When Clay and I began shopping around for our first house one of the features that really helped to seal the deal on the place we now call home was the selection of mature trees in its backyard. The previous owners had the foresight to plant a stately oak tree, a blood orange, an apricot that is grafted with two other stone fruits (nectarine and peach in one tree!) and a persimmon. We were shown the home on November 6th...my birthday! At that time of year the knobby old persimmon tree was covered in bright shiny orange fruits and its leaves were just beginning to turn amber, red and gold. The entire vibe of the little 1950s house and it's retro "lived-in" feeling really struck a chord with us. We ended up canceling my birthday dinner reservations we had that night and drafted-up our offer instead. Other than the puppy I received a few years later, the purchase of this house was probably my best ever birthday gift. (Thank you Babe!)
Fast forward a month or so later we'd made it through a bidding war and the house was ours! We moved in two days after Christmas in 2011. By the time we'd unpacked, nearly all the leaves had fallen off our backyard persimmon tree. The fruits that still clung to the gnarled branches were a deeper shade of tawny, their shiny exteriors were replaced with a faint chalky coating and they'd grown incredible ripe and very, very supple to the touch.
Growing up in Upcountry Maui I actually lived quite near to a persimmon farm but sadly I'd never tasted their fruits. So I was basically clueless as to the best use of my new bounty. I jumped online and learned there are many types of persimmons, but the main two are the Fuyū and Hachiya variety that are widely cultivated throughout Japan and across Asia.
The Fuyū look like a squat little tomatoes, these are the non-astringent variety and are eaten when hard like an apple. They are often served alone or with charcuterie, and on salads etc. This is NOT the variety in our backyard, ours is a Hachiya. The Hachiya pictured above, are larger and shaped more like an oversized acorn with a pointy bottom. They are the astringent variety and therefore can only be eaten when incredibly ripe. This is not an overstatement. If you try to eat a Hachiya too soon it will fill your mouth with a horrible chalky taste. However, if you're patient, and wait till the fruit is soft like a water balloon, the inside will taste like a sweet jellied pudding!
I am not particularly crazy about the pulpy texture of Hachiyas on their own, but baked into cookies, muffins, bread, and cakes this fall fruit truly come to life. The flavor is sweet like honey but slightly earthier. Since I have such an abundance of produce throughout the autumn months I am always on the hunt for recipes that call for Hachiyas as opposed to Fuyūs (which I find to be more common). So I was over-the-moon excited to see a recipe for a Chocolate Persimmon Loaf Cake by Amy Guittard featured in, Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook.
I've mentioned previously that I have a giant girl crush on the entire #BombeSquad, so I knew if I had to start with any recipe in the whole book, this should be it! Let me tell you it did not disappoint. The bittersweet Dutch-process cocoa and whole wheat flour gave this loaf an unfussy and "grown up" taste that was a departure from other chocolate cakes I've made. The book suggests this cake gets even better on day two and girl they were right! The spices have a chance to infuse with the moist persimmon to create a dense and satisfying slice for the morning after. I especially loved eating this cake warmed up in the toaster oven on day two with a scoop of my rum raisin ice cream on top!
If you admire strong women and food like I do, you'll feel like you've found your tribe in the Bombe Squad! I hope you go out and pick yourself up a copy of this gorgeous book, subscribe to their magazine, or just start listening to the Radio Cherry Bombe podcast right away.
If you already have the book I'd love to hear from you which recipe I ought to try next!
Happy Winter Solstice to you and yours!