Pineapple Creams

pineapple cream I am obsessed with Northern Irish traybakes and home baking. I’m obviously having some kind of childhood regression, homesickness or strong desire to bring such delicacies to a wider primarily English audience.  Basically it makes sad that there are people have never eaten a fifteen or a top hat until now.

However having introduced several friends and readers to these entry level traybakes and got them hooked on the sugary delights of Norn Irish cuisine, I’ve been leafing through some prized local cookbooks to look for more niche items to feed to them.

Often these books are collected by a local church, parish or community organisation like the WI and while it’s tempting to giggle at the old fashioned recipes involving tinned fruit juice or glace cherries, these pamphlets and books have grown ever more fascinating to me as I’ve been working on Recipes from Brixton Village. Both capture a certain place and community in its time and introduce you to people’s lives through food, conversation and friendliness.

Books like this are a snaphot in time, a glance at history, fashions and people’s celebrations. They tell you as much as family albums and concentrate on home cooking rather than restaurant trends. They welcome you into their community and wider family and they appeal me to much more than the TV tie in cookbooks of recent years, leaving you feeling like you know something about the person who made the food as well as the dish itself.

I think people will enjoy dipping into Recipes from Brixton Village and feeling like they are getting to know the traders through the recipes and Kaylene Alder’s illustrations as much as I enjoy flipping through The Belfast Cook Book by Margaret Bates and seeing the environment my extended family were raised and lived in. I’ve learned things about my Protestant background in Belfast and mid Ulster from the church and WI books I’ve collected recently that I never noticed as a child (mainly that the traybake is a distinctly Prod way of eating…) Food is a very effective way to communicate no matter where you come from.

A recipe that just leapt out at me on this traybake inspired cookbook meandering was the now somewhat unfashionable pineapple cream. A small pastry tart case filled with crushed pineapple and whipped cream before being topped with pineapple water icing, these were a real favourite of me and my granny when I was wee. Trips into Lurgan town centre on market day weren’t complete without two of these in their little foil cases from one of the fantastic (and sorely missed) home bakeries every Northern Irish town centre had in those days.

Shelves at places like O’Hara’s, McErleans, Jeffers or Kennedy’s groaned with baps, farls, pan loaves,  gravy rings and sweet buns, biscuits and tarts. You couldn’t miss the pineapple creams with their vivid yellow toppings and we brought two home in a white paper bag to be eaten with a cuppa at the kitchen table. Strangely I don’t remember eating them with anyone’s else except her and I’ve certainly never heard of anyone making them at home, so it seemed time to try both.

Pineapple Creams (makes one 9″ tart or 12 small tarts)

  • 400g shortcrust pastry (not sweetened)
  • 2 x 425g cans pineapple chunks or crushed pineapple, juiced reserved
  • 400ml double cream
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 100ml boiling pineapple juice
  • pinch of yellow food powder or liquid colouring

I have to admit that I used shopbought pastry for this pineapple cream tart because my homemade stuff shrinks like wool on a boil wash and while I’m trying to work out what I’m doing wrong, I rolled out some commercial shortcrust instead. If you are more pastry proficient than me, this Dan Lepard recipe for pastry is a good basis.

Line a 9″ tart tin or a 12 whole small tart or bun tray and chill the pastry for about 30 minutes before blind baking for 25 minutes on 200°C. Remove the lining and baking beans after this and bake naked for another 5-7 minutes to give a golden finish. Allow the pastry to cool completely.

Drain the pineapple chunks and reserve the juice. These pineapple creams always used crushed pineapple with its soft almost sticky texture but this is much harder to get these days than it used to be. Del Monte sell it or you can simply crush your chunks with a potato masher. Drain off any excess juice after this and layer the pineapple into the tart tin.

Whip the cream and spread it over the pineapple evenly. Smooth the top down as much as possible with a spatula or a palette knife.

Pour the reserved pineapple juice into a saucepan and bring to the boil, adding the food colouring now if using the liquid version. Tip the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the pinch of yellow food powder if using. Pour the hot pineapple juice into a measuring jug and add about 25mls at a time, whisking well. 100ml will give you a loose but not pourable texture, but you might want a drop or two more if it is too stiff to spread. It should be a soft yellow colour rather than looking like the background of a smiley face.

Use a spoon to pour the icing over the cream. It should be thick enough to obscure the cream completely. Allow the icing to set for at least 1 hour before serving. The pineapple will begin to leech its juice after a few hours and the pastry will become sticky and a little difficult to cut in a large tart. No one will notice when they are eating it but don’t make it too far in advance. Serve with tea and a certain amount of nostalgia.


PS: Recipes from Brixton Village is available from May 22nd. Free P&P at the Kitchen Press website on orders!

13 replies
  1. Stephanie (foggyknitter)
    Stephanie (foggyknitter) says:

    I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but New Zealand has a similar baking obsession (my mum’s from there) and history, so we have a selection of books going back to the 1940s with the most fantastic baking recipes (the salads I’m not so hot on, I’m never mixing mayonnaise and banana and that’s flat), and I love trawling through them. Traybakes are important to these recipes too. This lady has done two books about the NZ baking tradition, from little cookbooks produced from WIs and church fundraising etc. I’d love a chance to read through her collection of books. I should write a post about it sometime I guess (writing a post about anything might be a start atm)

  2. Lyn
    Lyn says:

    My pastry used to shrink. It drove me mad. I was fanatical about not overworking it – the usual suggestion – to no avail. Turned out I was making it too wet. Once I started making it drier than felt natural to me as a bread maker since 12, it all came right.

  3. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Stephanie: I am going to sit down with a cuppa and something home baked and devour that site. Must ask my NZ friends to scour the jumbles and church sales for books like this. I won’t eat the salads, but I do love the idea of reading about them!

    Corina: so retro! And all the better for it. I resisted the urge to take a snap of it with the pineapple ice bucket in the background to really go retro!

  4. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Alicia: never knew the Scots did them too. They are really good although I am a massive fan of tinned pineapple generally! Have all kinds of plans now I’ve discovered you can still get crushed pineapple…

  5. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Lyn: I suspect this might be my problem, especially because if it’s a bit wet you tend to overwork it as well. I just need to practise more too I think. An afternoon of lots of batches!

  6. Allie J
    Allie J says:

    Stephanie, yes, I completely agree about the similar NZ baking obsession (I’m a kiwi, married to a Northern Irishman)! I think a lot of our NZ sweet treats are the offspring of some of these Northern Irish creations…lolly cake, for example.
    And Miss South, what a mouth-watering description of all the bakery goods! I was rather confused the first time I heard of a ‘gravy ring’ being for sale along with the cakes I must admit, but now I understand!

  7. David Kelly
    David Kelly says:

    I never used to like these as kid (it was the combination of the fruit & cream I didn’t like) but my adult tastes are very different now 🙂
    Popping down to the local home bakery is always one of the first excursions I make when I get back home to Belfast. For me it’s the Norn Irish parody of being a kid in sweetshop: millionaire shortbread, fifteens, potato bread, plain soda / wheaten farls, fruit soda, treacle soda, Paris buns, a plethora of scone types, snowballs, custards and gravy rings.
    Gravy rings! Wow, that’s a real blast from past word I haven’t heard for ages – a true Norn Iron colloquialism as I found out when I was a kid and asked for one in a bakery in Dumfries. The quizzical, confused look from the woman behind the counter when using that word had me bewildered as to why she didn’t understand what I wanted.

  8. Linda
    Linda says:

    My nephew who now works in London was hankering after these recently. I remember them as being very sweet with buttercream. I may try your fresh cream version, or combine a homemade pineapple jam with a pineapple and lime mascarpone/buttercream filling, and then use your pineapple icing.
    I will cheat even more than you with the pastry, and buy some good min cases from marks and spencer.

    great to discover our unique history of food in NI: so much more than soda bread and potatoes etc

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