I grew up, like the majority of Australians, eating tinned pineapple. I savoured the sweet crispness of the generally chilled fruit but still have memories of the metallic taste of the tin in which it was canned.
Fast forward several decades and fresh pineapple at the supermarket has gone from strength to strength, starting with an initial (practically inedible) tart variety which sent you scrambling back to the tinned ones to the non-acidic unbelievably sweet varieties now available.
All praise to the person who first braved the prickly exterior of this by-product of the plant's pro-creation.
When King of Fruit contacted the Yummers to ask if we would be interested in entering the pineapple challenge and offered to supply the fruit, how could we resist?
The pack consisted of three gorgeously ripe smelling pineapples, some promotional magnets and a hessian bag along with a King of Fruit apron to wear while concocting. Luckily it arrived the week before the long weekend because I had dastardly plans for these pineapples - they were in for a long slow torture!
As soon as I accepted this challenge, I started fantasizing about the perfect pineapple dessert - I didn't want to just use it as a single ingredient, I wanted to prepare it a number of ways but how to seamlessly combine them into a single dish that wouldn't be just a mash-up? The first thing I did was to cut one open and breathe in the heavenly aroma. It dripped juice and was a very pretty gold colour. Then I sampled it in the raw. It was definitely good fresh so I knew I wanted one component to be fresh.
Then, adapting a technique I learned from a chef at Ad Lib Bistro, I used a mandoline to very finely slice a quarter of the first pineapple. I then sifted icing sugar onto a baking-paper lined tray and laid the pineapple in a single layer all across the paper. After sifting some more icing sugar over the top of the pineapple slices, it went into a low oven (50 degrees Celcius) for about 4 hours (until it was crisp) to make pineapple bark.
Not wanting to waste the ends which I had sliced off, I sprinkled caster sugar on another baking-paper lined tray, put single slices on this and following another sprinkling of caster sugar, this also went into the oven. After 6 hours in the oven, I had crystallised pineapple plates.
With all that slow cooking, there was plenty of time to think about the actual dish I was going to create. I knew I wanted to make something textural but I also knew that something like puff pastry was not going to be a good match for the moistness of the pineapple.
Those who have been reading my blogs will know that I have been experimenting with cookie recipes and brainstorming with S at work led me to using an adaptation of my Earl Grey Tea Biscuit recipe, substituting ginger (both powdered and crystallised) for the Earl Grey Tea Leaves. This provided me with a dough that I knew I could roll out relatively thinly but would bake up nice and crisp and contain the juice of the fresh pineapple for at least as long as it took to photograph and eat the dessert! Being a "refrigerator cookie", you can make up the dough in advance and freeze then thaw it or keep it in the fridge for up to a month and bring it to room temperature before rolling it out to use so you can make as few or as many cases as you need or if you don't think you'll make the recipe again, cut the remaining dough out with a cookie cutter and you have ginger biscuits! Versatile!
To further slow the absorption of the juice into the biscuit case and to add a layer of flavour, I decided to make a burnt buttery caramel, firm enough to support the weight of the filling but soft enough to dissolve quickly on the tongue.
Next I wanted to concentrate the wonderful pineapple flavour so I cooked half a sliced up pineapple with caster sugar to make a pineapple coulis.
After passing the cooled mixture through a sieve, the pulp still tasted good so I spread it out thinly on another baking paper lined tray and after about 3 hours in the cool oven, ended up with pineapple leather! While I didn't end up using it in the dish, this part didn't go to waste!
To assemble the dish, I spooned finely sliced fresh pineapple on top of the caramel. It wasn't to combat any non-existent stringyness, I just liked the idea of a delicate dessert that could be easily cut through with a fork.
To counteract the sweetness, I piped on whipped cream flavoured with vanilla, icing sugar and dark rum (which I could have happily eaten with a bowl of the fresh pineapple!) then topped it all with slivers of the pineapple bark.
For the final plating, I smeared a spoonful of the pineapple coulis on a plate, placed the pineapple plate on top followed by the filled tartlet and scattered some more pineapple bark on the plate. I've entered this into the King of Fruit - King's Banquet Competition but judge for yourself and let me know what you think!