Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Papaya-Banana Muffins with Pineapple Cream Cheese: Going Tropical for Cook the Books: "An Embarrassment of Mangoes"

Cook the Books, the best virtual foodie book club (and yes, as a co-host of the club and the host for this round, I admit to just a bit of bias), is setting sail for the tropics with author Ann Vanderhoof and her descriptive foodie-travelogue, "An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude." Of course since it is Cook the Books, we are stopping to enjoy some delicious Caribbean food and libations along the way.

In the late-1990's, Vanderhoof and her husband Steve rented out their Toronto, Canada home and set sail on their 42-foot sailboat, the Receta. They spent two years traveling to sixteen island countries in the Caribbean, enjoying the beauty of the islands, the people and the delectable food. Vanderhoof's colorful descriptions made me feel as if I were experiencing the journey with her and since I suffer from mild claustrophobia and I am not very "sea-worthy" this is the closest to two-years on a sail boat I will likely ever get. ;-) Although much of the trip is truly an escape to paradise, Vanderhoof doesn't avoid describing the challenges along the way from the weather, the boat, and other forces that come up. This is a fun, light read that will transport you from where ever you are to the Caribbean. The descriptions of the amazing island-style food and drink, along with the many recipes included, will have you drooling as you devour each chapter.

There were many recipes to choose from in the book but I kept going back to the Papaya-Banana Muffins. I am really a mango girl but they run to seasons, so I can't eat the local ones that are worth eating year-round. Local papaya on the other hand is usually readily available, but I never find myself doing much more than eating half with a squeeze of lime and sometimes a scoop of yogurt or cottage cheese for breakfast. I loved the idea of baking it, along with the banana into tropical muffins. I thought it would be fun to have some kind of fruity spread to smear on the muffins and found a recipe for Pineapple Cream Cheese in a Caribbean cookbook that I picked up on a business trip to Puerto Rico. With the papaya and banana in the muffins and the fresh pineapple and lime in the cream cheese spread, I had a heavenly tropical fruit fest going on--perfect for breakfast on the lanai or an afternoon snack.

Vanderhoof says, "This recipe is a solution to the problem of too much tropical fruit. These muffins have lovely color and flavor, and are nice and moist."

Papaya-Banana Muffins
by Ann Vanderhoof for "An Embarrassment of Mangoes"
(Makes 12) Actually made 9 for me ;-)

1 2/3 cups flour (I used light spelt flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (+ I added 1/4 tsp cinnamon)
1 egg
1/3 cup oil
3/4 cup sugar (I reduced to 1/2 cup organic sugar)
1 cup mashed ripe papaya
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (1 large banana)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. and grease a medium-sized muffin pan or line it with muffin papers.

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Beat egg with oil, sugar, and mashed papaya and banana in a large bowl. Mix in dry ingredients and walnuts (if using). Scoop mixture into prepared muffin pan. Bake in preheated oven for 18-23 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Ann's Tips:
  • If the papaya is quite ripe, it will yield a lot of liquid when mashed. Drain off this excess liquid before adding the fruit.
  • You can make the muffins entirely with papaya if you like; just increase the quantity to 1 1/2 cups. The muffins will have a slightly moister texture and a flatter top.

Pineapple Cream Cheese
"A Taste of the Caribbean Cookbook" by Angela Spenceley
(Makes about 1 1/4 cups)

1/2 cup fresh-diced pineapple
just of 1 lime
1/2 tsp lime zest (I used the zest of the entire lime)
6 oz cream cheese (I used vegan cream cheese)

Fold the pineapple, lime juice and zest into the cream cheese with a pastry cutter or fork.

Notes/Results: Wonderful, moist and flavorful muffins--like a more complex banana muffin, and lightly flecked with the orange papaya. They are excellent on their own and topped with the Pineapple Cream Cheese they are amazing. I used up some light spelt flour that I had on hand in these and reduced the sugar since my papaya and banana (I used two smaller apple bananas) were very ripe and sweet. I left out the nuts and added some cinnamon because I like it with my nutmeg. One note--I filled my muffin cups about 3/4 full and only ended up with nine muffins instead of a dozen--so fill them less I guess if you want the full dozen. The Pineapple Cream Cheese is a revelation--the pineapple and lime are like a little party on the tongue--Yum! I had some leftover Tofutti vegan cream cheese so I used it and it was fabulous--soft and creamy and full of fruit flavor. Living here in Hawaii I like to have fun treats around when I have house guests staying with me--things like lilikoi butter for toast, mango jam, or different tropical fruits to try, so both of these recipes will be made again and again.

Our deadline for reading and posting a dish for "An Embarrassment of Mangoes" is this Friday, March 25th. As host, I'll be doing a round up of all the entries over the weekend at the Cook the Books site and then our judge for this round, our wonderful author Ann Vanderhoof, will be selecting her favorite entry. If you didn't get a chance to join in this round, our April/May pick is "Lunch in Paris" by Elizabeth Bard and will be hosted by Johanna of Food Junkie Not Junk Food.


  1. These look so good! And I don't like ripe papaya at all.

  2. I'm not usually the biggest papaya fan either (also a mango lover!) but I have a feeling I would make do given how yummy these muffins look. And that pineapple cream cheese is quite convincing. Yum.

    Alright I am SO ordering that next Cook the Books book! I can't believe I spaced out on this month!

  3. Wow - what a review and a mouth watering muffin too. I should get the next flight to Hawaii

  4. I haven't seen too many recipes using papaya in recipes before, but I love this idea. Very tropical, especially with that yummy pineapple cream cheese.

  5. The muffins sound delectable with the pineapple cream cheese! And unique - I never baked with papaya before!

  6. A perfect post for Cook the Books! And with another snowstorm on our menu today in upstate New York, I am thinking about breaking out some (canned) tropical fruits myself to ward off this tenacious winter weather!

  7. wow..these muffins look so good...first time here.....u hav a wonderful blog...happy to follow u !

  8. I can't wait to try theses. I also thought they sounded great (and even better now with your modifications and pineapple spread)! Thanks for suggesting this book! I just bought a copy for my best friend to read as well!

  9. These are on my menu for tomorrow morning so I can use up the other half of my Papaya, now I think I might have to go out and get some Pineapple! Loved the post and pictures, thanks!

  10. Very nice! I like all the photos. Your post reminded me of my first experience eating a freshly picked ripe banana in Dominica. It was like eating banana for the first time. We had great bananas on the Big Island too.

  11. I just read her book, The Spice Necklace, a few months ago for a review and loved it! There are lots of good recipes in that one too.

    These sound so good! I've never been a big fan of papaya fresh, but I love it as mixed juices and baked into goodies like this.

  12. A lovely take on fresh muffins. I too usually have a half papaya with lemon or yogurt for breakfast, but can't wait to try these - especially with the pineapple cream cheese. Our pineapples are wee little things right now, so will have to wait a bit.

  13. This looks fabulous! I can almost taste the warm muffin with the tangy cream cheese! Mmmmm!


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