This holiday season a dear friend of mine shared a very old family recipe with me. It was the dessert his father always made for the family, and his father before him...and so on. A short time ago he lost his father, and I recently lost my mother to cancer. Sharing this recipe was a way of sharing something special beyond just a neat old recipe. It was a way of sharing something special and precious, a bit of memory of his dad, to help me get through the first holidays without my mom. It was very thoughtful and I will always be grateful for the emotional support he has provided my family and I.
I had never had a British steamed pudding before, and I had never eaten persimmons before. Suffice it to say, I was nervous. However, with the right equipment (a special bowl) and some encouragement from my friend, It turned out better than I could have imagined. I spoke to my friend about sharing this amazing recipe as an Instructable, and he enthusiastically agreed. He then sent me a half dozen beautiful organic persimmons from his home in L.A (I repaid him by shipping him a rare Sumatra Buah Buahan coffee I roasted myself).
A Word about Persimmons:
Persimmons, for the uninitiated, are a tomato-looking super-yummy fruit. The date-plum (actually a type of persimmon) is what the ancient Greeks called "The fruit of the Gods." There are a wide variety of types of persimmon (include a Texas, and American, and a Indian). But, the two main types you are likely to encounter are the hachiya (astringent) and the fuyu (non-astringent). This recipe uses the hachiya persimmon. How do you tell the difference? The fuyu is shaped like a beefsteak tomato while the hachiya is shaped like an acorn. This is an important distinction because the hachiya's are mushy and must only be eaten when really ripe (and mushy), or they are very bitter/tannin-y tasting. However, the fuyu is a very firm fruit and doesn't lend itself well to pureeing, and therefore being cooked in a pudding. Fuyus are delicious raw, however.
NOTE: The best way to tell if a hachiya persimmon is ripe is to press your thumb into it. If your thumb sinks in, it is ripe. If you know you will be making a puree from the fruit, as we are, freezing them and then thawing them as needed produces the mushiest, easiest to scoop out and puree fruit.
Step 1: Materials
To make a proper persimmon pudding, you will need the following materials, in particular a 1 qt pudding basin. A pudding basin looks like an ordinary bowl, except (as shown in the picture) it has a raised ring around the bottom with gaps in it. The gaps keep air from being trapped under the bowl and causing uneven cooking. You might be tempted to use a metal pudding basin, but in my experience, metal basins are best used for savory puddings because they allow the pudding to cook much faster. For dessert puddings like ours, we want the nice, slow, measured steaming that a ceramic pudding basin provides.
Step 2: Ingredients
The ingredients you will need are:
- 1 cup persimmon flesh (about 2 persimmons the size of a fist)
- 3⁄4 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons softened butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1⁄2 cup milk
- 1⁄4 cup golden raisin
Step 3: Heat Water and Mix Some Ingredients
Fill the stock pot halfway with water and insert your ring mold (or rack) in the stock pot. Place the pot on medium heat. We don't need to boil the water, we are steaming, not boiling the pudding. :)
Put the butter (now you find out why it needed to be softened), the sugar, the persimmon flesh (see the picture for the easy way to do this - basically scoop it out with a big spoon), and the egg in a bowl and blend with the stick blender until smooth. If the butter were cold, it would be sticking to the blender like crazy.
All blended? Then it is time to mix some dry stuff...
Step 4: Mix, Mix, and Mix...Plus Mixing.
Place the cinnamon, baking soda, and flour in a bowl and whisk until well-mixed. Add the flour mixture to the persimmon mixture and stir by hand until the flour is incorporated and there are no lumps.
Add a few raisin and a little milk at a time. Be sure to mix the milk in well before adding more. See the pictures for a guide on making sure the milk gets mixed in well. A word on raisins...in this recipe, I use the raisins as they are. Some people prefer to soak the raisins in water and then chop them before adding them to a baked dessert. Let your personal preferences guide you, there is no right or wrong way here, after two hours of steaming the raisin will be plenty soft.
Once you have mixed in all the milk and raisin, it is on to the fun part...
Step 5: The Fun Part - Butter As Waterproofing
Take a piece of parchment or wax paper large enough to cover the pudding basin with room to spare and butter it. Be generous. Butter it like mad. Then place it on a similar-sized piece of aluminum foil and pleat it. The pictures are very helpful in terms of what the pleat should look like. The purpose of the pleat is too give the pudding room to rise and stretch.
Butter the pudding bowl well, then butter it some more, then add the pudding mixture. Finally, place the paper and foil on top of the bowl with the foil side up.
On to the hard part...
Step 6: The Hard Part - Making a Watertight Seal With Butter and Building a Handle.
Wrap the foil around the bowl, taking care not to pull the pleat out. secure with a string. The pictures will demonstrate this better than I can describe, but the object here is to tie the string firmly below the lip in the bowl's side by wrapping it around twice and then tying it off. Once that is done, we make a handle by looping another piece of string perpendicular to our first string, then running it over the top of the bowl and tying it off. This improvised handle will not only make it much easier to lower the basin into our stock pot, it will make it easy to remove when it is done.
After we have finished with our strings, we need to trim the paper and foil to a length of about 1" to 2" under the string. The more even it is, the easier the next step will be. Don't trim it too short, or the next step will be more difficult.
Finally, we take the foil and fold it under the paper all the way around the bowl. This can be challenging, especially if you didn't leave yourself enough paper and foil. It doesn't have to be perfect. Once this is complete we have a watertight seal made out of butter, sealing in our pudding for steaming.
Step 7: Immerse...and Wait.
Place the pudding in the stock pot on top of the ring or rack and cover with the lid. Verify that the water is at least halfway and no more than 2/3 the way up the side of the pudding basin. Adjust if necessary. Leave this over medium heat for about 2 hours. Check every 45 minutes or so to make sure there is sufficient water in the pot. This is when a transparent lid comes in handy.
When the two hours are up, remove the pudding from the stock pot and allow to cool for at least 15-20 minutes. If not, bad things will happen. Consult the pictures in the next step for an example of bad things happening.
Step 8: Plate and Enjoy Your Persimmon Pudding!
So you waited 15 minutes right? Cut the strings and gently remove the foil and paper from the top of the basin. Aren't you glad you buttered it well? Invert the basin over a plate and gently tap the sides of the basin, the pudding should come right out and stand up straight and tall. Unlike the pudding if you don't wait at least 15 minutes. That pudding oozes out over the plate like a lifeless blob.
Either way, Persimmon Pudding is incredibly delicious! Enjoy a slice with some salty caramel or brown butter ice cream!