Monday, December 26, 2011

Nonnie's Persimmon Cookies

My grandmother is an excellent baker. You wouldn't know it visiting her house on any given day, but when Christmas rolls around, you would think this little Italian mama had hired a slew of elves to help her. She never fails to make the old favorites such as fudge, rocky road, frosted sugar cookies etc., but each year she experiments with some new cookie or candy. And this is a woman who knows her candy (I once gave her a box of salt water taffy and within seconds after receiving it, she had managed to retrieve, unwrap, and devour several confections before I could even blink. It was magic.)

Each member of the family has their favorites, but for me, the crowning glory of all her sugary concoctions are her persimmon cookies. From the outside they look like humble little blobs of dough. But when you bite into one, they are moist, soft, and filled with all the familiar holiday spices I love. These cookies are my favorite because, not only are they delicious, they're unusual as well. I've never been able to find them at a single bakery or specialty food store, so for me, they can only be associated with being home at Christmas.

I'm sure this recipe came about as a way to use up the overwhelming amount of Hachiya persimmons her tree produced each year. It still stands today and is quite a site to behold. When the leaves have completely blown away in the fall, it's left with brilliantly bright orange persimmons precariously balanced on each limb. I always remember Nonnie talking about what a mess the tree made. The persimmons would fall to the ground and splatter, creating a goopy mess below. For me, the mess was always worth it. Happy Christmas!

Slightly adapted from my grandmother, Evelyn Montaldo

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup persimmon pulp
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or line two sheet pans with parchment and set aside. In a medium sized mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, using a stand or hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, followed by the persimmon pulp and vanilla extract. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients until fully incorporated into the dough. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in nuts and raisins.

Drop by the tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes on baking pans before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Store in well-sealed plastic containers until ready to use.

Yield: about 50 cookies

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