The persimmon is to winter what the peach is to summer. The bright orange “kaki” keeps company to the faithful apple in fruit bowl arrangements throughout the northern regions of Italy. Peeled and cut into wedges after many a lunch and dinner, they are symbolic of the Christmas season and the misty months that follow.
In this comfort inspired recipe, persimmons are stewed in freshly squeezed orange juice and subsequently wrapped in a crumbly pastry for a crostata tart. As the tart bakes the aroma of nutmeg, vanilla and star anise fill the kitchen like a warm pudding.
Make the pastry first, followed by the filling.
Ingredients for the crostata pastry
- 150 grams of lemon-scented flour or unbleached organic wheat flour
- one whole egg from a naturally fed chicken
- 50 grams of organic chilled butter
- 50 grams of raw cane sugar
Sift the flour into a bowl. Slice the butter with a knife and drop it into the flour. Rub the two ingredients gently between both hands into coarse pale yellow crumbs. Use as little pressure as possible while rubbing the flour and butter together, as this is one of the essentials to a nice light crust.
In a separate bowl whisk the egg and raw cane sugar together with a fork. Make a hole in the middle of the flour bowl and pour the egg mixture in the middle. Mix the ingredients further with a fork, until a light caramel-colored dough forms, that just barely stays together. Shape the ingredients into a ball with the gentle pressure of your hands.
Wrap the dough loosely with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 170 °C. Cut a piece of baking paper into a square large enough that it will cover both the bottom as well as the fluted edges of a rectangular shaped tart pan (about 23×23 by two centimeters high).
Since the crostata will be open-faced and shaped around the edges loosely by hand, cut the baking paper six to eight centimeters larger than the tart shape. Lay the baking paper on to the working surface. Remove the chilled pastry dough from the refrigerator. Dust the rolling pin with a bit of organic flour and sprinkle some over the dough.
Put the dough directly on the pre-cut baking paper and press it gently into an even disk with the palm of your hands. Shape the dough into a square with the rolling pin by moving outwards from the center to the top and from the center to the bottom of the pastry square. Repeat this method in light rolling movements from the center to the left edge and from center to the right edge of the baking paper.
Lift up the rolled out dough along with baking paper and place it in the middle of the tart pan. Fill the tart with the persimmons and fold the excess pastry at all four corners to hold the filling in its place.
Bake the tart at 170 °C for 45 minutes and serve it warm with a dusting of nutmeg.
Ingredients for the filling
- three ripe plump persimmons
- two organic oranges
- one vanilla bean
- two star anise
- 30 milliliters of local honey
- freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Choose plump persimmons with a pumpkin-like color at your favorite fruit vendor. Rinse the persimmons as well the oranges in a bowl of cool water. Cut the flower-shaped stem off the top of the persimmons. and peel off the skins with a paring knife, cutting the fruit into quarters directly into a sauce pan. If the persimmons are too soft to peel, simply scoop out the silky smooth flesh with a spoon.
Zest the orange peel and set it aside to make some orange-infused honey. Use a small knife to cut open the vanilla bean and scrape out the soft seeds. Add the vanilla seeds to the persimmons and squeeze the oranges over the fruit. Drizzle the honey into the pan and add the star anise. Simmer the ingredients ten to fifteen minutes on low heat until the juices have caramelized.
Spoon the persimmons into the pastry crust as explained above and grate some nutmeg over the top of the fruit and its crust. Bake the crostata in 45 minutes in a preheated oven at 170 °C. The pastry is ready when the crust is golden and the fruit has set.
♦ Suggested combinations
If living near the Veneto region, serve the persimmon crostata with a piece of Asiago cheese.
The persimmon is an out of the ordinary fruit, sometimes called “kaki” or “sharon” fruit. Like the pomegranate, it takes some getting used to for those who have not grown up in the Mediterranean. An unripe persimmon is strangely bitter. Choose round persimmons that resemble a peach or a soft tomato for this recipe.
The fruit is ripe when a burnt-orange hue shines through its glossy skin. An unripe persimmon is strangely bitter.