BitterSweet

Sweet Musings with a Bitterly Sharp Wit


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Poached Trade

At their bare essentials, all holidays are based around eating and drinking to some degree, but none more so than Thanksgiving. In fact, it’s the main event! Without the gluttonous, butter-soaked spread, it would be just another family meal. Our excuse is that we’re merely celebrating the great bounty we’re so fortunate to receive, but somewhere along the line, it becomes a battle between man and sweatpants, seeing which will give under the pressure first.

Today, I would like to offer you the antidote to that over-the-top indulgence, in the form of a persimmon. Elegant simplicity defines this plate; more of a procedure than a full recipe, the most essential step is one not written in the instructions. Start with only the very best fruit, or don’t bother starting at all.

I would never suggest that such a humble dessert, delicious as it may be, could ever replace the traditional slab of pumpkin or pecan pie. Rather, consider each one a sweet little snack that’s something extra special for the occasion. Serve these dainty orange orbs midday to stave off that familiar, gnawing hunger while dinner slowly roasts to prevent the inevitable frenzied binge. Alternatively, save them for the following day when those sticky, crumbly, half-eaten pies aren’t nearly so appealing.

Poached Persimmons

5 Fuyu Persimmons, Stemmed and Peeled
3 Cups Pineapple Juice
2 Tablespoons Dark Rum
2 Inches Fresh Ginger, Sliced
1 Vanilla Bean, Split
Zest of 1 Orange, Peeled Off in Strips
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch

Whipped Ginger Fluff:

1/4 Cup Aquafaba
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

5 Tablespoons Toasted Pistachios, for Garnish

Core out the persimmons, removing the calyxes, and peel. Place them in a medium saucepan along with the pineapple juice, rum, fresh ginger, vanilla bean, and orange zest. Bring the liquid up to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and gently cook for 20 – 30 minutes, until the fruits are fork-tender.

Remove the persimmons with a slotted spoon, leaving the excess poaching liquid behind in the pan. Remove and discard the ginger pieces, spent vanilla bean, and orange peel. Whisk in the cornstarch and return it to the heat. Bring the mixture back to a boil, whisking periodically, until thickened. Set aside.

When you’re ready to make the fluff, begin whipping the aquafaba in your stand mixer on low. Gradually increase the speed all the way to the highest setting and slowly begin adding the sugar and ginger together. Once incorporated, add in the vanilla. Continue whipping for about 10 minutes, until light and fluffy.

To serve, spoon a dollop of the ginger fluff on top of each persimmon and top with a tablespoon of the pistachios. Divide the sauce equally between the plates and enjoy warm.

Makes 5 Servings

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Plight of the Persimmon

Browning, bruised, and overlooked, the rare half-dozen persimmons nestled on the grocery store shelf hardly looked like winners. Though far from blameless, these overgrown orange berries don’t deserve the cold shoulder that consumers give, turning away to more common fare. Myself included, few understand the full culinary potential hidden within those mysterious fruits, and much of that stems from misunderstanding. Though I never did have the jarring experience of biting into an unripe Hachiya, an mistake sometimes likened to sampling industrial strength cleaner for all of its astringent, mouth-numbing properties, neither did I have the luck of eating a truly transcendent specimen. While some food writers waxed poetic about this oddball piece of produce, hundreds of recipes outnumbered those few, suggesting the least painful ways to bake and otherwise get rid of an unwanted surplus. So which was is: Pest or prize?

Last year, stumbling around one winter market in western Germany, I had the odd impulse to buy one. Smooth, plump, and as large as a softball, it seemed different from previous persimmons. Sporting an acorn-like point at the bottom, it was clearly an entirely different genus. A Fuyu, much firmer and easier to eat out of hand, provided my persimmon revelation. It was the best I had ever had, and still haven’t stumbled across one half as luscious since.

Much of the trouble centers around availability. Only Hachiya have appeared on shelves in my town, and by the time they arrive, it’s likely been weeks since they last saw sunshine. Though the wait allows them to fully ripen, it also gives them more time to be damaged or spoiled. Their flavor is subtle at best, sweet and vaguely floral, but now I understand why so many dessert recipes abound; While you’re searching high and low for that one perfect persimmon, here’s what to do with the rest of them.

When Hachiya persimmons are so ripe that their skin easily peels off and they practically puree themselves, that’s when you know they’re ready. Don’t rush your persimmons or they won’t be nearly sweet enough. Run them through your food processor briefly before use, just to smooth out the puree. Extra puree can be stored in an air-tight container in the freezer for up to 6 months. Should you have an overabundance of the goo, this small batch of soft, lightly spiced oatmeal cookies can be doubled, too.

Persimmon Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Pastry Flour
1 Teaspoon 5-Spice Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 Tablespoon Whole Flaxseeds, Ground
3/4 Cup Persimmon Puree
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Toasted, Chopped Walnuts or Pecans

Icing:

1 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar
2 Tablespoons Persimmon Puree

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with a silpat or piece of parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, 5-spice, baking powder, salt, oats, and ground flaxseeds, mixing thoroughly to combine the dry goods. In a separate bowl, stir the persimmon puree, sugar, oil, and vanilla together until smooth. Pour the wet goods into the bowl of dry, mixing with a wide spatula just until the batter begins to come together, being careful not to overwork it. Add in the walnuts, folding to distribute them evenly throughout.

Use a medium cookie scoop or two large spoons to drop between 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons of batter per cookie on the prepared sheet. Allow at least an inch of space between the cookies, to allow room for them to spread. Pat the mounds down with lightly moistened fingers if they’re particularly heaped up in the centers.

Bake for 11 – 14 minutes, until golden around the edges and just barely set in the centers. Remove the silpat from the hot baking sheet, and let the cookies cool completely before preparing the icing.

For the icing, simply whisk together the confectioner’s sugar and persimmon puree until smooth. Drizzle generously over the tops of the cookies, and let air-dry for at least 12 hours to achieve a hard finish. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days, or in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Makes About 1 Dozen Cookies

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