Grandmother Bliss’s Persimmon Pudding
Juli Bliss Kinrich
This is how I remember my grandmother: A white corona of frizzy hair; a soft, doughy face; legs as thick at the ankles as at the knees, encased in opaque tan support hose. Feet planted firmly on the floor and later, as her health deteriorated, propped up on the extendable footrest of the old leatherette easy chair. Her shape outlined by the bay window in which she sat all day, scarcely moving. By the time I was 15, Grandma Bliss was 84; by the time I was 21, she was dead. I never got to stand by her side and learn how she liked to roll out her pie crusts, or tip her green beans, or tenderize her steaks. I have only one recipe from Grandma, which I learned from my mother, her daughter-in-law. That isn’t much, but it is superlative, a part of my food memories since I was a child, and that’s enough for me.
Persimmon Pudding is an old-fashioned, moist dessert that resembles a traditional English steamed pudding. Heavy, dense, and laden with fruit, nuts, sherry, and spices, it’s the perfect dessert for a November or December in California. During those months, the almost leafless Persimmon tree (Diospyros kaki) droops with the big, heavy fruits, hanging like giant orange acorns glowing against the cold, blue sky.
I have made this dessert so many times, I don’t need a toothpick to tell me when it is done. When it turns from a pale orange batter to a deep mahogany loaf, when its glossy top slumps a bit and pulls away slightly from the buttery, sugary sides of the glass pan, it is done. When the whole house smells like mulled cider and my neurons tingle with ancient memories of childhood winters, it’s time to take the pudding out of the oven. After the loaf has cooled for a bit and I can pick up the warm pan in my bare right hand, I turn it over slowly and gently insert a dinner knife into a corner of the glass dish. The stainless steel slides in, delving a groove in the molasses-colored sugar clinging to the pan’s sides. A moment of gentle pressure, and the loaf slowly peels away from the bottom of the pan with a wet, snicking sound. A last, little thwock! and it lands in my upturned left hand. I scoot a waiting plate onto the sticky underside of the loaf, quickly flip everything over, and drink in the heady aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, the slightly acidic tang of the sherry, and the mellow, fruity scent that seems the very essence of this season.
Somewhere over my shoulder, I sense my Grandmother Bliss nodding her approval.
Juli B. Kinrich is an enthusiastic home cook and baker. She has raised three children and is now raising three pugs. When not at work on her blog, teapotsandpolkadots.com, Kinrich is busy writing her first book, a memoir based on her family’s recipes.
Yield: Makes 2 (9-inch) loaves | Total time: 1 hour
"I have made this dessert so many times, I don't need a toothpick to tell me when it is done. When it turns from a pale orange batter to a deep mahogany loaf, when its glossy top slumps a bit and pulls away slightly from the buttery, sugary sides of the glass pan, it is done. *Hachiya persimmons are the pointy-ended ones that resemble an acorn. When they are dead ripe, they are so squishy they almost burst through their skins; that’s when they’re ready to be used for this recipe." --Recipe by Juli Bliss Kinrich
2 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for dusting pans
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus a little more for greasing pans
2 cups sifted flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups pulp from dead-ripe Hachiya persimmons*
1/3 cup sherry
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 325°.
Beat together sugar, eggs, and butter in a large mixing bowl. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Add dry ingredients to the sugar-butter mixture alternately with the milk, persimmon pulp, and sherry. Fold in raisins and nuts.
Lightly grease two (9-x-5-x-3-inch) loaf pans; sprinkle about a tablespoon sugar into each and gently tilt pans to coat the bottom and sides. Divide batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for about 50 minutes. Note: If using mini loaf pans—each roughly 1 3/4 cups capacity--reduce baking time by 10 to 15 minutes less. Loaves are done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Set loaf pans to cool on wire racks. After a while, the loaves may begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Invert loaves and turn out onto plate or platter. Serve with Lemon Sauce or Hard Sauce. This equally good served warm or at room temperature.
Date Published: January 14, 2013
All recipes have been tested by the KimSunée.com Test Kitchens unless otherwise noted.