What better way than baking to prepare for a tropical storm?

By Steve Bender
October 29, 2020
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Credit: Steve Bender

As Zeta hurtled towards us as our third tropical storm in a month, I thought to myself, “How would Julia Child respond to this dire situation? Bake a pie!” And that’s what I’ll do. For our Japanese persimmon tree in the front yard, this decision couldn’t come too soon.

Our ‘Fuyu’ persimmon is the best fruit tree I can envision. It’s self-pollinating, the sweet, crisp fruit don’t have seeds or cores, pests don’t bother it, and its leaves turn glowing red in fall. The bright-orange, beefsteak tomato-size persimmons never fail to elicit queries from passers-by. “What kind of apple is that?” “Is that an orange tree?” “How long you been training that mater?”

This year, the tree has been especially prolific. Branches loaded with fruit bend to the ground. I imagine a haggard woman, eight months pregnant with triplets, screaming at her belly, “Get out! Get out!” Thus, merciful Doctor Grumpy must provide relief by harvesting a bag of persimmons immediately.

Judy likes to eat her persimmons fresh, just picked from the tree. She likes hers crisp. Picked a bit later, they’ll soften. I, however, needing something to take my mind off of Zeta, will make a pie. I Googled “persimmon pie recipe” and selected one from keyingredient.com that I’ll tweak just a bit, so it won’t be a total rip-off. The key ingredient here is 4 to 5 ‘Fuyu’ persimmons. Lacking your own tree, you can buy them at most grocery stores.

I like to make things in stages, so that after I finish using something, I put it back in the pantry and get it out of the way. Here’s how I proceeded.

Step 1. Mix spices together in a small bowl. Add 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground allspice, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cardamom, and 1/8 tsp ground cloves.

Step 2. Cut the persimmons into narrow slices about ½-inch thick and wide and an inch long. You can peel off the skin first if you want, but I leave it on. Discard the stem ends and any stray seeds you find inside. Put slices in a bowl. Slowly sprinkle the mixed spices over the fruit, stirring with a spoon so that the spices evenly coat the slices. Set the bowl aside.

Step 3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Step 4. Beat two eggs in another bowl with your handy electric mixer. Add two tbs real maple syrup (not the fake kind), 2 tbs flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, 2 tbs brown sugar, and 1/3 cup melted butter. Mix this together until it’s smooth and creamy. Set the bowl aside.

Step 5. Using pre-made pastry dough, roll out the bottom shell of the pie to fit a 9-inch pan. Place it in the pan.

Step 6. Spoon the persimmon slices evenly into the bottom pie shell.

Step 7. Pour the egg-butter-sugar mixture over the persimmon slices.

Step 8. Roll out a top pastry shell, cover the pie, and press the two shells together around the edges, sealing the fruit inside, and creating an artsy scalloped look. Punch a couple of small holes in the top shell to let steam escape.

Step 9. Place the pie in the 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Then turn the heat down to 300 degrees and bake for an additional hour. When the timer goes off, you’re done. Let the pie cool for an hour or so. Then dig in.

Credit: Steve Bender

Was that easy or what? It has to be to earn four stars from Grumpy’s Test Kitchen!

I’m going to cut me a piece now. Delicious. Zeta, do your worst.

Postscript

I almost made a serious mistake during the early stages of this pie-making. I was mixing all the spices, when I noticed the last one added to the bowl didn’t smell right. Whoa. Instead of adding nutmeg, I had added cumin! If you’ve ever cooked with cumin, you know you could add 1/4 teaspoon to a truckload of fill dirt and still taste it. Should I pretend I was making “Madras Persimmon Pie?” No. I threw out the spice mixture and started over.