Results tagged dried fruits from David Lebovitz

Tu bi’Shvat Cake

Israeli Fruitcake

I’ve never given Israeli food all much thought. Sure, I’d had my fill of falafels and hummus in my lifetime, but there is a trip in my future and I was at a dinner party the other night and the woman hosting us had lived in Israel for a number of years and said it was her favorite place in the world.

Other people at the party chimed in saying also that the food was great – especially the salads, something I miss from years of living in California – all those vibrant, fresh greens and luscious tomatoes bursting with flavor that we had an overload of at the farmers markets! But I’ve never given much thought to Israeli desserts. (I adore Black and White Cookies, but don’t know if those qualify.) So when I came across this Tu bi’Shvat Cake in The Book of New Israeli Food, as I’m fond of anything packed with dried fruits and nuts, I thought I’d give it a try.

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White Chocolate & Sour Cherry Scones

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The year was 1999 and my first book had come out and was nominated for one of those terribly-important cookbook awards. During the dinner and awards presentation, everyone thought I was a shoe-in and so I was seated right up in front, sharing a table with Graham Kerr, Claudia Rodin, some woman from Sweden (I had no idea who she was; the only Swedish women I’ve committed to memory are the ladies of Abba, I’m afraid)—and, gulp, Julia Child.

It was nice to be considered, but the real reason I wanted to win was because Alice Medrich was presenting the award in my category and I quickly thought of something that I wanted to say about her. When I was starting out as a baker, I used to step into her shop, Cocolat in Berkeley, on my way to work and get a truffle or a wedge of cake, which I would devour before beginning my own baking shift. And I credit her for introducing me, and a lot of other Americans, to the pleasures of fine chocolate.

white chocolate for scones

Unfortunately I didn’t win and the following year, I was relegated to the rear of the room, back with rest of the riff-raff.

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Traditional Mincemeat Recipe

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After making my last batch of Quick Mincemeat, which found its way, then disappeared into, one of my Thanksgiving desserts, for some reason, I got a hankering to make the real-deal. I don’t know what possessed me, but when I get something stuck in my craw, it can take the Jaws-of-Life to get it out of there.

Making traditional-style mincemeat requires one not just to mix up bunch of dried fruits and candied peel, but also demands one to include a generous blob of animal fat in the mix. Thus, I began my search for suet in Paris. Which you wouldn’t think was all that hard. However I’ve learned that here, some things take a little less thinking-about, and a little more legwork than one might think the situation should really warrant.

uncooked mincemeat

I figured one of the many butchers at my local outdoor market would have kidney fat, no problem. But at each stand, they just solemnly shook their heads “Non.” When I told them I needed it to make a dessert, you can imagine their Gallic reaction.

C’est normale for me when I’m trying to find something specific around here. With my luck, even if I’m searching for a four-legged table, I’ll go to the magasin des tables, which’ll have every conceivable kind of table—except for the kind with four legs.

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James Beard’s Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe

persimmon bread recipe

Like most Americans, I’ve discovered that French people also aren’t so familiar with persimmons either. They see them at the market, but don’t stop to buy any. Or if they do, they take them home, bite into an unripe one, make a face, and toss ‘em out.

One of my friends living north of San Francisco in Sonoma County had a enormous persimmon tree. Each fall, the leaves would drift off the tree, leaving bright orange globes of fruit dangling off the sparse branches. The beautiful, gnarled wood was quite a contrast to the smooth, brilliantly-colored orbs of fruit. (The wood of the persimmon tree is not just beautiful but it’s prized by makers of many of the finest golf clubs in the world and is considered superior to most others woods or man-made materials.)

Persimmon Bread recipe

The most common persimmon you’re likely to find is the Hachiya, a slightly elongated fruit that tapers to a point. They’re incredibly tannic and astringent when not ripe and need to be squishy-soft and feel like a full water-balloon before using, or you’ll be sorry. Once ripe, the sweet jelly-like pulp can be spooned out and pureed through a blender, food processor, or food mill, although some folks like to eat it as is or frozen. The pulp freezes beautifully, and in fact, I’ll often freeze some for late-winter use. To ripen a Hachiya persimmon, simply let it sit on your countertop until it’s so soft, it’s like a water balloon about to burst. You can hasten the process by putting persimmons in a well-sealed container; adding an apple, which give off a lot of ethyline gas, which will speed things up.

The other common persimmon is the Fuyu, which is more squat than the Hachiya and matte-orange. Unlike the Hachiya, the Fuyu is meant to be eaten hard and is delightfully crunchy. I peel them, then mix pieces into an autumnal fruit salad along with dates, slices of Comice pears, pomegranate seeds and yes…even some bits of prunes!

Finding recipes for using persimmons can be difficult. I invented a recipe for a quick Persimmon Cake for my book Room For Dessert, which I make often for Thanksgiving. And I also like James Beard’s Persimmon Bread, a nifty recipe from his classic book on breadmaking, Beard on Bread, published over 30 years ago.

persimmons sifting

I was fortunate to meet James Beard several times when he came to dinner at Chez Panisse. In the years after he passed away, we’d get all sorts of celebrity chefs breezing through our kitchen. Many of them were hyped, media-created hotshot superchefs who I never found as interesting as people like James Beard, Jane Grigson, and Richard Olney, who were really wonderful writers.

The most charming thing about this simple Persimmon Bread recipe is that Beard gives bakers an inexact amount of an ingredient: sugar. So go ahead just this one time to improvise a little. Although I recommend using the higher amount of sugar, feel free to use whichever quantity you’d like…after all, you have permission from the granddaddy of all cooks, James Beard himself.

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Persimmon Bread

Two 9-inch (23cm) Loaves

Using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread.

Adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard.

  • 3½ cups sifted flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 to 2½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup Cognac, bourbon or whiskey
  • 2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
  • 2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)

1. Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.

2. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC) degrees.

3. Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

4. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.

5. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Storage: Will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. The Persimmon Breads take well to being frozen, too.

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