Chocolate Pawpaw Bread
It’s pawpaw time in the Midwest and Upper South. If you aren’t familiar with pawpaws, they are the largest native fruit in the eastern United States. And one of the tastiest. What do they taste like? It’s an almost tropical flavor, often described as a mixture of banana, mango, and sometimes melon. I’ll get a hint of strawberry in them as well, but banana/mango is the main flavor.
While they have a wide native range, pawpaws aren’t as commonly foraged and consumed as some other wild fruits.
Pawpaws have been around forever, but they have been enjoying a renaissance of sorts the past few years as foodies and foragers rediscover the fruit. Evidence points to Native Americans cultivating groves of pawpaw trees. The Lewis and Clark expedition survived almost solely on pawpaws during a particularly lean fall. Without them, they might not have completed their journey.
Eat the fruit raw or add it to any number of recipes, like this simple chocolate bread.
You can find pawpaws growing in mixed hardwoods, often on hillsides along creek and stream drainages. They are a small tree, seldom growing over 60 feet in height. They feature a large, oval-shaped leaf, and the fruit hangs in clusters. As the fruit ripens, it falls to the ground where it quickly breaks down or gets eaten by just about every animal in the forest. The secret is to pick the fruit just before it is fully ripened. Give the pawpaw a gentle squeeze. If it is rock hard, it isn’t ready. If there is a slight give to the fruit, or it is fully soft like a banana, then it is ready to pick. One of the reasons that pawpaws aren’t more popular is their short shelf life. At room temperature, they will only keep for three to five days. You can extend that to a couple of weeks if you put the pawpaws in a paper bag and store them in the refrigerator. You can also remove the pulp from the fruit and freeze it for later use.
Slice the skin and twist to expose the flesh and seeds.
Speaking of the pulp, as soon as you cut into a pawpaw, the first thing you will notice will be the large seeds. I used to pick these out by hand, but it was time consuming and monotonous. A tip from the Appalachian Forager changed all that. She pointed out that you could put the pulp, seeds and all, in a food processor or mixer with a dough hook.
A food processor equipped with a dough hook greatly speeds the seed removal.
Spin the pulp until soft, then dump it out in a strainer with large holes. Use a rubber spatula to force the pulp through the strainer, leaving the clean seeds behind.
Use a rubber spatula to push the processed pulp through a strainer, leaving the seeds behind.
Like I mentioned earlier, if you have leftover pulp after this recipe, just put it in a zip-style freezer bag and store it in the freezer.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray or coat it with butter. Set the pan aside. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the pawpaw pulp, butter, and oil. Stir until combined. Stir in the brown sugar, egg, and vanilla extract or bourbon. Mix until smooth.
Mix the pulp with the brown sugar and remaining wet ingredients until smooth.
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet and fold until everything is incorporated. Stir in three-quarters of the chocolate chips.
Add the dry ingredients.
Pour the dough into the greased loaf pan. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips over the top of the loaf. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Don’t overcook the bread; it’s best when it is still a little gooey in the center. Starting at the 50-minute mark, test by inserting a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean or nearly clean, then the bread is ready. Don’t confuse melted chocolate from a chip for uncooked batter on the toothpick. Try a couple of spots if you aren’t sure.
Allow the bread to cool slightly before slicing and topping with a pat of butter.
Slice the bread and top with butter for serving.
The bread will keep on the counter for up to three days wrapped in plastic or in a zip-style bag, but don’t worry, it will be eaten way before then.
1 ½ cups pawpaw pulp, seeds removed
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
¼ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon bourbon or pure vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided