If you like lemon bars, I think you’ll love this variation of my Meyer Lemon-Mascarpone Bars, which substitutes passion fruit juice for lemon juice. Like lemon bars, these Passion Fruit Bars have a thick, buttery shortbread crust and luscious ooey, gooey filling, but with the distinct, floral flavor and aroma of passion fruit. The sharp tartness of the passion fruit is nicely balanced by the sweetness of the sugar and the richness of the creamy mascarpone. The glaze adds a touch more sweet-tart flavor and a little crunch from the passion fruit seeds.
Fresh passion fruit may be difficult to find, but frozen pulp is readily available and perfectly acceptable to use. You just won’t have the pretty little seeds to garnish with. I have found the frozen pulp both online and in specialty stores (like Surfas in Southern California) and in Hispanic markets. Some brands like Les Vergers Boiron and Perfect Purée can be quite expensive, but the Goya Brand in the frozen food aisle at many Mexican grocery stores, is a more affordable option.
Whether you use fresh or frozen passion fruit, I think you’ll really enjoy these bars.
Glazed Passion Fruit Bars
Yields 12 bars
For the Glaze
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons passion fruit juice* (approximately 2 to 3 passion fruits)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
For the Crust
1 cup (2 sticks or 227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided into two 1-cup portions and 1/4 cup portion
For the Filling
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
7 tablespoons passion fruit juice* (approximately 5 to 6 passion fruits), strained (set aside seeds for garnish, if desired)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking powder
Passion Fruit Glaze, for garnish
Additional powdered sugar, for garnish
*Note: To make the juice, cut each passion fruit in half, scoop out the pulp and seeds, and place in food processor or blender. Pulse a few times to pull the pulp away from the seeds and get the juice out. Pour pulp and juice into a strainer set over a bowl. With the back of spoon, push down on the pulp to strain all the juice. Reserve seeds for garnish.
To make the passion fruit glaze, combine water and sugar in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add passion fruit juice and lemon juice and return to a boil. Lower heat and let boil for 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon (or more, if desired) of seeds and stir. Remove from heat and cool. Glaze will thicken and turn syrupy as it cools.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8″ x 8″ baking pan with parchment, making sure that there is excess parchment hanging over the sides of the pan. This step ensures that the bars won’t stick to the pan and makes it easier to remove them from the pan. I wanted a thick crust and filling so I used an 8″ x 8″ baking pan, but feel free to use a 13″ x 9″ pan for flatter bars.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and vanilla extract or paste until light and fluffy. Add in 2/3 cup powdered sugar. Add salt and 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup at a time, beating only until the dough is crumbly and moist clumps form. Press dough evenly on the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake crust until light golden, about 20 minutes. Maintain the oven temperature after taking out the crust.
While the crust is baking, make the passion fruit filling. Wash the work bowl of the mixer. Beat the mascarpone cheese in the stand mixer until softened. Add the sugar and eggs and mix until blended. Add passion fruit juice, lemon juice, baking powder and then the remaining 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. Mix until just incorporated.
Pour filling over hot crust. Return to the oven and bake until filling is set in center and begins to brown on top, about 30-35 minutes. Transfer pan to rack and cool completely.
Once bars are cooled, cut into 12 bars. Drizzle with passion fruit glaze and sprinkle the top with additional powdered sugar.
To store, keep covered in the refrigerator.
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