My entire team, except for Bernard, the Winterlake Lodge caretaker, is in Anchorage this week. We're filing and organizing, painting, and putting the final remnants of summer away. We'll be here until the last week of November, when we'll return to the lodge and begin our winter season.
Being in Anchorage is always exciting -- to go restaurant-hopping and browse through local bookstores, and to meander leisurely down grocery store aisles. That's something we don't normally find time to do in our lifestyle (we typically call or email orders in to our expeditor, Neil, or order directly from wholesalers).
This week, after a shopping expedition, Mandy brought back a case of persimmons to the office. There were mixed reactions as people walked by and peered at or poked the bright orange tomato-like globes lying on the kitchen counter. Carl declared he is not a fan and cautioned not to eat the tannic and bitter skin. Ty munched through an entire fruit and thought it was delicious. Mandy started dicing up persimmons, her mind set on turning her fruit purchase into a Martha Stewart-inspired bread pudding recipe she had been hanging on to.
The kind of persimmons Mandy bought is the "Fuyu" variety, short and squat in the looks department and not nearly as tannic or bitter as Carl declared they would be. He was perhaps remembering other varieties of persimmons he'd tried from the past. Different varieties offer slightly varying taste characteristics. Persimmons come in seeded and seedless varieties. And some are bred or treated to remove the tannin from that outer skin. Many appear in Alaska markets from time to time, but most often you will find Fuyus.
So -- what to do with a persimmon? A great go-to recipe, if it can be called that, is to half-freeze persimmons until they are cold and slushy. Cut the tops off and spoon out the flesh. It's a delicious (and addictive) frozen treat often described as sorbet-like. Some people wash and leave the skin on. Others carefully peel the skin before eating. That's up to you.
For our recipe, we started with some good Alaska sourdough bread cubes. We didn't have day-old bread that's perfect for bread pudding, so we toasted our cubes in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. We tossed the persimmons with lemon, spices, and apples and threw the entire mixture into a medium baking dish. Next, we made a quick custard by heating up milk and sugar and carefully, off the heat, folded in eggs and our white chocolate. We used white chocolate in this recipe, but you could use dark or milk chocolate if you aren't a fan. You could throw in a little fruit liquor if you have a mind to. We make a sourdough bread pudding at the lodge with chocolate and Yukon Jack sauce that has been a favorite for thirty years.
Before our dish went into the oven, Mandy arranged a few slices of persimmon and apple so they angled upward slightly, to add contrast and character to the crust of the pudding. She also made a simple caramel sauce and drizzled it over the top when she served the dish. Here's our version of Martha Stewart's persimmon bread pudding. (In her recipe, she purees the fruit. It is perhaps an Alaskan sensibility to leave fruit more intact, since it is always precious). We added in Granny Smith apples for brightness to contrast with the white chocolate and golden raisins for textural interest. See what you think. Try a few persimmon recipes while they are making their presence in local markets. They'll be gone soon.
Recipe: Persimmon and White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread cubes if they are not day-old and already slightly stale for about 10 minutes just until they are crisped but still slightly soft in the middle.
Butter a medium (2-quart) baking dish. Sprinkle the dish with a small amount of the sugar. In a medium bowl, combine the persimmons, apple, lemon zest, lemon juice, and ½ cup of the remaining sugar. Combine the bread cubes with the persimmons and apples and turn the entire mixture into the baking dish, spreading out all evenly in the dish.
In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining sugar and milk; stir frequently over low heat. Remove the mixture from the heat just as the milk starts to steam but don't let it boil. Add in the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted. This should just take a minute or two.
Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk mixture into the eggs, being careful not to cook the eggs.
Pour the white chocolate custard over the persimmon-bread mixture in the baking dish, covering the bread completely. Arrange a few pieces of persimmon and apple to stick out of the pudding for contrast.
Place the baking dish onto the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, or until set.
Makes 8-10 servings.