits in a mini cupcake case so that it looks like a little cherry blossom.

She says: "To bring out the cheese flavour in the tarts, I do not put cinnamon and cloves in the jam. Some people also add butter, lemon juice or corn flour to thicken the jam, but I just want the pure grated pineapple.

"If you blend the pineapple, the texture will be smoother. Grated pineapple gives a better bite," adds the bubbly baker, who has two children aged 27 and 29.

Her husband Richard Lim, a retired manager and part-time taxi driver, is her handy assistant in the kitchen and her "biggest critic".

Mr Lim, 57, says: "Of course I will tell her if something is too hard, too soft or too sweet. I don't cook - I eat."

To ensure that the pastry is of equal height, Ms Chan recommends placing two chopsticks of the same height on either side of the dough and using the rolling pin on top.

Not only are the tarts prepared with tender loving care, but they are also packed with great attention to detail - think gold tape, special Chinese New Year ribbons and stickers as well as a Chinese knot button.

To glam up her pineapple tarts, the baking enthusiast brushes them with edible gold glitter which she uses for her sugar art cake decorations.

Her latest kitchen project is baking artisan bread, which she learnt at baking school Bakerz@Work in MacPherson.

Some of her signature items are a moist chocolate cake with cherries, shepherd's pie and sticky ribs cooked in Coca-Cola or plum sauce. Ms Chan adds that she is still perfecting the art of making bao.

She shares her passion with other fellow bakers on the Internet and is a member of various online foodie communities.

She enthuses: "Last time, people would be scared to share their family recipes. But it is through sharing such knowledge with others that helps you learn.

"It's amazing how joining these groups has helped me in my baking because people are so willing to share. I can ask a question and get many responses immediately."