Thursday, July 19, 2012
Pineapple Macapuno Pockets
I remember back in pastry school, we had this thing called "Mystery Basket Fridays." Basically, you walk into the kitchen and at your table, you'll find a tray of ingredients randomly selected by the chef. Your assignment for that day was to create a dessert using all the ingredients given to you. It's kind of nerve-racking actually. I remember the first time we had one, I was absolutely petrified. All these thoughts start racing through my head. "I've never made anything with this before! What am I gonna do? How should I use this? Uh...should I put it in the dessert or use it as a sauce? How should I plate this? What if I don't finish? What if the chef hates it?!?! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!"
I was so stressed out I don't even remember what I made that day. I was just glad I finished! And I'm pretty sure I was the last one to plate up because I was second guessing and fussing over everything right up to the very end. I was sweating like crazy when the chef walked over and looked at my dessert. "Good presentation. Nice dessert. Well done Rianne." And that was it. He moved on to the next student to critique his dessert. Whew! Okay, that wasn't so bad. By the end of the school year, I actually started to like Mystery Basket Fridays. It gave me a chance to challenge myself and gave me the courage to think outside the box. And most of all, it allowed me to just let loose and be creative.
Well, it seems like those Mystery Basket Fridays are still here today. There have been many times when I've had to improvise on a dessert because I didn't have all the ingredients I needed or I had to use whatever I had in the fridge or pantry to make a last-minute dessert for unexpected guests. It's kinda fun to see what I can come up with on a whim. Sometimes I put things together and it works. Sometimes it ends up in the trash. But hey, at least I can say I tried.
On one particular day, my friend Maggie came over just to hang out and, as usual, we start talking about desserts. Now, when Maggie and I start talking about desserts, it usually leads to one of us saying, "Let's make something right now!," and we both get excited. So with no idea what we want to make, I quickly grabbed the first things that caught my eye in the pantry: a can of crushed pineapple and a jar of macapuno strings (a type of coconut found in the Philippines). "Ooooh, we can make something like a buko piña (coconut and pineapple) pie!," I said. And in unison we squealed, "YAY!" Yeah, when Maggie and I get together it's pretty ridiculous how goofy we get. We're like the two little kids playing in the kitchen when Mom and Dad aren't looking.
I started mixing together the crushed pineapple and macapuno strings in a saucepan to make the filling. After I added some cornstarch and a little bit of salt, I tasted it and was immediately delighted by how beautifully the two flavors came together. The mildly sweet macapuno strings really softened the tartness of the crushed pineapple. I handed over a spoonful to Maggie and her eyes popped opened. "Oh goony-goo-goo, this is sooo good!" With a reaction like that, it looks like we're off to a good start.
Now all I need to do is make the pie dough. But while I was gathering all the ingredients, I found some flour tortillas in the fridge. Hmmm...maybe I can use them instead of making pie dough. I remember using them in place of puff pastry once and they worked fine. Oh well, let's give it a try. So I cut the flour tortillas in half, put the filling inside and deep fried them.
Hello! These pineapple macapuno pockets are, as Maggie would say it, oh my goony-goo-gooooo! The thin flour tortilla is just the right amount of crust to hold in all the luscious filling inside. With each bite, I was falling deeper and deeper in love with this little pocket of tropical heaven. Maggie and I polished off a few of these before we decided to share them. They were a teeny tiny bit addictive, I think.
If you'd like to try this recipe but don't have all the ingredients, experiment with what you have in your fridge or pantry. Have a Mystery Basket Friday of your own. Oh by the way, since Friday is coming up, I wanna know what you've made with random ingredients. Have you ever made a last minute dessert with whatever you had in your kitchen? Please share your story and a recipe link so we can all try it out :-)
Pineapple Macapuno Pockets
Makes 2 dozen
Allergy note: contains wheat ingredients
1 can (20oz.) crushed pineapple
1 jar (12 oz.) macapuno strings*
2 Tbs. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
12 whole wheat flour tortillas
6 Tbs. all-purpose flour
4 Tbs. water
powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)
* Macapuno strings are usually sold in Filipino supermarkets. You can also buy it from online stores like Amazon. But if you can't find macapuno, you can substitute with a 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut plus 1/2 cup water.
In a medium saucepan, combine crushed pineapple, macapuno, cornstarch and salt. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer till mixture thickens. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, mix together flour and water. Using a knife or a pizza cutter, cut whole wheat tortillas in half. Spoon about a tablespoon of filling in the middle of each tortilla piece. Brush the flour and water mixture on one side and the bottom edge of the tortilla. Fold over one side of the tortilla (the unbrushed side first) then the other side. Gently press to seal the the edges. Repeat the process until all the flour tortillas are filled.
Heat oil in a skillet or deep fryer to 375 F degrees. (Tip: to test if the oil is hot enough, drop a small piece of tortilla into the oil. If it starts bubbling quickly, then the oil is hot enough. If it bubbles slowly, the oil isn't hot enough) Cook the prepared pockets for about 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the cooked pineapple macapuno pockets onto a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve.