France has introduced me to so many new colors and flavors in terms of food. Being an Iowa girl, things like parsnips and rabbit and mangos just didn’t exist at my local supermarket. One of the joys of the well-known French passion for all things food-related is in discovering different products, things that I’d never even heard of, and trying them all. I’m a big advocate of the phrase “I’ll try anything once.” I think it’s important to let your taste buds speak for themselves, and not to dismiss certain foods because of how they look or what you’ve heard about them. I’ve tried some pretty unappetizing things in my day, but my latest find does not fall into that category.
Persimmons are a lovely, bright orange fruit that is just begging to be eaten. They almost look like vibrant little tomatoes, but something about that shiny skin and little green top lets you know that this is no vegetable. I grabbed a few of these when I spotted them at a market as I was walking back to work for my lunch break. I’d seen recipes online for persimmon tarts, but since it was the middle of the winter, I felt like I needed something a little hardier. A few minutes on the web lead me to the perfect recipe: persimmon coffee cake.
If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ve probably noticed that I like cinnamon. A lot. I put it in just about everything: alcoholic cocktails, shortbread, spicy chocolate cookies, pork loin… I think it’s probably my all-time favorite spice. It’s versatile and something about the smell of it comforts me. Plus, who doesn’t like coffee cake? I’d never tried making any before, contenting myself with the Little Debbie version. Like most things in the kitchen, it was incredibly easy, and I found myself left with a huge pan of moist, delicious, not-to-sweet cake that I savored all week long for breakfast.
Persimmon coffee cake
Recipe from the Food Network website, adapted from Emeril Lagasse
3/4 C butter, plus a few T extra
1/4 C brown sugar (for the persimmons)
2-3 ripe persimmons, peeled and roughly chopped
2 T lemon juice
1 T cornstarch
1/4 C water
1 C brown sugar (for the cake)
3 1/2 C flour (for the cake)
1 t each of baking powder and baking soda
2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1 1/2 C buttermilk (I can’t find this in France, so I used milk with vinegar)
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 C brown sugar (for the topping)
1/2 C flour (for the topping)
1 C powdered sugar (I used less than the recipe called for, not seeing the need for so much glaze)
1 T karo syrup
1 T milk
Preheat your oven to 350°. Grease a rectangular pan with some butter and lightly dust it with flour. Begin by cooking down your persimmons. Add a couple tablespoons of butter and the 1/4 C brown sugar to a small saucepan. Once it begins to bubble, add the lemon juice and persimmons. Let them simmer on low heat for about 5-7 minutes. Mix the cornstarch with the water and add this to your fruit mixture, cooking an additional 2-3 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
Now for the cake: cream together the butter and 1 C brown sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs one by one, mixing after each one. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into the creamed butter. Begin mixing lightly, then add the buttermilk and vanilla and mix until you have batter.
Now for the toppings. Combine about 1/4 C butter with the remaining flour and the last of the brown sugar. Don’t overwork it; this is your crumble topping, you want it to be crumbly! In a separate bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, karo syrup and lemon juice. This is your glaze.
Now to bring it all together. The recipe called for a multi-step procedure in putting the various components into the baking dish (probably so it would actually look like real coffee cake). I didn’t do this. I simply added my cake batter, followed by the persimmons and topped it all off with the cobbler topping. However you choose to present it, put it in the oven to bake for about 35 minutes. Let it cool slightly before drizzling the glaze on top. Eat it while it’s still warm!