Friday, December 28, 2012

Yuletide Treat

When my Mom was a child the family would gather at one of the aunt's homes and the dessert highlight at Christmas was plum pudding with hard sauce. When I was little we always had lots of cookies, but the highlight of Christmas dinner was the Lane Cake. Lane Cake is a layer cake with a plain white cake for the layers and a rich, fruity, bourbon-laced filling and frosting between the layers and on the top and sides.

We used to start making the Lane Cake the day after Thanksgiving to give the concoction time for the bourbon to mellow and mingle with all those dried and candied fruits. Coconut was fresh and grated by hand. The raisins were put through the meat grinder and came out in long black snakes. The candied cherries were bright red and green and had to be cut up by hand...a sticky business. Pecans were chopped, too. It was a good thing that we had lots of willing hands to help out with all the prep. Mom baked the cake layers and I think Dad assigned us the different prep tasks. The most difficult part was getting the filling just right. Cook it for too short a time and it would slide down the sides and cook it for too long and it turned grainy. You served it in thin slices since it was so rich.

When I had children of my own I made Lane Cake once to carry on the tradition, but found that I was the only one who enjoyed it, so it really wasn't worth all the work. I found that gingerbread, both as cookies and as houses, was what my family wanted for Christmas...and cookies, too.

Last spring when I was working on the Classic Comfort Foods Cookbook I found out that my niece Mandy had become the family Lane Cake maker and that she had changed the recipe a bit, especially by using dried natural cherries instead of the candied ones. The family had also discovered that the cake was fine if you only made it a week ahead of Christmas and also that you could just put the filling between the layers and on the top (but not the sides) which made the consistency of the filling less of an issue.

This year we were thrilled to have Mandy's sister T with us for Christmas. I was thrilled that she made and brought a Lane Cake. I even had the pleasure of being consulted by phone on baking tips the day she made it. It was perfect...moist and flavorful and just a bit boozy. Gorgeous to look at, too, like T herself. We took our portion home and had it with some hot cocoa. It brought back sweet childhood memories for me. Thank you T!  Maybe next year we can bake the cake together?

XO Elle

Lane Cake
from Classic Comfort Foods

Prepare 4 cake pans by greasing them and lining them with waxed paper. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

1 cup butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3¼ cups flour, sifted
3½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
8 egg whites

Cream butter; add sugar and vanilla. Sift together dry ingredients. Alternately add dry ingredients and milk to butter mixture. In separate bowl, beat egg whites to soft, glossy points, but not dry. Fold egg whites into batter until incorporated. Divide into the 4 prepared pans. Bake 2 pans to each rack, for 15-20 minutes in preheated oven. Cool 3-5 minutes, loosen edges, and turn out to cool. Remove waxed paper and turn right side up carefully. Set aside while preparing the filling/frosting.

1½ cups seedless raisins
12 egg yolks
1¾ cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter
½ cup bourbon whisky
½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
½ cup red and green candied cherries, quartered - or try modern version (Mandy’s) below
1½ cups coconut, shredded (fresh or frozen)

Cover raisins with hot water, let stand to plump. Drain and dry. Chop or grind (Note: Dad used to grind the raisins in a meat grinder, but they can be chopped with a knife, too.) Put egg yolks in top of double boiler; beat slightly. Add sugar, salt and butter. Put over simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved, butter melts, and mixture thickens. Do not overcook. Mixture should be almost translucent and should mound when small amount is dropped on waxed paper. Remove from heat; add bourbon. Beat 1 minute with a beater. At this point, mixture can be transferred to a bowl. Fold in nuts, cherries, coconut and raisins. Cool. Spread between layers and on top of cake. (Sides optional) Wrap cake in plastic wrap and mellow one month (or less, about one week, for less stale cake). Serve in thin slices. Serves 20-24.

Niece Mandy’s Modern Lane Cake: “I made the cake the same as the recipe directs; I just did the cakes in 2 batches of 2 pans. 8” this year and 9” last year.

For the filling/frosting, I did a few things differently:

Rather than using 1½ cups raisins and ½ cup candied cherries, I did about 1 ¼ cups dried Traverse City cherries (I’m biased) and ¾ cup other dried fruits (this year was just raisins, but last year I also used currents). I also soak all of these in a combination of freshly-boiled water and a few splashes of bourbon. Just enough liquid to cover the fruit. I then ground about half the fruit and very coarsely chopped the rest, leaving a few whole.

When at the step of combining the eggs, sugar, salt, and butter on top of the double boiler (or bowl over boiling water, like what I used), note that it will take about 30-45 minutes to thicken.”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pfeffernuesse You Say?

We are again honored to have a post from guest blogger No Handle. This time he brings the gift of a wonderful spice cookie, pfeffernuesse, perfect for Christmas. Thanks No Handle!

(The 'p' is silent, so it's feffernoose; with an 'uh' on the end if you're German)

Pfeffernuesse You Say?

It started as a simple question from a good friend, “Do you like pfeffernuesse?” or something like that. That brought a blast from the past. I did like pfeffernuesse, but hadn't had any home-made (and precious few store-bought) pfeffernuesse in decades. The name means spice nut in German. Mom made them in my youth (embarrassingly long ago) so I asked her for a recipe. She pointed me to the Encyclopedia of Cooking. A later conversation revealed that she had probably used the one in The Settlement House Cookbook (“The way to a man's heart”). As luck would have it, I owned copies of both. I also asked Elle, a fountainhead of flour-based recipes, as you know, and my friend who had one from “Foods of the World – Germany” which she transcribed. Elle had two from the same (un-named) German cookbook, which she transcribed. One was nearly identical to" Foods of the World". Email is great. I settled (pardon the pun) on the Settlement House version for no particular reason, except perhaps nostalgia. I will hit some of the differences later in this post.

My next challenge was one ingredient that appears in many German fruit bread recipes (think Stollen) and in this one: citron. The search for this led me to another sister, whose husband is German, and who bakes Stollen as yummy Christmas gifts. Citron is a very bitter lemon flavored fruit. It is available (when you can find it) with the candied fruit, wherever the grocery store decides to put it. I struck out at Whole Foods, but the local Kroger store had some. Under another name, “etrog”, citron is used for blessings in the Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles, so I ask my friend Dave where he gets his. “From the Temple” was his response, but that holiday is in September or so, making that source interesting but impractical. Another closely related fruit is called “hand of Buddha” a visually interesting fruit in its own right, but I would have needed to candy it, and the hands are much too big for my needs. Whole Foods had that though, fresh in the produce section. If you strike out at your local grocery, you can use candied lemon rind in a pinch. It's a bit less bitter.

This is a sweet cookie using any of the recipes. It calls for brown sugar (8 oz.) and 1 cup each of corn syrup, and molasses (honey in the older recipes) which are heated before adding to the dry goods. Those are flour (5 cups), almonds ground to a flour, and baking soda (baking powder if you are using honey) with cinnamon for the spice, although other recipes often include cloves and allspice, which would be good. Add to this shortening (or sometimes lard and butter) and you have your ingredients.The recipe below uses double these ingredients (e.g. 2 cups each of corn syrup and molasses).

My recipe called for adding things in a particular order, but I simplified it some by sifting the dry ingredients together, adding the brown sugar, and then the warmed syrups, followed by the shortening. It is a very stiff dough (about like Play-Doh, or slightly stiffer) which makes mixing it an effort. I would recommend a stand mixer at low speed, but I can tell you that a really good hand mixer at low speed works too. It fills my largest mixing bowl, so care must be taken to keep it from flying everywhere.

Once mixed it needs to rest a while. The goal is small balls of dough, so I made a two foot long log of the dough and covered it in plastic wrap to rest overnight. Then I cut the log in thirds, reduced the diameter by rolling the log (just like in kindergarten) and cut inch-long slices and rolled them into balls in my palms. The result is a bit smaller than a golf ball, but I didn't measure them.

You get about twenty to a section, for about 60 total. They need about their own diameter separation on a cookie sheet, and cook for about fifteen minutes at 350 degrees.  This is something about which the recipe is curiously vague. It says to bake until brown, but the dough is quite brown to start with. Perhaps with honey instead of molasses it isn't. My recipe calls for a greased sheet, and some call for a floured and greased sheet, but with the shortening content, I didn't bother, and they came off easily. A bit of cooking spray wouldn't hurt if you want to be sure of an easy separation.

At fifteen minutes the cookie is crisp on the outside and somewhat soft inside. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar, or roll them in powdered sugar if you are a traditionalist.

As they cool, they get firmer within, and retain about the same crispness. The next day (and for a few days thereafter, the crispness softens some, and the interior firms slightly. This is the consistency I (vaguely) remember in Mom's (and I'm sure she rolled them in sugar; different health standards). Some recipes recommend keeping them in an air-tight container (cookie tins if you have them, Tupperware if you don't) for a week or so. They do keep well, so you can make these in Advent and enjoy them on Christmas day. “What about the taste”, you ask. My wife says they are unlike anything she has tasted, and that they taste different once they cool. Not much help for you. I will say they are similar to molasses cookies, almost like a soft ginger snap, but with that citrus bite from the citron. I think the citron (lemonish) flavor spreads over time. So that's my Christmas gift to you. Enjoy!

Here is the verbatim recipe (I halved it) from the Settlement House (The Way to a Man’s Heart ®) cookbook, 1965, which is still in print, but revised and expanded:

2 cups corn syrup
2 cups dark molasses
1 cup shortening
Rind and juice of one lemon
½ pound brown sugar
10 cups flour [I used unbleached]
1 teaspoon [baking] soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ pound citron, cut fine [more is OK]
¼ pound almonds, chopped fine [more almonds is good too]
1 egg white

Warm syrup and molasses, add shortening and lemon juice and the remaining ingredients in the order given, flour and soda mixed. Citron and soda may be omitted [ but don’t]. Roll into little balls, brush with white of egg, place on greased cookie sheet far apart, and bake until brown [15 minutes at altitude], 350 degrees F. Roll in confectioner’s sugar. Will keep.

Reply to this blog and I will send (or post) a few variations for your enjoyment.

  No Handle

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Let's Hear It For Gingerbread!

Lots of emotions going on recently. I was remembering school Christmas nativity plays and all of the costumes and songs. I was painfully shy after about age 7, so never acted in any that I can remember, but a friend remembered being an angel and she said something interesting: "The tinsel made my shoulders itch." At first I thought she meant literally, but she was talking about feeling not worthy to be such a higher being as an angel. I know that feeling myself.

At this time of year I alternate between feeling good about myself as I choose just the right gift or make some quick bread as a gift and feeling inadequate when I realize that I don't have a gift for a friend who just made a lunch date with me or when I can't even seem to find the time to see someone I really enjoy spending time with.

I get a warm glow sending out cards to good friends and a sinking feeling that I'm going to forget to send cards to people I care about since my list hasn't been updated and I'm terrible at keeping my database clean with up to date addresses and phone numbers.

Then there is the well of sadness that lives just below the surface of my emotions and has for 13 years. Mostly it stays below the surface and I'm happy, even joyful, as I prepare for the holidays. Then something will poke a hole in that happy and the missing of my son wells up. It's OK. I ride with it, shed a few tears sometimes, and then the happy is all around me again.

It's part of the season for lots of people I think. Many of us have lost a loved one, are worried about the illness a loved one is dealing with, have to face loneliness or the death of a dream. So day by day I remind myself to live the meaning of the season. Be kind to those around me, be kind to myself, and patient, be grateful for my blessings. Share my love as generously as possible. It works. All the lights on the Christmas tree help, too.

Last, but not least, I find that making and sharing good food is my way of finding the happy. This morning we had a great breakfast with dear friends and I made Gingerbread Waffles. I'll bet you can imaging just how wonderful my house smelled as they cooked! There were topping of pure maple syrup, applesauce, an apple that had been sauteed, then mixed with some cinnamon and chopped pecans. For Sweetie there was a bowl of whipped cream which he even shared with the rest of us. Good man! Our friends brought a lot of fantastic candied bacon which also had some rice wine vinegar in the basting sauce to cut the sweetness a bit. It was a hit and I'll share the recipe if I get it. Could not have been a happier time.

The Gingerbread Waffles were based on the Amazing Overnight Waffles I love so much, but with the addition of some spices and substitution of molasses for the sugar. They were crispy and spicy and just wonderful!

Amazing Overnight Gingerbread Waffles

adapted for gingerbread flavor
from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe' Cookbook
1 packet dry yeast
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup water

Whisk together and let sit, uncovered, at room temperature for 2 hours

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt

all of the sponge
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
½ cup molasses
2 cups milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs

Nonstick spray
Butter (and bread) for the waffle iron
Sliced apples
Whipped cream if you are feeling decadent or maple syrup if you prefer

Combine the flour, spices, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the sponge that has sat for 2 hours waiting for this moment, and whisk to combine. Add the molasses, milk and whisk until blended. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature (or put in the fridge if room temp. is over 70 degrees F.)

The next morning, preheat the waffle iron. Melt the 6 tablespoons butter and let cool a bit. Beat the eggs in a small bowl (unnecessary if using egg substitute) then beat into the batter along with the melted butter.

Lightly spray the hot waffle iron with non stick spray, top and bottom plates, and then butter a piece of bread and use that to rub some butter on top and bottom plates.

Add just enough batter to cover the cooking surface…this varies by waffle iron…about 2/3 cup. Lower the top and cook until dark brown…it’s OK to check now and then. It takes about 2-3 minutes and it's usually when the steam starts to diminish. You want it medium-dark brown but not burnt.

Serve hot, right away, with sautéed apples, whipped cream or maple syrup, or toppings of your choice.

Note; If you have too many waffles for the number of people you are feeding, bake the leftover batter a little less than the ones you are eating, let cool on a baking rack, then freeze and store in the freezer tightly wrapped. Re-heat in the toaster.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Using Up the Egg Whites

Time has been flying! I finally looked at my photo set and discovered that I never posted about some cookies I made a couple of weeks ago. Making two coconut cream pies had left me with quite a lot of egg whites. My favorite thing to do with egg whites is to make macrons. The crispy shell of the cookie shatters when you bite down, which is when you discover the chewy inside and the delicious filling.

I decided to make two flavors in one batch. The simple one was chocolate cookies and ganache filling. The second half was raspberry. I used some freeze dried raspberries to flavor them and raspberry jam for filling. Both are fairly traditional and not odd flavor combinations, but the chocolate goes well with the raspberry, so you could easily switch out the fillings and still have awesome macrons.

Since I didn't want all the seeds from the dried raspberries, I decided to grind them up with a little bit of powdered sugar and then put that through a fine mesh strainer. There are still tiny bits of raspberry in the cookie but no chunks that way. I forgot to add food coloring, so they are pale, pale pink. Pretty tasty, especially with the red jam as filling.

The part I often forget about is that you need to make the batter, pipe them onto the baking sheets, and then wait at least 30 minutes before you bake them. That helps create the little 'feet' and round smooth tops. My tops were not smooth and one batch had no feet, but they still were wonderful to eat.

Two Kinds of Macrons - Chocolate with Ganache and Raspberry with Raspberry Jam

90 gr egg whites (about 3)
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds
1/4 cup cocoa powder (Dutch process preferred) for the chocolate half of the batter
3 tablespoons freeze dried raspberries (or 2 tablespoons powdered raspberries)

Prepare the macrons: in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. Divide meringue in half (in two bowls) if making two flavors from one batch as I did.

Place the half the almonds, half the powdered sugar and all of the cocoa in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add them to one bowl of meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes.

Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macrons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit.

Place 1/4 cup powdered sugar and all of the dried raspberries in the food processor and process until the raspberries are as fine as possible. Strain the mixture into a small bowl, discarding the pieces too large to go through a fine mesh strainer. (If using powdered raspberries, just add to the food processor and continue with recipe.) Place the strained mixture, half the almonds, and the remaining powdered sugar in the food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add this mixture to the second bowl of meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes.

Pipe this mixture the same way you piped the chocolate macrons. Let these sit out for 30 minutes too.

Preheat the oven to 280F and then bake macrons for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. Remove from pan.

If you have trouble removing the baked macrons, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macrons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy.

Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer. When ready, fill with ganache or jam.

Semisweet Chocolate Ganache Filling
Heat ¼ cup heavy cream in the microwave 1 minute on high power. Remove bowl from microwave and add 2 oz. of semisweet excellent quality chocolate that has been chopped finely. Stir with a small spatula, very gently, until chocolate melts and thoroughly combined. Avoid adding extra air.

Let cool 2-3 minutes, then put into a pastry bag and pipe about ½ tablespoon on half of the macarons on the flat side. Top with the other half of the macarons, rounded side up. Let the ganache firm up before serving.

Filling for Raspberry Macrons:
Fill them with best quality raspberry jam. Sandwich together as described above.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Babes December Tray Bake

When you read British food blogs, I think they refer to today's recipe as a tray bake...a treat baked in a rectangular pan (or even a square one) and served as slices or slabs. It doesn't sound all that appealing, but tray bakes are usually my favorite dessert recipes. In Germany they are kuchen. The Bread Baking Babes are gathering around the table of our December Kitchen of the Month, Gretchen of Provecho Peru, to make Apple Kuchen.

The holiday run-up is in full swing! Worked on the annual Christmas letter, but made sure to keep it to one page, including photos. Took in a holiday party or two, visits with friends where I admired their superior Christmas decorating skills. We do have our tree decorated and a wreath on the door and one string of lights up the banister but I am in awe of friends who do little groupings of trees or Santas or snowmen and make them look just right, something I don't feel I know how to do very well.

One thing I do know how to do is bake, especially breads and cakes. On Saturday I pretended I was in Gretchen's kitchen baking kuchen with her. The recipe she gave is for an apple kuchen with a yeasted dough on the bottom of the pan and an apple topping (although I used apricots as you can see below) with a yummy, rich crumble on top.

Gretchen gave us a description of the different kuchens:

"Kuchen is said to be the German word for cake. Maybe someone more German than I can confirm that? There are several “types” of kuchen that can be prepared:

Rolled - filled dough in a long spiral, baked & sliced to serve
Custard - thick cake-y crust with sweet custard filling
Cheesecake - yeasted crust with fruit and a cream cheese filling
Coffeecake - cinnamon sugar streaks in a butter cake
Pie - thick cake-y crust with apple-pie filling and sweet white icing

We are making something (that I think) is closest to the 'Pie Kuchen'."

I'm convinced that nothing succeeds like excess, so I changed a few things (as I often do) to make the treat even more luxurious. I used white whole wheat flour, browned the butter, then added the sugar and did a bit of stirring to let the sugar begin to dissolve. I also added a tiny bit of almond extract to the liquid mixture. I love nutmeg, so added some to both the dry mixture and to the crumble. On Gretchen's suggestion I doubled the crumble mixture but, because I decided to go all-out on the almond flavors, I used 1/2 cup almond flour and 1/2 cup flour. Still being excessive, I added thin sliced almonds to the bottom and sides of the pan after greasing it. They toasted while the kuchen baked and added a nice crunch to each bite. Last, but not least, I substituted canned apricots for the apples. I've always loved almonds and apricots together.

This was a wonderful, flavorful, almost extravagant kuchen! I skipped any creamy topping because with all that crumble it was rich enough 'plain'.

The dough was easy to work with, although I did used 2 1/2 cups flour to make the dough stiff. Mine didn't rise a lot but that was probably due to the house being cold and damp. We had a raw day Saturday. Of course that made this treat all the more welcome. It was great with a cup of coffee for an afternoon snack.

Thank you Gretchen for choosing such a great December recipe! Do check out the other Bread Baking Babes sites for their take on this festive treat.

I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for her Yeastspotting event. I've been remiss in not joining that round up lately, but I recommend it to you as a marvelous place to be inspired to bake with yeast! Lots of great recipes every week.

The recipe can be found at Gretchen's blog, HERE.

Happy kuchen baking!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Not So Irish Stew

A few weeks ago we purchase some local lamb, both stew pieces and ground. My original idea was to make traditional Irish stew, but somewhere along the way it morphed into lamb with red wine, rosemary and garlic. I started out with the traditional onions, celery, carrots mix and with the lamb shaken with seasoned flour and browned, a few at a time. Sorry to say I also have lost the amounts I used, so this isn't as much a recipe as a recounting.

Along about the time that I was supposed to braise the browned lamb and veggies with broth I decided I like my lamb marinade for grilling so much that I would add those ingredients, too. Red wine, fresh rosemary, a few cloves of crushed garlic, a couple of bay leaves, a shake of dried orange peel and some freshly ground pepper was added to the chicken broth. A nice long simmer later the meat was tender, almost falling off the bone.The next step could be skipped but it does add to the flavor. I removed the meat and simmered the liquid until it was reduced by about 1/3. Then I removed the bay leaves, added back the meat and I added some red skinned waxy potatoes that I had cut into bite size pieces and cooked until tender in a separate pot. I didn't want red potatoes from the red wine.

I served the stew in bowls because it was on the soupy side. A sprinkle of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley was the final garnish.

This was excellent stew folks! You could really taste the lamb...a good thing if you love lamb...but the potatoes still had their own flavor and the veggies were soft and added a touch of tradition. The red wine and garlic and rosemary provide robust flavor but are not dominant. Great with good bread to sop up the savory liquid. Just have a plate for the bones if yours, like ours, is bone-in stew meat.

Finally have some time to start thinking about Christmas. I did do a couple of online bits of shopping on Cyber Monday, but now have the fun of finding local items, mostly, for family and friends. The crafts scene especially has just blossomed so there are lots and lots of quality hand crafted items this year to choose from. Hard to choose...

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Sweet Bananas and Persimmons

The rains came last week (about 8 inches in 5 days) and knocked most of the leaves off the trees. That made some trees look pretty bleak, but not our persimmon tree.

One of the harbingers of winter around here are the bright orange persimmons hanging like early Christmas ornaments on the bare branches of their trees. Our tree is a Hayachi, the kind that need to be soft, almost squishy, in order to be edible. I brought an unripe, hard one in to be part of the Thanksgiving table decorations and it is finally soft enough to use.

Today there were also a few very ripe bananas on the plate with the new greenish ones that Sweetie likes. I decided to combine the two fruits in one sweet quick bread. With the addition of some molasses and spices it is the perfect seasonal treat. This one is very moist. You get a hint of the persimmon flavor and a bit more of the banana. Fortunately they complement each other. Sweetie was a big fan of this combo and of the moistness, plus he has always liked thing with molasses flavors.

The butter needs to be soft, the eggs at room temperature and the fruit very ripe. It only makes one loaf, but it just might become your favorite tea bread when persimmons are ripe. Now you know what I'm going to be baking when the persimmons now on the tree are ripe in a few weeks. Hope you'll try it, too.

Persimmon Banana Spice Bread

1 fully ripe persimmon (about 1/3 pound)
2-3 ripe bananas
1 ½ plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon dried orange peel, ground
2 large eggs
¼ cup molasses
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. Adjust oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 ½ by 4 ½ by 2 ¾ inch loaf pan; set aside.

2. Pull the stems off the persimmon and cut lengthwise in half. With a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon, scoop the pulp out into a bowl. Use a pastry blender or potato masher to chop or mash the pulp into small pieces; you should still have some pieces of persimmon mixed with the pureed pulp. Set aside. Peel and mash the bananas, also leaving some small pieces mixed with the very mashed pulp. Set aside.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, spices and orange peel together; set aside.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter until light. Add the brown sugar and beat until light. Add the molasses and beat to combine thoroughly.

5. Add the eggs to the butter mixture and beat to combine. Mixture may look curdled. That is OK. Stir in the persimmon pulp and banana pulp with a rubber spatula. Add the flour mixture and stir only until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth the top(s). (Note: I stirred in the fruit and then the flour mixture using a stand mixer and was careful to not overmix…it worked fine.)

6. Bake for about 1 hour and 5 minutes, until the bread is well browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The bread will be quite dark, especially on the edges, but if loaf/loaves start to brown too much before being done, lay a piece of aluminum foil, shiny side up, loosely on top during the last 30 minutes or so of baking.

7. Cool in the pan(s) on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a small sharp knife around the side(s) to release the bread, and carefully unmold. Set right side up on a rack to cool completely. Wrap airtight. The bread can be frozen for up to 2 months.