I'm not a huge dessert maker. I get that sweet calling every so often, but typically grab a ripe fruit or a few squares of high quality chocolate. When the mood does strike me, I pull out my ramekins and whip up a rich custard. The ingredients are always available, and it's always a huge hit in my household. I like to get as creative with my custards as I do with my everyday cooking, so when I perused the farmers' market, and saw tables and tables of bright orange persimmons, I knew I had to incorporate them.
Fuyu or Hachiya Persimmons
For my custard recipe, I wanted to use both of the varieties available to me locally. Each kinda brings its own flavor profile to the custard party. Hachiya are the strawberry shaped variety that must be totally super duper ripe before you eat them, or else you will experience an astringent mouth-puckering, drying sensation. I hear it's not too pleasant. Being the type that follows instructions, especially when they are given to me by a farmer, I waited until they were ready to go.
When fully ripe, Hachiya skins thin and the fruit swells like a water ballon. If you're eating them ripe, it's easiest to cut the top off and scoop out the jelly-like insides with a spoon. The flavor is intense and heady with notes of honey, and almost an overripe mango-apricot flavor. My farmer lady said they tasted like ripe honeyed plums. And I overheard another mention dates. So, I would highly recommend seeking them out and letting your taste buds have a go at trying to describe the elusive Hachiya, only to be left with: "they taste like Hachiyas!"
Fuyus on the other hand are squat and resemble an adorable tomato. They are firm and remain so even when ripe. The best indicator of ripeness is the color of the fruit. It should be bright to dark orange, not pale or yellow, and feel heavy for it's size. The whole fruit is edible, but they seem (to me) to be more enjoyable peeled. I am told there is no bitterness even when eaten underripe, they just won't be as sweet.
The flavor is reminiscent of a pumpkin and squash, but sweeter. Maybe even a few notes of cantaloupe? A bit of apple? Honestly, like with the Hachiya, they have a flavor all to themselves. Try a few raw. Then try some roasted. I was convinced that they had a roasted pineapple-vanilla flavor after I roasted them. I loved them so much roasted, that I decided to top my custards with the buttery roasted gems. It really took this dessert to the next level and made it holiday company worthy. Not to mention the wonderful sweet smell that that these custards perfume your home with.
The best custard is a custard made with heavy cream. Skip the half and half and definitely skip the milk. Go all in Rich cream is the perfect complement for the ripe sweet persimmons. And think of all the fat soluble vitamins. Heavy cream, particularly when it's from pastured-raised cows, is rich in vitamins A, D, and E.
And, as with the cream, the best taste (and health benefits) come with egg yolks that are from happy chickens that were allowed to be outdoors and eat a diet that is omnivorous. Avoid those vegetarian-fed grocery eggs and find some good old fashioned farm eggs. I promise that the taste alone will convert you. Eggs yolks are like mother nature's multi-vitamin, chock full of nutrients. The one I'm particularly fond of is choline, which is essential for healthy brain and nervous system function. Eat your yolks, folks!
Let's Not Forget Ginger
Ginger! My gosh, if I could surround myself in any rhizome, it would without a doubt be ginger. (Sorry turmeric and galangal.) I love it's aromatic, zesty favor. It pairs beautifully with roasted and fresh persimmon. I think I even detected a ginger note in the Fuyu persimmon...okay, I'll stop! Trust me, it works. And we all love that healing anti-inflammatory juju that ginger has on our bodies, particularly our digestive systems.
Roasted Persimmon and Ginger Custard
- Add water to a double boiler (or a heat-safe bowl fitted over a small pot of water) and heat until simmering. Add heavy cream and allow to gradually warm. Whisk in honey, Hachiya pulp, minced ginger, and salt. Continue to heat for about 4 mins until very hot but not at a simmer. Remove from heat and cover. Allow cream mixture to steep for 30 mins.
- While cream is steeping, heat oven to 325 F, and then heat a tea kettle with water.
- Strain cream mixture with a fine mesh strainer, leaving behind all fibrous bits. Return cream mixture to double boiler and heat through. In a clean bowl, whisk egg yolks until combined. Take a ½ cup of the heated cream mixture and slowly pour it into the yolk bowl while lightly whisking at the same time. This tempers the yolks. Slowly add remaining heated cream mixture in the same way; stir with the whisk instead of whipping to avoid unnecessary frothy air bubbles. Once cream and yolk are incorporated, use a microplane to grate some fresh nutmeg into the mixture. About a pinch (⅛ to 1/16 of a teaspoon) of fresh nutmeg. Then give it a quick stir.
- 3. Evenly distribute the mixture among ramekins and arrange in a baking pan. Pull middle rack out and place pan onto it. Prepare hot water bath by slowly pouring hot water from the kettle into the baking pan, careful to avoid the ramekins, until it reaches about ⅔rds of the way up. Be careful of the oven heating elements when pouring the water into the pan. Push the rack in carefully and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the edges are set but it’s slightly wobbly in the middle. Remove from oven and allow the custards to cool.
- Add all of the Fuyu persimmon pieces to a Silpat lined roasting pan (you can pickup a Silpat mat here), and pour melted butter over. Stir to coat. Roast until soft and fragrant, 15 to 20 mins. Turn the boiler to high, and then broil until bits are crispy and golden brown. Keep an eye on the broiler, as it happens fast.
- Spoon warm roasted fruit on top of each ramekin and serve immediately.