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LAST BITE

On a bare branch

I still remember the day when I first was struck by winter’s poetry in the sublime beauty of the persimmon tree. The leaves had fallen from the tree, revealing the dark orange orbs of ripe fruit still hanging on the bare branches.

Soon after, I planted a Hachiya persimmon tree in my office garden in Berkeley, and now, each year at this time, I use the ripe fruit to make this pudding-like cake.

Persimmons belong to a large genus of trees and shrubs known as Diospyros. They were first brought to California from their native China in the 1800s, and they do well in the moderate winters and relatively mild summers of the Bay Area. We mainly grow two species of persimmons here: the Hachiya, which is oval shape and needs to ripen fully to a jelly-soft consistency before it’s fit to eat, and the Fuyu, which is rounder in shape and will be crisp, like an apple, when ripe.

Eating with the seasons is a healthy approach for our bodies. As the weather becomes cooler, our diet should naturally progress toward foods that are warming. The warming spices cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger are especially good when combined with a fruit that is as nutritious and health promoting as the persimmon. Fresh persimmons contain the antioxidant compounds vitamin A, beta-carotene, and lycopene, which act as protective scavengers against the free radicals that play a role in aging and disease processes. The fruit also contains zeaxanthin, an important carotenoid that helps prevent age-related macular disease. Vitamin C and many valuable B-complex vitamins provide co-factors for metabolic enzymatic functions in the body.

Persimmon Budino

I use all organic ingredients when baking and also recommend treating yourself to fresh spices at this time of year. It makes a huge difference in the taste of your food!

1 cup raisins
½ cup Cognac
4 extra-large egg
¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
¾ cup white sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2¼ cups Hachiya persimmon pulp
1½ to 1¾ cups unbleached organic flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt (or less to taste)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon cloves
2½ cups half-and-half, or whole milk or combination of both
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Assemble all ingredients ahead of time and allow to warm to room temperature.

Preheat over to 350°. Line a 10-inch springform pan or two 9- by 13-inch rectangular pans with parchment paper and then butter and flour the paper.

Place raisins and Cognac in a saucepan and simmer until raisins are soft. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs until light.  Beat in the sugars and honey and then the persimmon pulp.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices, then stir a third of the dry ingredients into the persimmon mixture, followed by a third of the milk, alternating until all ingredients are combined.  Stir in melted butter and then the Cognac soaked raisins and nuts.

Pour the mixture into prepared pans and bake approximately 1 hour. If top starts to over-brown, place aluminum foil over top and lower heat to 325°.

Remove from oven and allow to cool 15 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks. Remove parchment paper.

This cake is delicious served plain or with a dollop of Chantilly cream. If there’s any left over, wrap and store in refrigerator.

As a naturopath, acupuncturist, and homeopath with a practice in Berkeley, Carol Lourie utilizes her knowledge of whole food and cooking to help people understand their individual nutritional needs. Before going into medical practice, she worked as a chef, pastry chef, and was employed as a sous-chef in Portland, Oregon, with a 3-star French restaurant caterer while in naturopathic medical school.

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