One of the things that I love most about moving to a new country is discovering new fruit and vegetables. I’ve spent the last six weeks enthusiastically discovering the feijoa, a fruit which is completely new to me. Feijoas aren’t actually native to New Zealand – they originate from Brazil* – but they seem to grow very well here and are very popular and many people seem to have feijoa trees in their gardens. I read somewhere that they are known as pineapple guavas in the rest of the world, but I’m not sure what parts of the world that would be, since I’ve never seen them anywhere else. And nor have any of the other international students in the lab, including the South Americans. Have you ever come across them before?
Feijoas fall off the tree when they are ready to eat – how convenient is that? The flesh is quite firm, with a texture that reminds me a little of a grainy pear, but more pleasant, and the pulp bit in the middle is well… rather pulpy. I’m terrible at descriptions (in case you hadn’t realised), and I’ve been struggling to describe the flavour, but I’ll do my best. It’s like a slightly sweeter version of an apple, but with a subtle hint of strawberry. Which I realise sounds a little odd, but I think that’s the closest that I can get (I would make such an appalling oenologist). They’re utterly delicious. To eat them, you cut them in half and scoop out the flesh and pulp, leaving the skin. You can also bake and cook with them, so I borrowed a feijoa cookbook from the library (because I’m super cool like that) and decided to make muffins.
The only problem with feijoas is that they’re only in season from the beginning of April until the end of May, so you have to make the most of them whilst you can! I actually made these muffins with the very last feijoas of the season, as I’ve been too busy concentrating on eating them fresh for the last six weeks. Luckily, feijoas are supposed to freeze very well, so I’ve got some in the freezer to bake with over winter. Perhaps that’s the best tactic – eat them fresh whilst you can, then bake with the frozen ones when you can no longer eat them fresh! As feijoa season is only just coming to a close, I’m submitting these feijoa and hazelnut muffins to the Simple and in Season blog event for May, which is celebrating its first birthday this month! The blog event was started by Ren at Fabulicious Food and is being hosted by Urvashi over at The Botanical Baker this month.
The muffins have a surprise dollop of cream cheese in the middle, similar in concept to the pumpkin and cream cheese muffins that I made a while ago, but the cream cheese didn’t hold its shape and sort of melted into the muffin, leaving a small cavity in the middle of the muffin (see the photo at the bottom of the post). I’m not sure why it happened – perhaps the cream cheese here is different, or perhaps the oven was too hot – and whilst they were very tasty with the tartness of the cream cheese perfectly cutting through the sweetness of the feijoa, it looks a bit odd when you bite into the muffins and there’s a hole in the middle. I made a couple without the cream cheese in the middle and they were just as delicious, so I’d say that the cream cheese centre is optional (though recommended if you can deal with them being slightly less presentable). The flavour of the feijoas really permeates the muffins, which I love – you can taste their subtle sweetness, but it’s not overwhelming – and I also love the slightly crunchy topping. I’m totally into hazelnuts at the moment, so I substituted them in for the walnuts that were in the original recipe, and the flavours worked wonderfully together. So if you ever happen across some feijoas and aren’t sure what to do with them, I’d strongly suggest tasting one and then baking these muffins!
Feijoa & hazelnut muffins
Makes 13-14 muffins
Adapted from The Feijoa Recipe Book
To toast the hazelnuts, spread them out on a baking tray, place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and roast for 10 min, until they smell toasty (be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn). Rub the hazelnuts in a clean tea towel to remove most of the skins, and allow to cool fully before using. The cream cheese filling is optional, though I do recommend it if you can deal with having a little cavity in the middle of your muffins. Frozen feijoas would work well for this recipe, although thaw them out before using.
230g all-purpose flour
100g caster sugar
3 rounded tsp baking powder
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
Cream cheese filling (optional):
120g cream cheese
40g icing sugar
40g toasted hazelnuts
60g soft brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1. Line a muffin tin with 14 liners or set out 14 silicone liners on a baking tray. Pre-heat the oven to fan 190°C.
2. Prepare the cream cheese filling in a small bowl by whisking the cream cheese with the icing sugar until smooth. Set aside.
3. Peel the feijoas and finely chop them (the pulp can make this a bit fiddly. They don’t have to look presentable though, so don’t worry too much as long as they’re in small pieces). Set aside.
4. Sift the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl. Stir together.
5. Melt the butter in a small saucepan on low heat or in the microwave. Lightly beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl. Add the milk and vanilla extract and mix well.
6. Add the wet ingredients and the melted butter to the dry ingredients and fold together with a large metal spoon until just combined (the batter should still be a bit lumpy, with some flour still visible). Gently fold in the chopped feijoas.
7. Transfer about half a tablespoon of batter to each muffin liner or mould (make sure that the batter covers the bottom, but that there is still enough left to cover the cream cheese layer). Add a dollop of the cream cheese mixture in each liner on top of the feijoa layer. Split the remaining feijoa batter between the liners, making sure to completely cover the cream cheese layer. For the topping, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a ramekin. Roughly chop the hazelnuts and sprinkle over the muffins, followed by the cinnamon sugar.
8. Bake for 20-25 mins until golden and well risen. Allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
* I have also read that feijoas originate in Chile. But since the Chilean in our lab says she’s never heard of or seen them in Chile, I’m rather more inclined to believe that they’re from Brazil. The word “feijoa” also looks more Portuguese than Spanish to me (though I am neither a linguist nor an etymologist).