New Year's Day some friends/co-workers hosted a very casual open house gathering full of food, drink, and guests nursing hangovers. The table in the dining room of Andy and Stephanie's grand old Echo Park craftsman was covered in snacks, sweets, dips, chips as well as a big steaming pot of gumbo. There was also a little hair of the dog, in the form of a pitcher of Bloody Mary's. I, however, was unable to partake. I just needed food. One of the most unique and tasty things they were serving were homemade persimmon cookies. Apparently Andy has a persimmon tree growing in the back yard and, as is so common with people who have fruit trees, he has tons of resulting produce, far too much than he could possibly use. As we were leaving I asked Andy for the recipe to the delightful and unexpected little cookie. He provided me with a printout then added, almost pleading with me, "I have some frozen persimmon puree too. TAKE some." He opened his freezer revealing a stack of at least half a dozen quart sized bags filled with the pureed flush of who knows how many persimmons.
Once in my possession I pondered my puree, wondering what else, besides baking, I could use it in. The pulp, a fantastic deep marigold in color, sort of smells like a combination of squash and a hint of citrus, particularly, orange. It has a honey sweetness but is not overly so. A persimmon gelato sounded like it could be good, but I couldn't really find a recipe for one. Even a simple persimmon sorbet seemed like it would be refreshing and unexpected. But then, that kind of thing is best right out of the ice cream maker and I probably wouldn't be eating that much sorbet in one sitting. A while back Susan over at Immaeatchu wrote about an amazing sounding cocktail she'd had at Lucques that was comprised of persimmon, Maker’s Mark, elderflower liqueur and champagne. Using the puree in a cocktail was just up my alley.
I decided to create some sort of persimmon cocktail to serve at a small gathering I was having for Annie's birthday, before we all headed out to dinner at AOC. After a little research to see what flavors work well with persimmon, I came up with a persimmon and ginger mojito (the birthday girl loves herself some rum). That sounds good, right? I stocked up on mint, made a ginger simple syrup, and froze extra ice. Upon Annie and Pierson's arrival, I muddled my mint (breaking a glass in the process), shook up the puree, rum and simple syrup with ice and poured us each a little cocktail, topping them with soda water and an extra sprig of mint. We toasted and took a sip. They were...only okay. A little unremarkable. Not bad but certainly not great and I'm not really sure why. All I know is that if I tried one at a bar, I wouldn't have ordered another.
Over the next couple days, every time I'd open the refrigerator and see the measuring cup filled with the remaining puree I was reminded of my disappointing drink. I'd wonder what I was going to do with the rest of it. I had to do SOMEthing. I decided to give the recipe Andy gave me a try. After all, those cookies were pretty great, however, I ended up putting my own spin on it, substituting crystallized ginger for raisins.
Now for those of you unfamiliar with persimmons, back when I was writing for Apartment Therapy Kitchen I did a piece on them that you might want to check out.
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup persimmon pulp (from 2 large, very ripe persimmons)
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
First, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Then, in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the shortening and sugar for about 5 minutes. Add in vanilla, egg, and persimmon puree, and continue to mix until well combined. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture to the shortening, sugar and egg mixture and mix just until the batter forms, being careful not to over mix. Fold in crystallized ginger and walnuts.
Drop by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. They don't really spread out during the baking, so I was able to get a dozen cookies per sheet pan.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are firm. Let cool on the cookie sheets for 1 minute before removing to wire racks to cool completely.
The persimmon puree makes the cookies moist and sort of chewy. In fact they're almost cakey, like the mounded tops of little mini muffins. Fresh from the oven the cookie bottoms are lightly crisp around the edge, but they soften as they sit and are stored. The walnuts give the texture a nice crunch and the crystallized ginger imbues a subtle piquancy which sort of builds on the spicy combination of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Very autumnal, perfect for cooler weather. You could make the cookies bigger of course, but I rather like snacking on several smaller ones. Plus they're just so cute. If you don't like crystallized ginger, just replace it with raisins or dried cranberries. Pretty much any nut would work too, besides walnuts. I also keep toying with the idea of adding in some dark chocolate chips or cacoa nibs next time. So many variations. Thankfully I still have one more cup of puree left.
Yields about 4 1/2 dozen cookies