Sunday, December 8, 2013

Persimmon Tart

In summer, I love to make fresh fruit tarts when berries are in season (there's an example in miniature here). But using fresh strawberries or raspberries in December just doesn't feel right to me. Instead, I decided to try the same formula -- short crust, pastry cream, and fresh fruit -- using a fruit that is actually in season.  Persimmons!

Persimmons and tart shell (shortcrust or pâte brisée)

Persimmons are abundant at this time of year in California. There are two common varieties. The hachiya has a soft, juicy pulp when fully ripened; this is the type of persimmon most commonly used in baking (in quickbreads, cookies, and cake). My favorite kind is the fuyu persimmon, which is sweet and crisp: you can eat it like an apple. They are a wonderful addition to fall salads, too; at this time of year I like to enliven a green salad with sliced persimmon, toasted pine nuts or almonds, and pomegranate seeds.

A couple weeks ago I had the whim to make a snack of persimmon slices with almond butter (delicious, by the way) and got to think about an almond and persimmon dessert -- but using fuyus, not hachiyas, since we had so many of them at home already.  I decided to try a variant on my summer fruit tart, using persimmons instead of berries, and an almond-based pastry cream.

Ingredients: Butter, confectioner's sugar, ground blanched almonds, cornstarch, rum, vanilla pastry cream.

My almond pastry cream is a variation on the one in the Lenôtre cookbook (pictured). The base is butter, ground almonds, and confectioner's sugar; this almond cream is then combined with a roughly equal amount of vanilla pastry cream.

The finished almond cream. It was difficult to resist the urge to lick the bowl clean.

The pastry cream is chilled, then spread in a thin layer in the tart shell.  I fanned the persimmons over the top, then finished it with an apricot glaze (apricot jam, heated, and diluted with a splash of rum). No baking required, aside from the tart shell.

The tart had its first outing at a little dessert party. I also made a chocolate pudding, one of the ultimate comfort foods in this unseasonable-for-California cold snap.

Pudding: milk, dark chocolate (Callebaut 60%), sugar, cornstarch. Orange zest and Grand Marnier whipped cream.

People seemed to like it.