The Saturday Cook: Passion fruit shines bright in this fresh twist on poppy seed muffins

Fresh passion fruit pulp replaces lemon juice in a vibrant, tropical spin on the traditional breakfast muffin made with pleasantly bitter poppy seeds.
Fresh passion fruit pulp replaces lemon juice in a vibrant, tropical spin on the traditional breakfast muffin made with pleasantly bitter poppy seeds.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times; Prop styling by Nidia Cueva)

In the world of foods I obsess over, any tropical fruit fits the bill, especially now that I live in Los Angeles and can get access to quality fruit that grows in Southern California. Mangoes are an almost daily indulgence. And I’ll treat myself to good papayas and pineapple when I come across specimens that are so ripe and soft they look like they might collapse if you so much as breathe in their direction.

My favorite, though, has to be passion fruit. Its seemingly innocuous-looking shell bursting with that signature aroma of tart-sweet chaos that comes from it once split in two. I usually eat it fresh, spooning it, pulp and seeds, onto my toast in place of jam or straining out the seeds to get the pure pulp, which I freeze in ice cube trays, saving them for when it’s time to experiment with making tiki cocktails again. But a recent idea had me impatiently waiting for this season’s crop: a spin on classic lemon-poppy seed muffins, but where the passion fruit brings the acidity.

The tart, bright insides of ripe passion fruit, a perfect foil for pleasantly bitter poppy seeds in a new take on lemon-poppy seed muffins.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Thankfully, on a recent trip to the Santa Monica farmers market, I finally came across the first pristine crop of the season at Rincon Del Mar Ranch’s stand. I bought about 5 pounds — they cost a fraction of what the high-end grocery stores charge, even when in season — and brought them home. As someone who enjoys the ritual of breaking down produce, I was in heaven: splitting each pod, then scraping its innards into a sieve to catch all the pulp below. Once I had my pulp, I set aside some for the muffin batter, some for a glaze to ice the tops, and then all the leftovers went into the freezer.

I won’t lie to you: If you don’t love passion fruit, these muffins probably won’t be for you. You can omit the glaze for a less intense flavor. But if you’re a fiend like me, you’ll appreciate the wallop of their heady punch on the first bite.

Passion Fruit-Poppy Seed Muffins
45 minutes. Makes 12.

These muffins are meant to be eaten for breakfast and are, therefore, pretty lean. The glaze on them makes them richer and taste more powerfully of passion fruit, so if you want a more subtle flavor, omit the extra 2 tablespoons passion fruit juice, the powdered sugar, and the extra teaspoon of poppy seeds, and instead sprinkle some extra granulated sugar over each muffin batter before baking to get a crunchy top.

  • 12 to 14 ripe passion fruit (to get at least 1 cup pulp)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1 Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners (or spray the cups with nonstick baking spray). Split each passion fruit and scoop out its pulp with a spoon and into a medium-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl. Stir the seeds and pulp with the spoon again and again until only the seeds remain and all the pulp is in the bowl (be sure to scrape the bottom of the strainer as well). Pour the pulp into a liquid measuring cup to reach 3/4 cup, then pour 2 tablespoons of the remaining pulp into a small bowl. If you have any pulp leftover after this, pour it into a plastic bag and freeze it for another use, such as mixing into cocktails or eating on yogurt and granola.

2 In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, poppy seeds, eggs, and 3/4 cup passion fruit pulp. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined.

3 Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake until light golden brown at the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center of each muffin comes out clean, 22 to 24 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a wire rack and let cool completely.

4 In the small bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons passion fruit juice, stir in the powdered sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon poppy seeds with a pinch of salt until they form a smooth glaze. Dip the tops of the muffins in the glaze and arrange right side up on the rack to allow the glaze to set before serving. Store any uneaten muffins in an airtight container for up to 3 days.