When he returned from his first business trip to Taiwan, Hubby raved about the food there. He described at length the flavorful fried rice, the toothsome noodles which were always freshly made, and the spicy, aromatic soups. He told me about the pristine sushi and the enormous shrimp. He talked about the abundance of cheap luscious tropical fruit. There was this juicy sweet and sour fruit he bought for three for a dollar from a friendly vendor on the street. He said he’d never had anything like it before. My husband is not a man of many words, but this tropical fruit he went on and on about—if there was such a thing as nectar and ambrosia, this was it.
He informed me as he unpacked his suitcase that he had managed to smuggle one home. He wanted me to be able to try this wonderful exotic fruit. With a broad smile on his face, he held out the shriveled black specimen.
“That’s a passion fruit,” I said with that funny feeling you get when something you know to be an irrefutable fact is suddenly called into question. You see, after eight years of marriage it’s not unusual to feel like you and your partner share a single brain and that everything you know he knows. So it seemed incomprehensible to me to think my husband didn’t know what a passion fruit was. “It’s a passion fruit, right?” I repeated, this time speaking mostly to myself. And despite all my years in food and cooking, for a split second it somehow seemed more likely that it really was some strange tropical fruit previously unheard of in the United States. Those eight years of marriage flashed through my head, and I realized why he thought it was something completely new—I had never introduced him to it before. Denying my husband passion fruit all those years? What a failure on my part.
I’m going to blame it all on the price of passion fruits. At three or four dollars a pop, I never considered bringing them home to play with. But with my husband’s newfound love of passion fruits, I would have to make up for lost time with a steady stream of passion fruit baked goods.
Luckily, to make passion fruit goodies you don’t need cases and cases of the expensive and hard-to-find fruit. You simply need a tub of relatively affordable Les Vergers Boiron frozen passion fruit puree. It’s 100% pure passion fruit pulp with no added sugar that's every bit as good as freshly made passion fruit puree. The fact that you don’t have to spend time processing the seedy fruit is a bit of a plus too. You just stash the tub in the freezer and saw off what you need (it’s easy to do safely with a serrated paring knife) whenever the inspiration to create a passion fruit treat strikes. Frozen passion fruit puree—it’s a must-have ingredient. (In case you’re wondering, I get mine from Provvista, a local wholesaler of specialty foods.)
Now here’s a must-have recipe to use it in.
Passion Fruit-Coconut Bars
For the shortbread crust:
6 ounces (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, shredded, plus more for greasing the baking dish
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup shredded coconut
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
For the passion fruit-coconut layer:
4 large eggs
¼ cup coconut milk
6 ounces passion fruit puree
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Make the shortbread crust:
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish and line with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, coconut, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and, using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Transfer the dough to the baking dish and press into an even layer. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Make the passion fruit-coconut layer:
Blend together the eggs, coconut milk, and passion fruit puree in a small bowl. Whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt in a large bowl. Add the passion fruit mixture to the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour over the shortbread and bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until just set. Let cool to room temperature.
Using the parchment paper, lift the bars out of the pan and transfer them to a cutting board. Dust with plenty of powdered sugar, cut into portions, and serve.
Makes 12 large bars. If frozen passion fruit puree is unavailable, you will need about 12 fresh passion fruits for this recipe. When buying passion fruits, look for fruit that's shrinkled—that's my word for shrunken and wrinkled—and trust me when I say there's no better way to describe a ripe passion fruit. To make passion fruit puree, halve the passion fruits, scoop out the flesh using a spoon, and strain it through a fine mesh sieve. For a professional-looking presentation, cut the bars using a hot knife and wipe it clean between cuts. Bars keeps for a couple of days tightly sealed in the refrigerator.