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Persimmons

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No fruit—or berry, if you want to get technical—demonstrates the virtue of patience more dramatically than the persimmon. So powerfully astringent is the unripe Hachiya variety, it’s a wonder Kiehl’s hasn’t tried to corner the market. But wait until it’s as soft as custard, and you’ll swear there is no fruit more perfectly sweet, more luxuriously fleshed, more subtly sophisticated. For antsy types, there is the shorter, squatter Fuyu variety—tannin-free even when unripe—which some, including the Biltmore Room’s Gary Robins, say is preferable for cooking. You’ll find Hachiyas at your local gourmet superstore ($3 each at Dean & DeLuca), but $1 will typically buy three of either kind in Chinatown.

Gary Robins’s Steamed Persimmon Pudding
3 Fuyu (or very ripe Hachiya) persimmons
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1⁄4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄2 cup cream
1 cup golden raisins
1⁄2 cup rum
11⁄4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon cloves
1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup pecans
2 egg whites

Illustration by John Burgoyne.

Preheat oven to 350. Peel the persimmons and (1) place them in a food processor or blender, with the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean. (This should yield one cup of persimmon purée.) In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter.
(2) Whisk in the persimmon purée, followed by the vanilla extract and then the cream. In a saucepan, cover the raisins with the rum and plump them over medium heat. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and all the spices. Whisk the persimmon purée into the dry ingredients and then stir in the pecans and raisins (with the rum drained off). Whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks, and fold into the mixture. Coat the inside of six 6-ounce ramekins with butter and dust with sugar.
(3) Fill each ramekin three-quarters full and place in a covered water bath. Bake until set, approximately 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.


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