Thinking back fondly to our last trip to Italy to visit my paternal family in Le Marche (due to COVID, not in 2020, but toward the end of 2019), I fondly remember meals we shared together that stretched for hours as we ate delicious food and drank excellent wine while we talked and laughed. The highlight of the trip came near its end, in November, when we attended the Festa dell’Olio Nuovo (New Olive Oil Festival). The entire town of Scapezzano puts on a long weekend of festivities to celebrate the local olive oil mills turning freshly-picked olives into the best olive oil you’ve ever tasted.
I also remember, as fall crept toward winter, Fuyu persimmons landing on the the dinner table after the secondo as part of the fruit course at one of our big family meals. I was surprised to see this fruit, which I associate more with Asian markets than with Europe, but which is also grown in California. I learned that these persimmons, which go by the undignified Italian name cachi, are grown all over Italy. Perhaps this is another gift from Marco Polo!
I also must be the last person on the planet to be reading Frances Mayes’ memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun, where she talks about the Tuscan winter countryside being dotted with persimmon trees swollen with orange fruit but bare of leaves, as persimmon trees drop their leaves before the fruit is ready to eat. I find the colors and hues of this fruit to be amazing; they are delicious eaten on their own–like you would eat an apple–or made into all types of creations. For this past Christmas, I made persimmon granita, which was a great dessert.
My next foray into using persimmons this winter–thinking fondly of eating them with our Italian cousins early last winter–was to adapt my tried-and-true apple crostata recipe using persimmons. It worked so well I’m sharing it here.
There are two kinds of persimmon fruit and the difference is critical. This recipe uses the Fuyu persimmon that is flat-bottomed and has the texture of an apple. The other kind commonly found is the Hachiya persimmon, which has a pointy bottom, and must be left for several days after purchase to ripen before being eaten or used for recipes. I’ll leave you to an internet search to learn more about the Hachiya persimmon, as I prefer the Fuyu and use it almost exclusively, the other requiring a lot of patience to eat and use.Print
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ pound (½ cup) very cold unsalted butter
- Ice water
- 2 lbs. Fuyu Persimmons, slightly soft
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- Juice of a ½ lemon
- 1 egg white
- Cold water
- Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse once. Remove the butter from the refrigerator just before using and slice the one stick of butter into small cubes. Add to the floor mixture and coat the butter pieces with flour using the end of a spoon.
- Pulse the food processor until the mixture is the size of small peas (about 15 times). Then while the food processor is running, very slowly pour the ice water through the spout until the dough forms a ball. Remove the dough from the food processor and wrap in wax paper and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
For the filling:
- Add the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and combine.
- Thinly slice each persimmon width-wise exposing the beautiful star shape inside. I used a mandolin to get an even slice about 1/8-inch thick. Add the persimmon slices to the flour-sugar mixture and gently toss. Add the lemon juice and gently toss until all the ingredients are combined, with no lemon juice at the bottom of the bowl.
For the crostata:
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a floured surface. Add flour to the surface of the dough. Flatten the dough out into a round disk. Roll out into a large circle with a rolling pin. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin or the rolling surface, add more flour. Transfer the rolled out dough to the baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
- Using your hands, layer the persimmon slices starting at the center of the dough in an ever expanding circle. Make a nice even circle about 8-inches in diameter. You should have plenty of filling to repeat this 3 or 4 times to build up the filling.
- Fold up the dough around the filling in a pleat pattern removing excess dough so you have a nice even border.
- Make an egg wash by lightly whisking together the egg white and 1 tablespoon of cold water. Brush the egg wash on the crostata’s dough with the pastry brush.
- Bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Check after about 10 minutes; if the crostata is browning too fast, place a piece of aluminum foil over the crostata. After baking, cool the crostata to room temperature, then slice and serve.