Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Persimmon Bread Pudding

Serves about 8

There are two varieties of persimmons you’ll likely find in the fruit market during the autumn and winter months – the smaller, sweeter, firm yet tender Fuyu persimmons (the kind to use in this recipe); and the larger, more astringent variety of Hachiya persimmons, which remain all but inedible until they are very soft and very, very ripe.  Be sure to keep this difference in mind while searching through the produce aisles.   

Persimmon Bread Pudding with Whipped Cream and Dried Persimmon Slices
about 1 1/2 loaves Challah bread
1 1/2 cups Fuyu persimmon puree, from about 4 peeled Fuyu persimmons
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar, divided in half, plus more for sprinkling on top
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbl butter, sliced into small cubes, plus more for greasing the pan
Pre-heat the oven to 350ᵒF and arrange a rack in the middle position. 
Slice the Challah loaves cross-wise into 1 1/2-inch thick slices.  Remove most of the crust from the perimeter of the slices (no need to be too thorough here – just do as best you can) then slice each bread slice into 1 1/2-inch cubes.  You should have about 12 cups bread.  If not, cube up a couple more slices. 
Arrange the bread cubes in a single layer over a large baking pan.  Bake for about 10 minutes, then toss the cubes to flip most of them over, and continue to bake about 5 to 7 minutes more, until the bread feels firm and dry, like it’s stale.  Cool to room temperature.
A note on pureeing the persimmons:  It’s best to quarter them first, length-wise through the stem.  Then slice off the stems and a small portion of the core.  Then slide your knife just beneath the skin to separate it from the flesh.  Puree in a food processor until smooth.  Four Fuyu persimmons should yield about 1 1/2 cups of puree.
Pureeing Persimmons
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs together with 1/2 cup sugar, the cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set aside.
In a medium-sized saucepot, combine the cream, milk and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove from the heat, then slowly add the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture, whisking constantly as you pour.  Add the persimmon puree to the custard and whisk to combine.  Add the toasted bread cubes and toss to coat, using a rubber spatula.  Allow the mixture to rest about 15 minutes at room temperature, stirring occasionally with the rubber spatula.
Generously butter the bottoms and sides of a medium-sized casserole dish, roughly 10-inches by 10-inches.  Pour the custard-soaked bread into the prepared dish.  Dot evenly with the 2 tablespoons of butter, then sprinkle evenly with about 1 tablespoon sugar.  Bake until puffed, golden brown on top and cooked through, about 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving.  Slice into portion-sized squares.  Serve topped with whipped cream and garnished with dried persimmon slices (see recipes below).
Whipped Cream

1  cup heavy cream
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Whip the cream to soft peaks (When you stick a spoon into the cream and lift it out, a point will form then droop down after a second or two).  Add sugar and vanilla and whip to firm peaks (The point formed in the cream will stand straight up and not fall over).

Dried Persimmon Slices

Technique adapted from a recipe on MarthaStewart.com
3 ripe yet firm Fuyu persimmons
Pre-heat the oven to 250ᵒF and arrange a rack in the middle position. 
Using a mandolin (or a very sharp knife and a very confident hand), thinly slice the persimmons cross-wise into thin (1/16-inch thick) circles.  Arrange in a single layer over a wire cooling rack placed over a baking pan. 
Thinly-Sliced Persimmons
Bake until dry and curled at the edges, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Be sure not to bake for too long, or they’ll turn from a vibrant orange to a dull orange-brown.  Cool completely to room temperature then store at room temperature in an air-tight container.
Dried Persimmon Slices