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Passion Fruit (Lilikoi) Chiffon Pie

I think I fell in love with passion fruit before I even tasted it. I say this because when I did finally eat some, mingled with papaya, I felt as if I were reliving a forgotten moment from the past: the tang, the seeds, the color, the absolutely unique flavor and aroma, all seemed like long-lost friends.

Has a déjà-vu moment like this ever happened to you?

Ever since that first taste I’ve been hooked on everything passion fruit, including mustards, barbecue sauces, syrups, salad dressings, jellies, ice cream, martinis, and more.

When in Hawaii, I hound farmers markets in my search for lilikoi, what the Hawaiians call passion fruit. These thick-shelled fruits may be yellow, green, or even reddish-brown in color. They may be smooth-skinned or all wrinkled and puckery. Makes no difference. When you cut into one you’ll see lots of small black seeds surrounded by a bright orange pulp The seeds are edible and lend a pleasant crunch.

For breakfast, I scoop the seeds out of a cut papaya, dice some fresh pineapple and banana, and mix the fruits with the innards of a passion fruit. I squeeze lime juice onto the papaya halves and pile the fruit into their cavities.

For desserts and sauces, I need just the passion fruit juice without the seeds. I’ll scrape the seeds and pulp from 12 or so lilikoi into a blender jar and blend for 15 to 30 seconds to separate the seeds from the orange pulp. I pass the seeds and pulp (now liquefied into a juice) through a fine strainer and that’s it. I have a supply of passion fruit juice that I can either use right away, refrigerate for a day or two, or freeze to use in the future.

What if you don’t have access to fresh passion fruit? Aunty Lilikoi to the rescue! Located on Kaua’i, Aunty Lilikoi will ship her products to you. A 10-ounce bottle of passion fruit juice costs $8.00 That’s about 1 1/4 cups. You use it straight from the bottle. Freeze what you don’t use and it’ll be ready when you’re ready for it. Here’s the link to aunty Lilikoi’s Passion fruit Juice: http://bit.ly/2lRikPi

I like light and creamy pies that pack a lot of flavor, and Passion Fruit Chiffon Pie is something I make often both in Hawaii and when I’m at home in Montana. Chiffon pies get their lightness from whipped egg whites and heavy cream. Gelatin, just enough to set the filling, gives the pie structure.

Fully bake a crust for a 9-inch pie. Just use a favorite recipe of yours. Make the filling, and you’re set for a terrific tropical treat.

Here’s the fresh passion fruit juice free of seeds.

Once you have the juice, stir in the gelatin and just leave it alone for now. It’ll look like a lumpy mess.

To make the custard, whip the egg yolks with sugar until the yolks are very thick and pale and form a ribbon when they drop from the beater. The yolk ribbon will merge in a few seconds into the yolky mass. Gradually beat in the hot milk and transfer the custard liquid into a medium saucepan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until the custard thickens slightly into a medium-thin sauce (a creme anglaise). Watch this step carefully. The sauce must not boil or the yolks will curdle. If you have an instant-read thermometer, the temperature of the custard should be between 175 and 180 degrees F. When the sauce is ready, it should film the surface of the spatula. Take the pan off heat and immediately scrape in the lilikoi-gelatin combo. Stir well until the gelatin has dissolved completely.

Set the pan into an ice water bath and stir with the spatula only until the custard feels tepid to the touch. No longer! Remove the custard from the ice water and set it aside for the time being.

Whip the whites with sugar as the recipe directs until the whites are thick and billowy like marshmallow cream and form stiff peaks that curl at their tips.

Now return the tepid custard/lilikoi/gelatin to the ice bath and stir and fold with the rubber spatula until the custard takes on a chill and begins to look pudding-like. Remove the pan from the ice bath.

Add a large spoonful or two of the beaten whites to the chilled lilikoi custard and fold the two together. Add to the remaining whites and fold together thoroughly. Fold in the whipped cream.

The passion fruit chiffon filling ready to be put into the fully-baked pie shell.

I made this piecrust with a combination of butter and cold, solid coconut oil. The proportions I used: 150 gm unbleached all-purpose flour (5 1/4 ounces), 1/4 teaspoon salt, 4 ounces cold unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cold coconut oil, about 4 tablespoons ice water to bind the pastry together. You know the drill. Form the dough into a disk, enclose in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour or so.

Passion fruit chiffon pie with two servings removed.

A serving of Passion Fruit Chiffon Pie. You could serve it with some whipped cream and/or berries, but I like it just as it is.

Passion Fruit Chiffon Pie

Fully baked 9-inch piecrust

Passion fruit (Lilikoi) Filling

½ cup + 1 tablespoon unsweetened lilikoi juice

1 envelope Knox unflavored gelatin

4 large eggs, separated

2/3 cup + ½ cup granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

½ cup whole milk heated to boiling

½ cup chilled heavy cream

  1. Stir the lilikoi juice and gelatin together in a cup and leave it alone while you make the custard. The juice may get clumpy looking, but we’ll fix that later.
  2. In a medium bowl, whip the egg yolks for a minute or two on medium speed until they just begin to thicken. While beating on medium speed, gradually add 2/3 cup sugar. Just sprinkle it in as you’re beating the yolks. If you add the sugar all at once the yolks might turn granular and you’d have to start all over again.
  3. After all the sugar has been added, beat for 2 to 3 minutes more until the yolks have increased in volume and are very thick and pale, almost white. When you stop the machine and raise the beater, the yolks clinging to the beater will fall onto the yolks in the bowl and gradually merge together. Bakers say the yolks “form the ribbon.” Beat in the salt. On low speed, very gradually—not too fast or the yolks might scramble—add the hot milk, beating until smooth.
  4. Scrape the yolks into a heavy medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until the yolks thicken enough to film the spatula. Take the pan off the heat occasionally to prevent overcooking. You’ll see steam rising from the surface of the yolks as they thicken into a custard sauce. The temperature of the yolks will be between 175 and 180 degrees F. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and scrape in the lilikoi juice and gelatin. Stir for a minute or two off heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Taste to make sure you can’t feel any gelatin granules.
  5. Set the saucepan into an ice bath and stir constantly and gently until the custard feels just tepid to the touch. Do not chill the custard so that it sets. You just want to take the chill off. Remove the saucepan from the ice bath.
  6. In a clean bowl with clean beaters, whip the egg whites on medium speed until the beater leaves traces in the whites and the whites form soft peaks. Add the remaining ½ cup sugar to the whites about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating on medium speed and waiting about 10 seconds between additions. Raise the speed to medium high and continue beating until the whites are billowy and resemble marshmallow cream. There should be peaks that hold their shape and curl softly at their tips.
  7. In a small chilled bowl, whip the chilled cream until it holds a soft shape, not until stiff.
  8. To complete the pie filling, replace the saucepan with the custard into the ice bath and stir gently and continuously with the rubber spatula going all around the sides and scraping the bottom. As soon as the custard takes on a pudding-like consistency remove the pan from the ice bath.
  9. Add a large spoonful of the beaten whites to the lilikoi custard and fold it in gently. Pour the custard over the remaining whites and fold until no whites show. Scrape the whipped cream onto the whites and fold together thoroughly. The chiffon filling is done.
  10. Spoon the filling into the prepared pie shell, mounding it in the center, and place the pie in the refrigerator. Chill several hours or overnight before serving. Cut into portions with a sharp knife.

NOTE: If your filling is too soft to mound in the pie shell, pour most of it into the shell and refrigerate about 15 minutes until set. Then spoon the remaining filling (which you’ve kept at room temperature) onto the center of the pie, mounding it slightly. Refrigerate.

Serve plain or with berries and more whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings.

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