Do you ever discover a new way of cooking a familiar ingredient, only to become completely obsessed by it? That’s what’s happening with pineapple in my kitchen at the moment.
I thought that nothing could beat the deliciousness of a slice of tart, sweet, juicy pineapple cut straight off the fruit, eaten unadulterated. But then I cut up some pineapple and put it in a pan with hot butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla, and my life hasn’t been the same since.
Once you start caramelizing pineapple, a whole new avenue of possibilities opens up. No longer the simple preserve of the exotic fruit salad, pineapple is your passport to a series of delectable desserts. Its incredible juiciness holds up to treatment in a hot pan, its flavour only intensifying, while taking on an amazing toffee/caramel note. It works in both sweet and savoury dishes, too – one of my favourite quick dinners is a bowl of rice noodles served with pineapple that has been cooked with ginger, chilli and garlic and then caramelized in a mixture of soy sauce, fish sauce and brown sugar. A scattering of toasted peanuts, and you have the most incredible mixture of sweet/sour/salty/nutty flavours.
But, in the interests of desserts being infinitely more sexy than anything involving fish sauce, my recipe today lies firmly in that realm. Here, chunks of intensely sweet, sticky pineapple are spiced with warming cinnamon and the slightest grind of black pepper (sounds odd, but trust me – it’s also great with strawberries). They are then partially enclosed within buttery sweet pastry to form a galette. A galette is a sort of rustic, freeform tart that doesn’t require a tin. It is absolutely the easiest thing in the world to do with pastry, and lends itself to all sorts of sweet and savoury recipes. No faffing about with tins or blind baking – you simply put fruit on the pastry and fold the edges up around it, like tucking it into bed. I love galettes because they look incredibly impressive, yet are anything but.
This is the perfect recipe if you’re a bit pressed for time, especially if you buy shop-bought pastry or make your own in advance. All you’re required to do is cook a bit of pineapple, roll some pastry, then let the oven do the work. The crumbly pastry is a delicious contrast to the sugary, spiced sweetness of the fruit, and it will surprise and delight those poor souls who have never had caramelized pineapple in a dessert before. Cold, cold vanilla ice cream is absolutely essential for serving this, I would say. Enjoy!
For the pastry:
For the filling:
First, make the pastry. In a food processor, blitz the butter, flour, salt and sugar until it resembles fine breadcrumbs – don’t overblend it. If you don’t have a processor, rub the butter into the flour using your fingers. Add the water, a little at a time, until the mixture just starts to come together – you barely need any water, and don’t want it to be soggy.
Tip the mixture out onto a floured work surface and shape into a ball, then wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least half an hour.
For the filling, prepare the pineapple – remove the skin and woody core, then cut into small thin chunks. Heat the butter and molasses sugar in a frying pan until it starts to bubble, then add the pineapple, cinnamon and black pepper. Cook over a fairly high heat for 5-10 minutes, until the fruit has reduced slightly and started to caramelize. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, then leave to cool.
Pre-heat the oven to 170C. On a floured surface, roll the pastry out into a rough circle shape about 5mm thick. Transfer this to a non-stick baking sheet, or a baking sheet lined with non-stick parchment. Arrange the pineapple in the centre of the circle, then fold the edges of the pastry up to half-enclose it, pinching any edges or cracks together.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden. Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar, with vanilla ice cream.