Passion Fruit Butter Cookies

half eaten passion fruit cookie

Passion fruit should be a spice.

When you cut through the tough rind, and breathe in the intensity of the sweet, fruity, flowery aroma, your cooking reasoning disappears and all you want to do is add the juicy pulps and seeds into every dish you make. That must be why it’s called Passion fruit. But it’s not.

‘Passion’ actually refers to the Passion of the Christ. Scooping the black-dotted yellow pulps into my mouth and crunching on the sour seeds, I couldn’t imagine the connection.

cut in half passion fruit showing yellow pulp and black seeds

In Brazil in the 16th century, a Spanish missionary saw the plant and found similar characteristics of its vine, flower, and fruit to the story of the Passion of the Christ. The threads of the flower like the Crown of Thorns, the purple petals like the purple robe, the five anthers like the five wounds, and the vine’s tendrils like the whips.

what does passion fruit taste like, can you eat the seeds

Passion fruits are ready when the skin shows bumps and wrinkles. But I couldn’t wait that long after bringing them home from the morning market. I took a few out from the refrigerator, cut them in half, almost passed out from inhaling the heavenly scent too long, dug out the jellylike pulps, pressed the pulps to separate the juice, passed out, woke up a few minutes later, added in a bit of sugar and milk to counter the sourness of the juice, and drank it down like a magical potion.

passion fruit butter cookies on a plate ready to eat

The magic didn’t stop there. I added the leftover crunchy black seeds to a simple butter cookie recipe. Warning: the mix of butter and passion fruit creates irresistible cookie dough. Without iron willpower, you will find yourself spooning the oh-so-good dough into your mouth instead of on the cookie sheet.

For the dough balls that did make it onto the pan, the resulting cookies were unforgettably good. Fragrant, rich, and crumbly, with a few surprise crunches from the black seeds of the passion fruit. If only the passion fruit season in Penang could last just a bit longer this year…

tropical cookie recipe

Passion Fruit Butter Cookies by Season with Spice
Makes about 20 cookies

What you'll need:
3 passion fruits
125g butter, room temperature (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
1/2 cup raw sugar (or white sugar)
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F).
2. Strain the passion fruit pulps and keep the seeds for the cookies. Drink up the juice while you bake!
3. In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Then add in the egg and vanilla extract, and beat well.
4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder.
5. Into the wet mixture, fold in the dry mix and passion fruit seeds.
6. Form the dough into balls, each the size of two tablespoons. Place them on baking paper lined trays - about 2 inches apart - and flatten slightly with a fork.
7. Bake for 10 minutes, or until a pale-golden color. Remove from baking sheet and cool for 5 minutes before devouring.

1. It is important to strain the juice well before you set the seeds aside for the cookies. If the mixture gets too wet, you can add a bit more flour before forming the dough.
2. To form the dough easier, you can cover and chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before forming the balls.
3. I like the texture to be lighter and slightly cake-like, so I used a bit more baking powder. You can cut back on the baking powder if you prefer the cookies more dense and crunchy.
4. Passion fruit is best eaten when the skin develops slight wrinkles and bumps (but still looks fresh). You can keep the fruit in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.