Dried Persimmon – 2015 update

Subtle, sweet, complex, mellow and addictively delicious Dried Persimmon – YES.  It’s Halloween, and in the bay area, backyard persimmons are at the best state of ripeness for drying:  orange, but still hard.  Once they begin to soften, they’re too ripe to use for this technique.  I’m re-posting this recipe to help get you inspired.   When to pick the fruit is key, and the time is upon us.

persimmons, washed and trimmed but not peeled

persimmons, washed and trimmed but not peeled

I LOVE Dried Persimmon when served with good cheese (manchego is fabulous) and a quality sherry for a lux happy hour.  Enjoy!

Dried Persimmon

My friend Janet has a mature Hachiya persimmon tree in her backyard, which produces lots of beautiful fruit each Fall.  I’ve picked the dark orange mature fruit, when they are the consistency of jelly, and made the puree into cakes and other confections.  Two years ago she learned a simple technique for drying these fruit, a practice that hails from Japan.

sliced of dried persimmon

sliced of dried persimmon

A stunning natural transformation occurs when these supremely astringent unripe fruit are peeled and left to air dry for several weeks:  they turn into a most delicious, delicate, sweet natural confection.  Here’s what to do, if you find yourself with a big crop of Hachiya persimmons one Fall.

Pick the persimmons when they are bright orange all over and still quite firm and opaque.  Keep a cross-shaped section of the branch on which the fruit hangs — you will need this to secure string for hanging.  Clip the sepals to a neat circle on the top of the fruit.  Peel the thin skin off the whole fruit, leaving a dime sized patch at the base.  Secure a string on the stem of the fruit from which to hang the fruit.

peeled persimmons, day 3 of drying

peeled persimmons, day 3 of drying

Hang each fruit so that it doesn’t touch its neighbor.  Good air circulation is key.  Hang the peeled persimmons in a warm dry room.  I hung a wooden closet dowel from some bike hooks I screwed into the ceiling, then secured the strung persimmons to this dowel.  I had 50 fruit, which was pretty heavy to begin with.  Over the course of several weeks the fruit will turn darker, and shrink, then pucker.

drying persimmon, after 3 weeks

drying persimmon, after 3 weeks

Some of the fruit may drop off — so it’s wise to place a towel under them, just in case.  When the fruit is about 1/2 as big as original, give each one a gentle massage.  This will help to distribute the moisture for even drying.

Dried whole persimmons, after 6 weeks

Dried whole persimmons, after 6 weeks

As long as the fruit doesn’t smell sour it’s good!  When the fruit is the consistency of a soft gummy bear, it’s ready to eat.  Slice into pieces and enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Warmly spiced, moist, sweet pumpkin cake is a natural choice for a Fall treat.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Pumpkin Spice Cake

This cake is fabulous on its own, or paired with whipped cream or buttercream.  This recipe works equally well using wheat flour or gluten free baking flour, and is dairy free, using creamy avocado oil instead of butter.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Cake
Makes a dozen cupcakes, a 9 or 10 inch round, or two 6 inch rounds.  Double it for a larger cake — it will bake up just a beautifully.

1 cup (5 oz) unbleached all purpose flour or Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves or allspice
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) white sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) avocado oil
1 cup (8 oz) pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare pans by using cupcake papers, or oiling and flouring the pans.

Sift together and set aside the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the sugars, eggs, oil, and pumpkin.  Beat until some air is incorporated into the mixture – about 2 minutes.  Gently stir in the flour mixture, mixing only until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans, and bake until done.  For cupcakes, check at 25 minutes.  For smaller layers, check at 30 minutes.  For a larger single layer, check at 35 minutes.  Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a baking rack.

Vanilla Cake – Gluten and Dairy Free

This cake is tender, moist, sweet and deliciously vanilla.  Just what any cake should be.  But what makes it special is that it is completely gluten and dairy free.

Vanilla Cake - Gluten and Dairy Free

Vanilla Cake – Gluten and Dairy Free

For folks with celiac and dairy allergies, there really aren’t too many homemade cake options that taste like a traditional layer cake — but I think I’ve created a simple homemade cake that tastes fabulous.  Indeed, when I taste tested this one, I didn’t let on that it was a special recipe until after the first bite, and to a one, my cake testers were surprised that it was a unique recipe and enjoyed their taste.  Proudly serve it to all your guests, whether or not they eat gluten and dairy.  For Samar.  Enjoy!

Vanilla Cake – Gluten and Dairy Free
(makes one 9 inch layer)

4 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) avocado oil*
5 TB water
1 cup (5 oz) Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt, fine
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare 9 inch spring form baking pan by lightly oiling the bottom and sprinkling with gluten free baking flour.

Whisk together the gluten free baking flour, salt, and baking powder.  Set aside.

Whip eggs in a mixing bowl using whisk attachment until very light and foamy – at least tripled in volume.  While the beater is still running, on low, add the sugar.  Turn the beater up to high and continue to whip the egg/sugar mixture until smooth, very fluffy, and glossy.  Turn mixer to lowest speed and add the avocado oil, water, vanilla, and flour mixture.  Blend until combined.  Pour batter into the prepared ban and bake for 25 minutes, or until the cake springs back when a finger is gently pressed into the top of the cake.  Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then release the spring form and cool completely.

*Avocado oil is my preferred vegetable oil in this cake because of its neutral flavor and creamy mouth feel.