Thursday, 12 December 2013

Tis (Almost) the Season

Brace yourselves for a rare sighting: a recipe on this site!

Now before you get all indignant that I'm actually suggesting you cook, let it be known it is one of the easiest and yet most elegant desserts you could add to a holiday table.

It all started with a flash of orange.

Almost moreso than the turning leaves, the arrival of autumn in Shanghai is signified by the appearance of persimmons, their eye-catching orange radiating from the pyramids piled in fruit stalls on every corner.

Their seasonal color, their musky scent, their spicy-sweet flavor... everything about the fruit says fall.

But as far as I can tell, no one knows what to do with the things. Friends have assumed they're a type of "Chinese tomato" (one actually attempted salsa) and I almost never see anyone, local or laowai, cooking with them or even eating them out of hand.

I never really knew what to do with the fruits but was desperate to try and use them, if only for their appearance on my kitchen counter. They are a bit sweet to eat on their own, and I couldn't think of anything beyond roughly chopping them and letting the pieces and pulp slowly slump into a jammy slurry in the fridge to be spooned over my morning oatmeal.

So when a friend commissioned a pie for his Thanksgiving feast and I was faced with sticker shock at the price of canned pumpkin in this town, I decided to go where few have gone before - baking with fleshy fruit. I figured it would have a similar spiced taste for a familiar feel, yet be a nice nod to our current home here in Shanghai.

After making my kitchen smell like the inside of a gingerbread house, I had high expectations, but this unorthodox delivered - it's sweet, delicately spiced, and even more tender than most pumpkin numbers.

Although we enjoyed it on Thanksgiving, I have a feeling the festive flavors are also perfect for Christmas.

So go ahead and get baking for the holidays - it's easy as pie.

Persimmon Pie
Shell adapted from Saveur, filling adapted from The Loveless Cafe

Yield: one 9-inch pie

4 cups finely crushed digestive and/or gingersnap cookies (about 1 sleeve digestives)
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted 
1 cup persimmon puree (made from peeling, roughly chopping and blending about 2 large persimmons)
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
½ cup heavy cream
Whipped cream (not optional)

1. Crust

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Mix cookie crumbs and butter in a bowl. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" springform pan or pie tin. Bake until the crust is just set, about 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

2. Filling

In a mixing bowl, whisk the persimmon puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then the heavy cream. Pour the persimmon filling into the pie shell. Bake for 30 minutes, or until just set. 

Let the pie cool completely before cutting - serve either room temperature or (my favorite) chilled for breakfast.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent! I just spied a raft of them at Trader Joe's and now I too know what to do with delicious persimmons!!! Thank you