Liliko’i bars for my sunny husband’s birthday
My wonderful husband just had his fiftieth birthday. I love getting older with him. His loving touch, red beard and deep laugh are some of the things that make my life so rich. He is like living with the sun itself; brilliant, hot, radiant, red and immense.
I wanted to bake him something special for his birthday, other than his favorite carrot cake, of course. Something that is just like him, packed with the energy of the sun and something that reflects my love for him. Passion fruit bars fit the bill perfectly.
My first experience with passion fruit, (aka liliko’i in Hawaiian) was when we first moved to Hawaii. I was walking around this unbelievable tropical garden with the owner and we came across this curious vine with the most exotic, sensual flowers I have ever seen. Stunned, I asked what it was and the gardener’s eyes lit up when she asked, “You’ve never seen a liliko’i before?” I shook my head, wide eyed and curious. She plucked off an egg shaped purple fruit, split it open with a knife and offered it to me. “Suck out the filling.” she encouraged.
I did. I have never been the same since. The flavor is as exotic as the blossoms. It is tart, yet sweet, and completely unforgettable. If you could taste the tropics, this would be the flavor. Once you have some passion fruit, you will always seek it out. It will evoke passion and light you up like the sun. It is easy to see how it got its name.
Since we do not have the tropical weather to grow this sexy fruit, the best way to work with it is to buy 100 % passion fruit puree. Now this is not always easy to find. The best way to get the puree is by special ordering it from Mother Nature’s in Manzanita. It comes in a 2.2 pound frozen container. With the puree at your fingertips, you will have a passionate time finding ways to cook with it.
If you can find fresh passion fruit, good for you, you lucky dog! To make the puree, just scoop out the innards and scrape them through a wire stainer with a rubber spatula, and ta daa! Passion fruit puree.
The original recipe came from Bev Gannon’s cookbook, “The Hali’imaile General Store Cookbook.” I did change the shortbread crust to another one, since I wanted something with a bit lighter texture that melts in your mouth, like warm butter.
These liliko’i bars taste just like the sun would taste if you could bake it up in a bar. Their color also reflects the glorious sun, bright and luminous. If we can’t always have the sun here in the rainy NW, we can at least eat it.
2 cups of flour
2/3 cups of powdered sugar
2/3 cups of butter
6 large farm eggs
2 cups of sugar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of flour
1/1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
2/3 cup of liliko’i puree or passion fruit puree
Powdered sugar for dusting
Drag the sun down and pop it in your oven to heat to 350 degrees. To prepare the crust, whisk the flour and powdered sugar together in a medium bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture anyway you can till it is a nice crumbly texture. (I use my hands!) Pat the crust mixture into a 13 x 9 inch baking pan, making sure to press the crust up the sides of the pan at least halfway. Pop it into the oven to bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges just barely start to brown.
While the crust is conferring with the sun, whisk the 6 eggs into a sunshiny froth. Then whisk in the sugar, one cup at a time. When that is looking well mixed, add the flour and baking powder by sprinkling it over the egg mixture while whisking exuberantly. (You can do this all with an electric mixture too.) Then, at long last, add the taste of the sun, by pouring in the liliko’i puree and mixing well. Pour this luminous filling into the crust and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes till the top is golden brown and when you touch the center it is firm. Allow it to cool completely then set in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up. Cut into 1 inch squares or so, and dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy eating the sun!