There’s nothing I love more than baking during the holidays.
This year, though, I haven’t been feeling the Christmas spirit.
So I had mixed feelings about participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.
On the one hand, I didn’t feel like searching for a new recipe and spending an entire weekend slaving in the kitchen. But on the other hand, this cookie swap has become sort of a tradition for me. Every Christmas for three years — I missed one! — I’ve participated in this now-global swap hosted by bloggers (and my Instagram and Twitter pals) Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen. Last year, alone, 566 bloggers participated and, with the help of sponsors — OXO, Dixie Crystals and Land O’ Lakes matched the donation dollar for dollar this year —— raised $12,335 for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Awesome, right?
And because who doesn’t love getting delicious cookies in the mail from strangers?
Some background: I joined the very first year the swap started. That first year I made and mailed kakimochi chocolate chip sweetheart cookies, using a very familiar ingredient — kakimochi, or rice crackers — to folks from Hawai‘i and Japan. The next year I made local-style thumbprint cookies. And in 2013 — my most recent year — I made pinwheel ice-box cookies. (Man, those were a bitch to make!)
I like to tell a story with my baking, either by using an ingredient that represents Hawai‘i or my culture, or using a family recipe. In this case, I went with a combination of both.
Not to be biased, my mom makes the best lemon bars in the world. They’re perfectly tangy with a golden, shortbread crust that I dream about.
While I could easily whip up some of her awesome lemon squares, I wanted to mix it up and use a fruit that’s more, well, local.
Not native to Hawai‘i but cultivated here, liliko‘i, or passion fruit, is a type of berry — either yellow or dark purple at maturity — with a juicy interior filled with seeds. It’s both eaten and juiced, and the flavor is robust and memorable.
We eat passion fruit just as it is — scooping out the seeds with a spoon and devoured. But more often, you’ll find liliko‘i in syrups, as toppings, in jams and mixed in with butter.
It’s tangy like lemon, and it’s not unusual to see it swapped for its yellowy counterpart in recipes.
So liliko‘i instead of lemons in my mom’s lemon bar recipe? Uh, yes, please!
I got batches out to my assigned food bloggers: Loy Moore from Washington, Grandma Loy’s Kitchen; Michele Phillips of Minnesota, Bacon Fatte, @baconfatte; and Starr Nordgren of Illinois, Chicago Foodie Girl, @chicagofoodiegirl.
Hope they liked it as much as I do — and I hope you do, too.
Here’s how I made them:
And here’s the recipe:
1/2 pound butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cup flour, sifted
Dash of salt
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cup sugar
1 cup fresh liliko‘i juice (about 10 liliko‘i fruits)
1 cup flour
1 lemon, juice and zest
To make liliko‘i juice: Cut eat fruit in half and scoop out the pulp and seeds and place in food processor or blender. Pulse a few short times until the pulp pulls away from the seeds. Pour pulp into a sieve to separate the juice from the seeds. Set aside 1 cup.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar in a bowl. Combine flour and salt into butter-and-sugar mixture, until just mixed. Flatten dough in a greased 9-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven. Cool crust.
For the filling, whisk together eggs, sugar, liliko‘i juice, lemon zest, lemon juice and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Cool.
Top with powdered sugar.
Special thanks to fellow bloggers/bakers, Cortney Wright, Jamie Gates and Prudy Blank, who shared some killer cookies with me, too! And for more about this cookie swap, check out the site and follow on Twitter @fbcookiesswap. You can also get notifications by registering here.