Two weekends ago, I was woken up by a low rumble from outside my window. Could that be thunder? We rarely get storms out here! I mean, I’ve lived here for a total of six years (on-and-off, admittedly) but can count the number of times that I’ve heard thunder and seen lightning on only one hand. Maybe I had dreamt it. But as I threw open my curtains, sure enough I was greeted by the familiar, rainy gray sky that covers Portland for nine months of the year. Once again, I heard the rumble — yep, that was definitely thunder.
Damn, I thought to myself. Summer was definitely over. But to be honest, I wasn’t really all that invested in the season in the first place. I’m not one for the beach, flip-flops, and sleeveless attire — to me, a warm day equates to a sweatier bike ride to work in the mornings. Not the most romantic or carefree notion, I know, but there you go. I’m happiest during the fall, when all that’s needed is a sweater.
But still. Despite the fact that I welcome fall with wide open arms, it seems that summer should go out with a bang. One last hurrah, in the form of a barbecue or an epic pie. Like this bright and sunny passionfruit cream pie:
Admittedly, passionfruit has long gone (the fruit comes into season in California and Florida in June, July, and August) and this pie was made from a puree I found in a Mexican grocery store, but I couldn’t resist it’s bright and sunny yellow color. A subtle vanilla whipped cream sits on top of a tart, fruity passionfruit cream curd, which then sits on top of a buttery shortbread crust. The flavors and layers work wonderfully together — airy and light, with just a the perfect amount of crunch from the shortbread crust to give it some substance. And with passionfruit’s citrusy, tropical flavor (similar to mango), this pie screamed the perfect summer dessert for our barbecue that night with friends.
It was me and Erlend’s first night hosting some friends over for dinner, and, in true form, nothing went right. We’d promised a barbecue, and, due to the stormy weather, ended up huddling damp and cold watching the grill in my house’s car port. Erlend had bought new coals that didn’t light up properly, and, when combined with the rain, did not fare well: the lemongrass chicken stayed pink on the inside and the fire died out before the corn and sweet potatoes even had a chance to finish cooking.
But still, we ended the night with this pie and it made everything all right:
In the pictures, it doesn’t seem like much. Just a heaping portion of cream on a white plate — nothing too interesting to look at, admittedly. But when I brought the leftovers to my coworkers the next day, one of them exclaimed that this is the best thing that I had ever made. That’s kind of a big deal! My coworkers are serious foodies, and they almost always taste everything I make.
What does everybody think about the photos, by the way? This is my first time using my Canon EOS 5D Mark II in Portland’s rainy day light and the results are interesting. To take these photos, I literally pressed up an old wooden table up against a window in an attempt to capture the gray light:
During a bright summer’s day, the same setup would have resulted in bright light that would create harsh, deep shadows. I often need to use a white sheet to soften the summer light. But in this rain, the naked window light produced images that are more softly lit than my usual, high contrast and brightly lit photos. It’s definitely not my usual style, but I’m kinda into it! After all, photos with soft, subtle shadows and creamy whites are more appropriate for capturing Portland’s rainy fall days.
But I digress — I should just shut up and give you guys the passionfruit cream pie recipe, because that’s probably what you came here for. Not my random musings about photography.
Some baker’s notes:
- Yep, you need to find passionfruit puree or fresh (that is, not bottled or artificial in any way) passionfruit juice for this recipe. I found cheap passionfruit puree (the brand is Goya) in the frozen fruit section of a Mexican store, but you can also use Amazon. They have everything.
- Alternatively, if you go the “fresh” passionfruit route, I found frozen passionfruit in my local Asian supermarket. Let the fruit thaw overnight in the fridge, before slicing open and placing the pulp through a fine-mesh sieve. I think the last time I used frozen passionfruit, I used 8 medium-small fruits.
- Like I mentioned above, the crust uses shortbread cookie crumbs tossed in butter and baked. For a shortcut, I used Walker’s Shortbread (I ground a box’s worth up in my food processor), but feel free to use any shortbread recipes you have. I think I even have a shortbread recipe floating around on this blog, but it might have honey and lavender. Mmm, yeah, probably not the best combination with the passionfruit.
Passionfruit Cream Pie
For the Shortbread Pie Crust
- 1 3/4 cups shortbread cookie crumbs (see baker’s notes)
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled
For the Passionfruit Cream Filling
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons passionfruit puree (see baker’s notes)
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream , cold
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the Shortbread Pie Crust
- Preheat the oven to 350 (F) and prepare your pie pan by spraying liberally with cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups shortbread cookie crumbs, 3 tablespoons white sugar, and a pinch of salt. When the ingredients are combined thoroughly, slowly pour in 5 tablespoons melted butter and toss with a rubber spatula, tossing until well combined. The mixture should start to form larger crumbs. Using your fingers and/or the back of your hand to press the crumbs up the sides and onto the bottom of the pie plate, creating an even layer.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. When the crust is lightly browned, remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. Set aside and make the passionfruit cream filling — be sure you leave the oven on.
For the Passionfruit Cream Filling
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 4 large egg yolks until pale. Slowly stream in 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk as you continue to whisk the mixture.
- Once the sweetened condensed milk is fully incorporated into the egg yolks, continue whisking and slowly stream in 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons passionfruit puree. Continue whisking until the mixture is an even, yellow color.
- Once the mixture is an even color, carefully pour the mixture into the cooled pie crust. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the center of the pie is set but the outsides are still jiggly. Be careful not to over bake the pie! It’s okay for the pie to still be jiggly.
- Once the pie has finished baking, let cool on a wire rack for 30 to 45 minutes, or until slightly warmer than room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze the pie for at least 1 hour, or until it has chilled completely.
- Once the pie has finished chilling and you're ready to serve, make the cream topping. In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Whisk on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon over cooled pie and serve immediately.