This year has expanded my boundaries of possibility. And as it seems to go, this expansion has also made me feel the extreme narrowness of my own experiences and perceptions. The more I continue along on this journey through travel, work and actively trying to become more of an observer than a participant in my interactions, the more I’m convinced that I know nothing about people—that there are zones of emotion and thought as far from my mind as the moon is from the Earth. And I’m totally okay with this. It means that although things in my life have some sort of order, there will always be elements of the unknown, room for growth and change, which is what I’m all about.
This tart is perfect for the holidays and an exemplary representation of how a slight change in your perspective opens up new facets of growth. Persimmons were formerly the realm of grandmas for me. Old people eat fruits that are sweet like candy, but have the consistency of tomatoes. I was staunchly against these weird mushy things and happily walked right past them for years. However, this year, after trying all kinds of strange fruits in Mexico I saw these and actually thought, “Nature actually made a fruit this sweet, oozing with sugar and it grows on its own in fall and winter??!!!” This is nothing short of miraculous. I’m not even kidding, hyperbole aside. Reframing my thoughts and being more mindful of my interactions this year, whether in Mexico for work or just in my every day life, drew me away from my ordinary social world and into very different spaces. I realize that there is toughness in sensitivity and that resilience is more important than talent. And that there are fantastic treasures all around to be had, in people, in places, art and winter fruit. Sometimes you just need a little help seeing them. Personal evolution–however difficult the journey can be sometimes– is a magical thing.
Part of my change toward persimmons was seeing them embraced in just such a tart by Eva of Adventures in Cooking. While her savory uses for these gems are so tempting, I know I can make almost anything taste good in a savory dish or by highlighting it in a sauce. For a true challenge, the litmus test for me is dessert. When I saw her version of this tart, it inspired me to try my own. I took the crust full of wintery spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and upped the almond game for texture. I even dropped a handful of herbs in. The custard base is actually skyr, thick Icelandic, naturally skim yogurt. It adds a tartness to the mix, which is imbued with sweetness from the ripe persimmons. Moderate amounts of sugar and butter highlight the star, these beautiful, bright persimmons of which there are two main types, fuyu and hachiya. Fuyus have a less stringent flavor than the hachiya persimmons, but both are delicious. You have to make sure they are very ripe when you use them and that they’re soft like a tomato. I actually wait until the persimmons looks well past their prime, but this is actually their time to shine, when they’re all bruisy and starting to ooze their natural sugars. This was the hardest part for me to accept, but now I’ve embraced it and come to cherish their ostentatious and insistent abundance. You should too! This tart comes together really quickly and embodies all the flavors of the season. I now eat persimmons like apples, throw them into salads and sauces and for sure, this tart will become my new winter holiday staple.
I hope you’re all well and have a wonderful holiday season through 2016 and beyond. Thank you so much for making this space so special for me.
WINTER SPICED PERSIMMON TART
Adapted from Adventures in Cooking
For the Crust:
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground or grated ginger
- 6 tablespoons frozen unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 4 to 6 tablespoons ice water
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
For the Persimmon Custard Filling:
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 6 oz Icelandic skyr (vanilla if you can) otherwise add a teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 large hachiya or 3 small fuyu persimmons, very thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons water
For the Crust:
Mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl. Grate the frozen butter over the bowl, pausing to mix in the butter shards every 20 seconds so they don’t just form a large butter clump on the top of the bowl. Add the cold milk and then the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring the dough with a wooden spoon and then working it slightly with your hands to incorporate all the flour. If it doesn’t come together, add another tablespoon of cold water and mix, repeat if necessary until a solid dough forms. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to a few days. When you’re ready to roll it out, rolling until it is about 1/4 inch thick, making a circular shape that is at least 11 inches in diameter. Press it into a 9-inch tart pan and trim off the excess. Prick it all over with a fork and then cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
For the Custard:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Fill a large casserole dish 3-inches deep with water and place it on the lowest rack in the oven.
Whisk together the eggs and yolk in a medium bowl until combined. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, whisk together the yogurt, 1/3 cup sugar (reserving 2 tablespoons), milk, flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt over low heat until combined. Allow to cook until hot but not boiling, stirring every minute (you don’t want the yogurt to curdle). Remove from heat and ladle one scoop of the yogurt mixture into the egg mixture and whisk vigorously. Continue ladling the hot yogurt mixture into the egg mixture until all of the mixture has been incorporated, whisking constantly. If you don’t do this step slowly the eggs will cook and it won’t be custard. Stir in the fresh rosemary and set aside.
Remove the tart crust from the freezer and remove and discard the plastic wrap. Pour the custard into the tart crust until the tart is nearly full. Arrange the persimmon slices in whatever pattern pleases the eye. I went for a circular pattern. Sprinkle the top of the tart with the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar or any extra rosemary. Place in the center rack of the oven and bake until the custard is a deep golden brown and has just begun to set, about 45 minutes. Turn the oven off, leave the oven door ajar, and allow to cool for 30 minutes in the oven before removing the tart from the pan.
While it is cooling, heat the honey and water in a small saucepan over low heat until they form a smooth syrup, about 4 minutes, stirring every minute. Remove from heat.
Once the tart has cooled, use a pastry brush to brush the persimmons with the honey syrup. Serve immediately or refrigerate and decorate with confectioners sugar. Stays for about a week.