Friday, November 12, 2010
The first time I had a persimmon was in college, when my roommate somehow got herself subscribed to a fruit of the month club. It was probably a Christmas gift or something, but every month for the year a box of fruit would arrive that she always needed help eating. Persimmons were an especially unexpected, and unknown, treat.
The second time I had a persimmon was in Istanbul, during a spring break trip when I was studying abroad in Italy (rough, I know). We passed a huge, eye-catching mound of the blushing fruits in a stall near the street and my beautiful Turkish love-crush said that persimmons were good luck. It must be true, because eating persimmons on a Turkish street corner is pretty lucky, after all.
They still seem like an exotic fruit, with an almost custardy texture once allowed to fully ripen. The not-so-secret to this recipe is the complexity given the gingerbread like cake by the garam masala. Essential to North Indian cuisine, garam masala is a warming spice blend that, were I a true Indian cook, would be unique to my kitchen. It would be a blend of, say, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and peppercorns. I think you can see why it has such an affinity with the classic Western spice cake.
Garam masala for the spice cake, persimmons for the fruit, and that very American technique of flipping everything over at the end. Here's what you're going to do. You're going to make a kind of caramel sauce, which you will pour into your cake pan to cushion the roasting persimmon sections. Then goes on the spiced cake batter. This is such a unique, and beautiful actually, twist on some pretty traditional holiday flavors. It could easily hold it's own next to the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving for example. And the persimmons will bring you good luck because eating Persimmon and Garam Masala Upside Down Cake is nothing if not good luck.
A quick note on ingredients. I've mentioned before how persimmons can be kind of false friends. There are two types most common in the US, the one shaped like a big strawberry, which is called a hachiya persimmon and must be completely ripe before you even think about eating it. It should be mushy, with the consistency of custard before you even look sideways at it. Otherwise its extreme astringency will suck all of the moisture out of your mouth. The second type looks like an orange tomato and is called a fuyu. This type can be eaten while still a bit crunchy.
Persimmon Garam Masala Upside Down Cake
Adopted from Food & Drink (by the way, everything I've ever made from this site has been excellent. I'm 3 for 3 so far.)
For the Fruit and Sauce:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
2 ripe persimmons (either kind, just heed my warning about ripeness)
For the Cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup 2% milk, also at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Oven preheated to 350F, grease a 10" cake pan and set aside.
Start with the sauce. In a saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup together. Heat until the mixture begins to bubble then pour it into your cake pan, spreading it evenly. You'll need to spread fast, because it starts to set up pretty quickly, so be ready.
Remove the tops of the persimmons, the part with the leaves, and cut each of them into eight wedges. Arrange the fruit over the brown sugar mixture in the bottom of your cake pan. Leave some space in between each section of fruit.
Now for the cake. Sift together the flour, baking soda, all of the spices, and the salt. Set aside. Beat the molasses, the brown sugar and the butter in a mixer until smooth. Whisk the eggs together with the milk and vanilla. Then add half the milk mixture to the molasses mixture, followed by half of the flour. Add the rest of the milk, and then the rest of the flour. Be sure to beat the molasses mixture well after each addition. Pour the cake batter over the fruit and smooth it out so that it's evenly spread.
Bake for 40-45 minutes (remember everyone's oven is different, so check early) until it passes the toothpick test. Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the pan before turning it out. To do that, place a cooking wrack or large plate on the bottom of the cake pan and, without hesitation or second-guessing, flip it over.