Appalachian Pawpaw Muffins
By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
Around the world pawpaws can be different things- sometimes people think of it as a papaya. But that isn’t the kind of fruit I am referring to here. Pawpaws actually resemble a kidney-bean shaped ataulfo mango, but the similarity ends on the outside. Inside, instead of the huge center pit of the mango, or the core of tiny seeds like a papaya, the pawpaw has a series of bean-shaped seeds that resemble lima/butter beans or fava beans. They can make extracting the pulp interesting, but the end result is worth it.
Now pawpaws don’t ripen very well off the tree, so growers generally collect them from the ground. And the ripe pawpaw is a bit ugly, having dark marks on it- so if you go to choose your pawpaws, don’t go for the pretty ones. The uglier the better.
As fruit ripening go, test your pawpaws for give the way you would an avocado. They should be ever-so-slightly soft. In fact, the fruit inside is quite like an avocado- creamy and smooth like custard. But just like avocados, pawpaws don’t last very long but will keep in the fridge a few days. If you need to hold the fruit longer, extract the ripe fruit pulp and freeze. It tends to oxidize quickly, as avocados do so freeze that right away if you do. That doesn’t affect the taste at all.
The flavor is remarkable- it has that hint of banana, but not just banana- it tastes like a banana dessert, also with hints of vanilla and a touch of something citrus. It’s so good- hopefully you won’t gobble up all your fruit before you get it into the muffin batter. But I can imagine whoever first found this fruit to have been in love with it, perhaps easier to eat out of hand than getting the seeds out for baking, I picture them sitting around beneath a pawpaw tree, spitting seeds out like a kid with a slice of watermelon.
They can be a bit hard to find- I doubt you will find them in a store. They are available in Ohio, throughout Appalachia down towards Florida, and probably a few other places. If you don’t know a grower, you will probably have better luck at a farm market. I got mine at a grocer at Findlay Market in Cincinnati (Madison’s Market). They occasionally get produce in from specialty growers, such as Morel mushrooms in the spring, and etc.
Appalachian Pawpaw Muffins
- 2 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons cooled melted butter
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 3/4 cup pawpaw pulp, mashed
- 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Use a paring knife to peel the pawpaws, then remove the seeds and discard.
- Mash pulp with a fork if needed.
- Whisk together the eggs, butter, buttermilk and vanilla.
- Sift together the dry ingredients and add those gradually, stirring until you have a smooth batter.
- Stir in pawpaw pulp and dates.
- Place batter 2/3 full in greased muffin tins or use cupcake liners.
- Bake muffins for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin can be removed without wet batter.
- Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out muffins to finish cooling on a wire rack.
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