The Polar Vortex killed our papaya tree. Poor little guy. We just planted him last summer, so we barely knew him. To make matters worse, we’re having trouble finding another papaya tree to replace him. Not that we’re interviewing or anything, but the nursery doesn’t have any. Which is a round-about way to say The Complete Package bought a fresh papaya last weekend that was bigger than my head so he could germinate the seeds in an attempt to grow papaya trees. That’s great, but it left us with a gallon of diced papaya. Thatza lotta papaya.
What does one do with a gallon of fresh papaya? Not much, apparently. I searched the internet for ideas, but recipe choices were mainly limited to smoothies. After two or three of those, I was done. Then I saw a recipe for papaya jam, and that really got me thinking. Surely I could so something with papaya jam, right? Enter Papaya Cheesecake Bars.
Sometimes I come up with an idea that actually works. Surprising, I know.
NanaBread’s Papaya Cheesecake Bars:
(makes two 8″ x 8″ square pans or one 13″ x 9″ rectangle)
For the papaya jam:
4 cups fresh papaya – peeled, seeded & diced
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar (optional, or add to taste)
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water
In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the fresh papaya, marmalade and orange juice. Simmer over medium-low heat until the papaya is soft and the mixture begins to thicken a little. Taste to determine if sugar needs to be added. If so, add up to 1/4 cup of sugar (to your taste) and cook until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry and continue to stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Place a strainer over a mixing bowl, and pour the papaya mixture into the strainer. Using a flexible silicone spatula, press the papaya mixture through, straining out any fruit fiber or lumps. Allow the strained mixture to cool completely. While it’s cooling, you can start your shortbread crust.
For the shortbread crust:
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill coconut meal
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill almond meal
6 tablespoons brown sugar
a pinch of salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold & cubed
Pre-heat your oven to 375F. In a food processor, combine all of the shortbread ingredients. Pulse until well combined and the texture of course sand. Line your baking pan(s) with parchment and add the shortbread mixture (it will be crumbly). Shake the pan to distribute the crumbs, then tap it flat on the counter a few times to help settle them in an even layer. Cover with a sheet of parchment and use a rolling-pin or heavy glass to roll the crumbs into a solid, compact layer. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. While the crust is baking, mix up your cheesecake filling.
For the cheesecake layer:
1 package (8 ozs.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
In a mixing bowl, combine the cheesecake ingredients. Whisk until the mixture is completely smooth. Pour over the baked shortbread crust, tapping the pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Pop it back into the oven for 10-12 minutes, or just until you can shake the pan gently and the cheesecake doesn’t jiggle. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely. Once cooled, top with papaya jam, spreading it into a smooth even layer. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Keep refrigerated.
Truth in Marketing Moment: I dusted mine with powdered sugar, but it really served no purpose other than adding texture to the photographs. The sugar dissolved almost immediately into the papaya jam and vanished. Feel free to skip that step unless you’re also photographing your papaya bars, in which case it’ll look pretty and everybody loves pretty desserts.
That papaya jam? It’s supremely tasty, so I’ll be canning more of that.
Remember when people used to ask “If you were a crayon, what color would you be?” I’m changing my answer. It used to be Cornflower Blue, but now it’s Papaya Orange. That color just screams SASSY.