A Persimmon Primer | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

A Persimmon Primer

There are several varieties of persimmon, all delicious.
A Persimmon Primer

Perfect for afternoon snacking with coffee or tea. Or dessert. Breakfast. Midnight snack ... Ronnie Fein/JW

Serves 8 to 10

1 hr

1 hr 45 min

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Persimmons are the most delightful fruits you may have never heard of. They are sweet, firm and versatile, and this time of year, you can treat yourself and support the state of Israel at the same time, because Israel produces wonderful persimmons and they are on supermarket shelves now.

Israel’s are the Fuyu variety; these look like flat-ended tomatoes; they’re usually yellowish, but can veer toward orange. This is a firm, crisp fruit, seedless, and usually rock-hard at the store (like pears, they ripen after being harvested). You can eat it, skin and all, like you would an apple. Or slice or cube it for salad. Bonus: You can prepare this fruit ahead because it doesn’t oxidize. It pairs nicely with roasted beets, soft lettuces such as Bibb and works well into a salsa (chopped and mixed with scallion, chili pepper, olive oil, chopped mint and lime juice). Fuyus are also fine for cobbler and pie.

Hachiyas are the other major variety. They are deep orange and have an elongated shape. They start out crisp, but you can’t eat them at that point because they are too tart and astringent. The flesh ripens almost to custardy-soft and tastes gloriously sweet. This persimmon is perfect for puddings, custards, ice cream and quick breads, or, when blended with yogurt, into a delicious smoothie.

My local market also sold Chocolate Persimmons, so-named because the inside flesh is brown, the kind of brown you normally associate with fruit that’s past its prime. But it isn’t; the chocolate color tells you it’s perfectly tender and ripe for eating out of hand, with a sweet flesh meant only for snacking, not competing with other ingredients in a recipe. On the other hand, you can mix mashed chocolate persimmon with sweetened whipped cream for an incredibly easy-to-prepare, rich and fabulous fruit “fool.”

With this embarrassment of riches, I had a bit of a persimmon fest this week, and I offer to you one of my most delicious experiments. It’s a coffee cake topped with lemon-infused chopped Fuyus and coated with sweet, oat-based streusel. It’s nice for dessert or snacking with afternoon tea or coffee.

Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher in Stamford. She is the author of The Modern Kosher Kitchen and Hip Kosher. Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, at www.ronniefein.com, friend on Facebook at RonnieVailFein, Twitter at @RonnieVFein.

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For the streusel

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup chopped almonds

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, cut into chunks

For the cake

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup milk

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 fuyu or other firm persimmons, chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. To make the streusel, combine the oats, flour, almonds and sugar in a bowl and whisk the ingredients to mix them evenly.
  3. Add the butter. Using fingers or a pastry blender (or a food processor on pulse), work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly. Set it aside.
  4. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low speed until evenly combined.
  5. In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk, melted butter and vanilla extract. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and mix on low speed for 1-2 minutes, or until smooth and thoroughly blended.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan. Top with the persimmon pieces. Cover with the streusel.
  7. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the outer ring from the pan and let the cake cool completely.