Persimmon Pudding

Makes 8 individual servings or 1 large pudding cake
Time: 1 1/2 hours, largely unattended

Persimmon trees are a little like zucchini plants: One day your comment is, "Oh, look honey, the persimmons are finally ripe enough to eat!" Then the moment passes, and there's a quick and loveless transition to, "What the heck are we going to do with all these persimmons?"

Gary's Persimmon Pudding is a terrific answer (but don't discount my dead-easy recipe for Frozen Persimmons. If you don't feel like making Crème Anglaise, use the home cook's venerable shortcut: softened vanilla ice cream.

1 1/2 pounds very soft Hachiya persimmons
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably freshly ground
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup light cream or half-and-half
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Creme Anglaise (recipe follows)
Pomegranate seeds, for garnish (optional)

1. Peel the persimmons and transfer their flesh to the container of a food processor (a blender will also work). Process until pureed, then transfer to a large bowl. (Or put in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.)

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 3-inch springform cake pan or 8 (6-ounce) ramekins and set aside. Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg together into a medium bowl. Beat the eggs,
sugar, cream, butter, and vanilla into the persimmon puree. Stir the flour mixture in and whisk well to combine.

3. Pour the batter into the springform pan or ramekins, and cover tightly with foil, shiny side down. Create a water bath for the pudding(s) by setting the pan or ramekins into a large casserole or baking dish and filling it up with hot water about halfway up the height of the cake pan or ramekins.

4. Bake for 30 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the pudding comes out clean. Let cool. Invert ramekins to release the individual puddings (loosen them by running a knife around their sides if necessary), and serve the puddings (or slices from the larger pudding cake) on plates with a little Crème Anglaise and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds.


Crème Anglaise

Makes: about 1 1/2 cups, enough for 8 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Crème Anglaise, the sauce that accompanies Persimmon Pudding at Restaurant Gary Danko, is a thin custard, easy to make and a valuable addition to your repertoire because it pairs nicely with so many desserts. If you're in the mood, flavor it with a tablespoon or so of cognac or rum, stirred into the eggs along with the hot cream.

1 cup light cream or half-and-half
1/2 vanilla bean
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt

1. Put the cream in a small saucepan and heat just until steam rises. Cut the vanilla bean in half the long way and scrape the seeds into the cream; stir and let sit off the heat for a few minutes. Meanwhile, in a heavy, medium saucepan, combine and whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt.

2. Whisk the hot cream into the egg mixture. Place over medium heat and cook without boiling, stirring constantly, thoroughly, but gently, until the custard coats the back of a spoon (when you drag your finger over the back of the spoon it will leave a distinct trail).

3. Remove from the heat, stir gently once or twice to smooth, and strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Let cool, then serve or refrigerate until needed (bring to room temperature before serving).