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Bourbon-Ginger Pecan Pie

I wasn’t planning on beginning this post for a pie recipe with anything other than a story about how much I liked it, encouraging you to make it. (Which I’ll get to later.) But after I had started writing it, several neighborhoods in Paris came under attack, including mine, and I put everything on hold. Cafés and restaurants that I knew, and areas that I frequent, were…

Pecan Pie with Bourbon and Ginger

I wasn’t planning on beginning this post for a pie recipe with anything other than a story about how much I liked it, encouraging you to make it. (Which I’ll get to later.) But after I had started writing it, several neighborhoods in Paris came under attack, including mine, and I put everything on hold.

Pecan Pie with Bourbon and Ginger

Cafés and restaurants that I knew, and areas that I frequent, were targets, as was the area around the theatre where my outdoor market is, which suffered the worst of it. Everyone I know is okay, but others were not so fortunate. It’s a crazy world we are living in and often we just see it on television and switch the channels to something more entertaining, so we don’t have to think about it. But when it happens right outside your door, or in a city that you love so much (whether you live there or are just an occasional visitor), you can’t avoid the shock and the grief. In addition to some introspection, my hope is that this will bring a conversation and dialogue that will somehow address why – and how – this happened, and where to go from here.

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Chocolate Pecan Slab Pie

Pecans are the great American nut and at no time of the year are they more in demand than around the holidays. There are a lot of different nuts grown in the United States; walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and hazelnuts, but a pie made with toasted pecans is a holiday tradition and every year I have the urge to make one. Recently an American membership-only store…

Pecans are the great American nut and at no time of the year are they more in demand than around the holidays. There are a lot of different nuts grown in the United States; walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and hazelnuts, but a pie made with toasted pecans is a holiday tradition and every year I have the urge to make one.

Recently an American membership-only store opened in France, and while there are many French hypermarchés (mega-stores), this one caused a splash, particularly amongst Americans, because they have things like big rolls of their famous plastic wrap with that superlative cutter, IPA beers, and from what I hear, big bags of pecans.

There’s always been Metro, a similar mega-store that carries more restaurant-supply items. But there’s a huge refrigerator filled with every kind of French cheese (and butter) that you can imagine, sold whole (like an entire wheel of Brie) or butter in large blocks, and they give you down jackets to wear because you want to spend so much time in there. It really is that cold. But you need to be a professional to go there.

I don’t have room for an entire wheel of Brie – and I’m not talking about in my stomach (which I’d be up for trying…), but in my refrigerator – but I do have room for pecans, which I stockpile as the holidays get closer and closer. Over the years, I’ve made Ginger Pecan Pie and Chocolate Pecan Pie with my precious pecans that I haul back from the States because I’m not schlepping out to the boonies on the outskirts of Paris to get a bag of pecans when I can carry them 5500 miles over the Atlantic. (And sometimes pay extra in luggage fees.) That makes sense. Right?

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James Beard’s Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe

Like most Americans, even French people aren’t so familiar with persimmons. They may see them at the market, look at their curiously, but don’t stop to buy any. Or if they do, they take them home, bite into an unripe one, make a face, and toss them out. One of my friends living north of San Francisco in Sonoma County had an enormous persimmon tree….

Like most Americans, even French people aren’t so familiar with persimmons. They may see them at the market, look at their curiously, but don’t stop to buy any. Or if they do, they take them home, bite into an unripe one, make a face, and toss them out.

persimmon bread recipe

One of my friends living north of San Francisco in Sonoma County had an enormous persimmon tree. Each fall, the leaves would drift off the tree, leaving bright orange globes of fruit dangling off the sparse branches. The beautiful, gnarled wood was quite a contrast to the smooth, brilliantly-colored orbs of fruit. (The wood of the persimmon tree is not just beautiful but it’s prized by makers of many of the finest golf clubs in the world and is considered superior to most others woods or man-made materials.)

The most common persimmon you’re likely to find is the Hachiya, a slightly elongated fruit that tapers to a point. They’re incredibly tannic and astringent when not ripe and need to be squishy-soft and feel like a full water-balloon before using. Once ripe, the sweet jelly-like pulp can be spooned out and pureed through a blender, food processor, or food mill, although some folks like to eat it as is or frozen. The pulp freezes beautifully, and in fact, I’ll often freeze some for late-winter use. To ripen Hachiya persimmons, simply let them sit on your countertop until very soft. If they don’t riped at the same time, you can store the puree in the refrigerator until the others have ripened. You can hasten the process by putting persimmons in a well-sealed container; adding an apple, which gives off a lot of ethylene gas, which will speed things up.

The other common persimmon is the Fuyu, which is squatter than the Hachiya and matte-orange. Unlike the Hachiya, the Fuyu is meant to be eaten hard and is delightfully crunchy. I peel them, then mix pieces into an autumnal fruit salad along with dates, slices of Comice pears, pomegranate seeds and yes…even some bits of prunes. Finding recipes for using persimmons can be difficult. I invented a recipe for a quick Persimmon Cake for my book Room For Dessert, which I make often for Thanksgiving. And I also like James Beard’s Persimmon Bread, a nifty recipe from his classic book on breadmaking, Beard on Bread, published over 30 years ago.

I was fortunate to meet James Beard several times when he came to dinner at Chez Panisse. In the years after he passed away, we’d get all sorts of luminaries coming through our kitchen, people like James Beard, Jane Grigson, and Richard Olney, who were really wonderful cooks and writers.

The most charming thing about this simple Persimmon Bread recipe is that Beard gives bakers an inexact amount of an ingredient: sugar. So go ahead just this one time to improvise a little. Although I recommend using the higher amount of sugar, feel free to use whichever quantity you’d like…after all, you have permission from the granddaddy of all cooks, James Beard himself.

persimmon bread recipe-2

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Persimmon Bread

Adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard. Using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread. I often use bourbon, as I like the flavor, but cognac and brandy work well, instead. I'm often asked about making this cake without the liquor and haven't tried it, as the liquor is an integral flavor in the cake. If you want to try it with something else, perhaps black tea or root beer could take its place. But I haven't tried either.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups (400-500g) sugar
  • 1 cup (8oz, 225g) melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) Cognac or bourbon whiskey (see headnote)
  • 2 cups (500ml) persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
  • 2 cups (200g) walnuts or pecans toasted and chopped
  • 2 cups (270g) raisins or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)

Instructions

  • Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.
  • Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC) degrees.
  • Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  • Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.
  • Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Notes

Storage: Will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. The Persimmon Breads take well to being frozen, too.

German Apple-Almond Cake

German baking, I don’t think, gets its due. It’s partially because the names of the pastries and baked goods don’t exactly roll right off most of our tongues. Kartoffel-Käse Dinnede, Zitronenbiskuitrolle, Aachener Poschweck, Schwäbischer Prasselkuchen, and, well…I’ll quit now, because it’s taking me too long to hunt down all those keys on my keyboard. And I’d rather be wrapping my tongue around German cakes and cookies, rather than trying to…

A delicious cake loaded with apples and almond paste, which makes this cake extra-moist. A recipe from Classic German Baking for the fall, and the holidays!

German Apple Almond Cake recipe

German baking, I don’t think, gets its due. It’s partially because the names of the pastries and baked goods don’t exactly roll right off most of our tongues. Kartoffel-Käse Dinnede, Zitronenbiskuitrolle, Aachener PoschweckSchwäbischer Prasselkuchen, and, well…I’ll quit now, because it’s taking me too long to hunt down all those keys on my keyboard. And I’d rather be wrapping my tongue around German cakes and cookies, rather than trying to wrap it around their names.

Fortunately Luisa Weiss, who writes one of my favorite blogs, Wednesday Chef, has published them in a very accessible collection of recipes, Classic German Baking. This beautifully written cookbook features traditional German favorites, adapted for kitchens everywhere. (And yes, there’s a guide at the end of the book for how to pronounce everything.) It’s one of those cookbooks that you’ll bookmark several recipes in on your first glance, like I did. Then during the next few weeks, you’ll spend your way baking through them.

Luisa was born in Berlin. Her mother is Italian, and she’s lived in Germany, France, and the United States. So you’ll be happy to hear that all the cakes, cookies, tortes and kuchens are completely do-able in any kitchen, using ingredients that are easy to get. And for the few that might pose a challenge, like spiced plum butter and quark, she gives recipes on how to make them yourself.

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