Illustration for article titled These fruit bars will kindle your passion for all things tropical
Photo: Stacey Ballis, Graphic: Allison Corr

It’s the dead of winter, and most of the fun holidays are behind us—but there’s still months of cold and slush to get through. So we’d like to welcome you to Tropical Staycation, a week of island-inspired recipes and other stories that will transport you to much warmer, sunnier places. Just don’t look out the window while reading.

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I am not a tropical girl. I prefer a walk on a cobblestone street to a white sand beach, a float in a pool to a swim in the ocean. I don’t have the patience to lie out—I have tendency toward sunburn anyway—and I find it nearly impossible to read on a beach. My relationship with seafood is tenuous at best and does not include shellfish; in my experience, that leaves me fairly limited when dining in equatorial climes. I find bathing suit shopping only slightly more pleasant than dental work, and my hair is completely unmanageable in any sort of humidity. My husband is even fairer-skinned than I and has stated decisively that he does not want to be in a body of water where he is not the largest organism. We honeymooned in France, not Fiji.

But there are certain tropical things I do appreciate. I have always found the people who live in these warm getaways to be kind, welcoming, and enormous fun to get to know. I find the wildlife of those regions to be endlessly fascinating. I love the markets and can lose myself for hours looking at ingredients and home goods and artisan offerings. I like the adventure activities like ATVs and ziplining and parasailing. I’m a sucker for a drink with a paper umbrella or one served in a coconut. I love an exotic fruit: Give me a mango over an apple any day, or a cherimoya or a papaya or a guanabana.

And I love this bar. It’s my new favorite bake. It’s like a coconut macaroon and a lemon bar had a vacation baby. Fresh passion fruit is much more common these days, and if you can’t get it at your regular grocer, you should be able to source it at a Latin or Asian market. Look for fruits that are wrinkly, heavy for their size, and might slosh when you shake them. They should also smell a bit fruity. Since you never really know how much pulp is in them, I always buy a couple more than I think I need. I leave the seeds in for little pop of fun crunch, but if you don’t like that, strain them out. If you aren’t a passion fruit fan, this might convert you, but if you are certain, you can replace the passion fruit with mango puree.

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Illustration for article titled These fruit bars will kindle your passion for all things tropical
Photo: Stacey Ballis
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Coconut Passion Fruit Bars

Makes 16

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts or pecans
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut, divided
  • 6 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup passion fruit (fresh with seeds), about 4-5 small to medium passion fruits
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • Kosher salt

For the base:

Heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the flour, powdered sugar, pecans, and 1/2 cup of the coconut in a medium bowl with a pinch of salt. Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients and stir until you get a well-blended mix that holds together when squeezed in your fist. Pour into a greased and parchment-lined 8x8-inch pan and press down into an even layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes until dry and lightly browned around the edges.

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Beat the eggs, sugar, passion fruit, and baking powder with the remaining coconut and a pinch of salt. Pour over the pre-baked crust and bake another 25-35 minutes. You want the topping to have just the slightest wobble in the center when you shake the pan.

Cool on a rack. Then release the edges with a sharp knife coated lightly in nonstick spray to prevent catching the sticky filling. Use the parchment paper as a sling to remove the bars from the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares. You can garnish with powdered sugar if you like. If you want to double the recipe, bake it in two square pans; I don’t recommend baking in larger dishes, as I find it gets overdone on the edges before the middle is fully baked.

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These bars will store in an airtight container for up to three days at room temperature. Or freeze them whole and thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

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