Persimmons…or as my husband adorably calls them “per-cinnamons.”
I have to admit, I was pretty unfamiliar with persimmons before moving to San Francisco. But apparently this city knows them well and loves them even more because they are everywhere. They are stacked so high in the stalls at the market, they are literally rolling into the street.
I’ve mostly seen two different types of persimmons. Hachiya persimmons have a darker, reddish orange skin, and have a round shape like an apple. These are the kind of persimmons that need to be fully ripened and soft before eating (or else they taste unpleasantly astringent).
Fuyu persimmons on the other hand, are a lighter orange color, and are shaped like squat tomatoes. They can be eaten both firm and soft. When they’re firm, the flesh is crunchy – great for shaving into salads or sandwiches – and when they’re soft, I like to eat them all by themselves.
I recently received a copy of chef John Besh’s new book, Cooking from the Heart a beautiful 308-page hardcover filled to the brim with glossy photos, memories and tales of cooking (and life) lessons, and step-by-step instructional photos. I first met chef Besh last year in New Orleans and still remember how gracious he was.
I was asked to make a recipe from Chapter 11: Fruits, Nuts & Cheese. This chapter takes us to the heart of Germany’s Black Forest, one of the places that shaped John’s culinary journey. The desserts in this chapter pay homage to Edel “Topless” Neary, a shy young Irish pastry chef who earned this unfortunate nickname at the hands of her fellow rowdy German commis. Here’s a fun excerpt from the book:
…One day, before our vacation to the South of France, Patrick sent us a piece from the New York Times on Bandol, its food, its wine, and its topless beaches! All faxes normally passed through the hands of Karl-Josef, and such a piece wouldn’t have gotten much reaction, but since Edel was to accompany us on our vacation, the thought of that precious, shy, and very proper baker thrown into the hedonistic and naked French sent him into fits of hysterical laughter. Chef immediately called the entire kitchen together for a pre-dinner service huddle and decreed that our Edel would now be nicknamed “Topless.”
Well lucky for us, Topless had a knack for refined yet approachable desserts. As John reminisces, “She used no precious ingredients, which made her desserts all the more precious indeed. Butter, cream, sugar, and eggs played a supporting role to the fruit that starred at every meal.”
The recipe for a gorgeous Plum Tart with Streusel caught my eye. Pflaumenkuchen is described as the apple pie of the Black Forest region – such a staple that some cooks make it every day when the plums are in season. Unfortunately, plum season here has passed, and since I’ve been bombarded with Hua’s beloved “per-cinnamons” lately, I decided to give this substitution a shot.
The delicate sweetness of the persimmons played wonderfully with the cinnamon streusel in this recipe. Here’s the play by play:
Make a basic sweet tart dough by cutting a cold stick of butter into flour, sugar, a bit of milk, an egg, a pinch of salt, and lemon zest – a lovely addition I haven’t seen in other pate sucre recipes.
Line a tart pan with a round of parchment paper, butter and dust with flour. Then roll out the dough and line the pan, trimming off excess dough.
Peel the persimmons, hull them, and cut into wedges (I like to cut each persimmon into 12 pieces).
Beat together an egg and brown sugar. Coat the persimmons in the mixture.
Arrange the fruit in the tart shell with their pointed ends poking up. This makes for a beautiful presentation — when the tart bakes the points will caramelize and toast up attractively.
Mix together your streusel and sprinkle over the persimmons. Bake until the topping is golden.
Thanks to John – and dear Edel “Topless” Neary for that matter – for inspiring this pretty, autumnal tart.
Chef John Besh’s new cookbook, Cooking From the Heart, features a gorgeous Plum Tart with Streusel (Pflaumenkuchen) which he learned to make while training in Germany’s Black Forest region. He describes it as the region’s version of apple pie – such a staple that some cooks make it every day when the plums are in season. The recipe is wonderfully versatile, open to being adapted for whatever fruit is in season. Since the markets are overflowing with sweet persimmons now, that’s what I’ve gone with. I also found that I needed more butter to get my streusel to the right crumbly consistency.
Recipe Source: LickMySpoon.com.
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