Passion fruit isn't prevalent in Middle America.
It's more familiar with South Pacific/South America/generally more tropical climes than the temperate region we happen to have here.
Seasonally, it could probably be found around here for the rest of this month and maybe into the March. Of course, that all depends on my friendly local produce guys... can and will they order some for me if I find that the little area I have become accustomed to seeing passion fruits in has disappeared and is replaced with the overflow of avocados?
Then again, if they can't get them for me, they can't get them for me. They can't be forced to get fruit that's unavailable. That's just silly. I tried to get some in August or September, but was told they couldn't get them until later in the year...
Passion fruit has to be "imported" from somewhere more tropical than Missouri, and most people in this general area have probably never eaten it. Sure, it might be part of a blended tropical fruit juice. But the actual fresh fruit? What do you do with it?
It's a small purplish globe, with a surprise inside. After cutting into one, you'll find there's a mess of juicy orange-gold pulp tangled up with millions of crunchy black seeds- similar to what you would find inside of a pumpkin. The very good news is that the seeds are completely edible.
Passion fruit is tart and it smells and tastes like Australia. It's true.
This dessert came about because I planned to make a beautiful pavlova like this:
Only, I planned to use passion fruit and cream instead of berries and lemon curd. Sadly, my meringue misbehaved and I had to chop it up. Well, it was falling apart anyway. Parts were soft and marshmallowy, other parts by contrast were shatteringly crisp... and falling apart.
Frequently, when something like this happens, you're running too late to be able to do much about it. And so, dessert was salvaged by massacring the meringue.
In the end, dessert is simple and layered in a glass like a small trifle, parfait, or Eton Mess, and looks beautiful that way.
The astringent fruit pairs quite well with crispy-sugary meringue and lush cream, and you can probably manage to get all three things in each spoonful.
When choosing passion fruit, you want to find fruit that seems heavy for it's size (it's easier to get an idea of this once you compare a few fruits). They're generally about the size of a large egg. And another thing... you want to make sure they're ripe when you use them. They should be purple, perhaps quite wrinkly, and they'll probably have a tropical scent. When they're NOT ripe they're smooth, shiny, almost a blue-grey color (a very interesting color for fruit), and may smell more green and grassy. If they're not ripe, they will ripen- but it may take a little while. If you've got any left over, the pulp is fantastic with some good Greek yogurt or on vanilla ice cream.
4 large egg whites, room temperature
pinch of salt
3/4 c vanilla sugar (or 3/4 c sugar and add 1 t vanilla extract after the sugar has been added)
1 t white vinegar
8 fresh, ripe passion fruits
1 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
2 T granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Beat egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until broken down and quite frothy. Continue mixing and slowly add the sugar, whisking until glossy and meringue holds soft peaks. Add the vinegar and again whisk until meringue holds stiff peaks.
Spoon 6 large mounds of meringue onto the parchment paper, flatten slightly into roughly 6 inch discs. Bake for 1 1/2-2 hours or until the outside is crisp and dry. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringues sit undisturbed for 1 hour.
Remove pan from the oven and let cool completely.
By hand or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it becomes thick. While continuing to whisk, slowly add the sugar and continue whipping until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Cut the passion fruits in half and scoop the yellow pulp and juice with black seeds into a bowl. Set aside.
To assemble the desserts, crumble one half of a meringue into each of 6 glasses. Top meringue with a couple spoons of passion fruit pulp, and cover with a layer of whipped cream. Repeat with meringue, more passion fruit, and end with whipped cream.