Pineapple is one of those marvellous fruits which is always welcome in my home. In fact, it’s one fruit that every single member of my family adores, which means that any purchases of the fruit have to be in bulk or not at all in case there isn’t enough to go around…
However, my usual passion for pineapple was changed to puzzlement when I received 6 big, glorious fruits from The King of Fruit growers (geddit? Cuz pineapple has a crown, right? AH-HAHAHAHAHAHahahaha…yeah. Well *I* thought it was cute!)
You see, they’re currently holding a recipe competition to all pineapple lovers (bloggers and non-bloggers alike), and the challenge was to create a dish using the regal pineapple as one of its components.
My first attempt was a caramelized pineapple mille feuille. I say ‘attempt’, to be honest, it tasted fabulous, but unfortunately the way it had been assembled made it look like a bit of a dog’s breakfast and, as anyone who’s read this blog for awhile may know, I’m not a huge fan of putting any recipes into the ether unless I have photos that convey their tastiness.
That recipe was benched till I have a chance to recreate it in a way that will be aesthetically pleasing, but it still left me without a recipe to put up. As well as a dwindling supply of pineapples (I did mention above that they’re adored by the entire family, right?).
Flipping through my various cookbooks for inspiration, I suddenly remembered an instructional page I’d seen on Martha Stewart’s website for ‘dried pineapple flowers‘, and having made dried banana and strawberry chips before, I thought I’d be able to use the pineapple to make little baskets in lieu of pastry to make tiny little petit-four type desserts!
One thing you need to bear in mind when working with pineapples is that they do not ripen once they’ve been cut from the plant. This means that you need to be very careful when picking your fruit from the grocery store.
And how exactly do you pick a ripe pineapple?
The first step is to gently tug at one of the inner leaves of its crown. If it comes away easily, then it’s a good sign that you’ve got a pretty ripe pineapple on your hands.
However, I’m seeing more and more pineapples sold without their crowns (I guess this makes packing easier, though I think it’s a damn shame), so what do you do if there are no leaves to tug?
Easy – simply flip the fruit upside down and take a sniff at the underside, from where the fruit was cut from the plant. You should be able to smell some sweetness from the bottom (bearing in mind that the more ripe the fruit, the sweeter the smell).
However, this doesn’t come without some perils.
What I’m saying, is that if people start avoiding you and giving you weird glances for being a strange fruit sniffer, don’t blame me!
Once you’ve selected and brought your pineapple home, there’s still the trauma of having to prepare it for either cooking or straight eating.
If you’ve ever purchased a fresh pineapple, you’ll be familiar with the pangs of agony felt as you cut away the outer skin, watching the flesh being cut away by your own hands and knowing that there is no other way.
But the amount of flesh lost depends entirely on how lazy you are. If you’re feeling completely and utterly lazy, you can just cut away all the flesh that has any part of the eyes attached, but if you do this in strips then this means that you’ll lose about 50% of the actual fruit…
However, if you’re willing to put in just a little more effort, you can cut away just enough of the skin so that flesh doesn’t have any of the leatheriness left. Once this is done, use the tip of a sharp knife to cut out each eye (and part thereof) which is left.
Sure, it’s time consuming and tedious, but this means you’ll have much more of the bounty to consume rather than send to the compost heap or garbage tip!
Plus, it also means that you’ll be able to have even larger slices for the recipe below
Dried Pineapple Baskets
1/2 large pineapple, prepared as above (skin & eyes removed)
100g caster sugar
250mL double cream
1/2 vanilla pod
3-4 fresh passionfruit
Fresh mint leaves or toasted coconut, to serve
1. The first step is undoubtedly the hardest of the entire recipe. This involves slicing the fresh pineapple as thin as possible – my slices were less than 1mm, about as thick as sheet of laminate. And I was hand slicing with a sharp knife! If you have a good quality mandolin then this would definitely help!
2. Set the pineapple slices aside, then combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer till the sugar has completely dissolved. Carefully dip each pineapple slice into the sugar syrup, then drain and place on a lined baking tray. Preheat the oven to 110 degrees C, then bake the slices for 3-4 hours or till the top is completely dry to the touch. Once they are dry on top, use a spatula to carefully flip them over and bake for another 20 – 30 minutes.
3. Working quickly, remove the dried pineapple slices from the oven and carefully push into the holes of a mini muffin tray. They do cool and harden very quickly, so if some of them harden before you can shape them, just set them aside to use as decorations for another dessert or pop them back into the oven for 5 minutes to soften up again. Once the pineapple slices have completely cooled and hardened, carefully remove and place on a plate.
You can see above that I actually reserved half my pineapple to use as decorations. But you’re gonna have to wait and see what for in a future post 😉
4. Scrape the vanilla bean pod into the cream, then whip till you get firm peaks. The pineapple is actually very sweet so I found that it was unecessary to sweeten the cream with any sugar (thereby making it chantilly cream) but if you would prefer this then please go ahead!
5. Place a teaspoon of the whipped cream into each dried pineapple ‘basket’, then top with the fresh passionfruit and mint leaves or toasted coconut and serve immediately!
These dried pineapple baskets do work best if your slices of pineapple are paper thin. The thicker the slices, the longer they’ll take to dry and the more difficult they will be to eat. If you’re slicing by hand and not sure about how great your knife skills are, then slice up a whole pineapple – the thinner slices can be dried as above, and the thicker slices can be eaten as is or tossed onto some natural yoghurt!
Guys, I just wanted to say THANK YOU!
I am completely gobsmacked. Overwhelmed. Stunned. Joyous.
Thanks to your love, support, (and most importantly) votes, I WON MY ROUND OF THE MUSHROOM MASTERS!
A resounding victory with 53% of the vote, I have you to thank for winning my round of this competition. Couldn’t have done it without you!
I swear, I think my tiny shriveled little heart did pirouettes of joy in my chest cavity when the polls were closed and I was informed of the win!
It’s not yet over! You see, this is week three of the tournament, and this week the lovely Christie from Fig & Cherry has entered her fabulous shiitake okonomiyaki into the ring, battling against dumpling soup and pizza.
The voting is very much neck and neck at the moment, with Christie in second place by just 3%! It takes just two clicks from you, my darling, lovely, wonderful readers – two clicks to help push her back into the lead!
If you’d like to help her collect the trophy for the third round, please click this link and vote #1 shiitake okonomiyaki!