Friday, July 24, 2015

Whiskied Indiana Persimmon Pudding

     English Style Pudding
     There are many different kinds of regional pudding recipes around the globe.  Rice Puddings and Grain Puddings that are made with milk are popular nearly everywhere.  Maize Puddings are an ancient western world tradition.  Tapioca Pudding is a favorite in North American and Asia.  
     Egg Custard is also called pudding and it can be flavored with just about any dessert ingredient.  This style of pudding is often used to fill pastries.  Some Egg Custard style puddings are thickened with gelatin or cornstarch, but the best are tightened with only egg yolks.  
     Bread Puddings and Gratin Bread Desserts are a favorite in Europe and America.  Bread Pudding should not be confused with English Pudding.  Traditional puddings of the British Isles are kind of in a class of their own and by definition they are not pudding at all.  English Pudding more like a dense rich moist bread or cake that is as heavy as Lead.  This style of pudding has been popular ever since Medieval times.    
     Many Americans have never knowingly experienced English Pudding, because this style of pudding has a different name in this country.  Old traditional American fruitcake recipes from the colonial age are made like a baked, stirred, heavy English Pudding.  

     English style puddings were a commonplace item during the early American colonial age.  The original fruitcakes from the 1500's and 1600's were made with a heavy fruit puree, milk and egg batter, just like how English Pudding is made.  The English style heavy batter is stirred occasionally as it is baked or steamed.  The result is a very dense heavy texture that is loaded with rich flavor.  
     Later in American history, the English Pudding style fruit cakes were made with a moderately heavy cake batter.  This style of fruit cake was not stirred as it baked, so the texture was a little bit less dense.  However, after the fruit cake finished baking, it was covered with cheese cloth, then it was saturated with red wine and brandy.  The liquor drenched fruit cake was chilled for several days before it was served.  The end result was a fruit cake that was almost as heavy as English Pudding.    

     My own family has been in the Americas ever since my long lost English relatives were placed in charge of colonies in the mid 1500's.  The old family's fruitcake recipe has been around since the colonial days and it is made like an English pudding.  The old family fruitcake turns out heavy and rich tasting beyond belief.  A soft fruit puree is part of fruitcake pudding batter recipe.  
     My grandmother was really big on keeping the fruitcake recipe a secret for some reason.  Over the years, I figured out the old family fruitcake recipe.  Part of the insight came from making today's version of Indiana Persimmon Pudding.  The Indiana style Persimmon Pudding tastes exactly like the old family fruitcake batter recipe.  Native Persimmons were available in the colonies that my family occupied many generations ago, so the secret family fruit cake ingredient came to light.          

     Persimmon Pudding is an old traditional American Thanksgiving and Christmas dessert.  This is because harvested persimmons ripen at nearly the same time that these holidays pop up on the calendar.  
     Indiana is persimmon tree haven.  There are many great traditional Indiana Persimmon Pudding recipes available in book form and at internet websites.  There are many recipe variations that include minor changes, like the addition of cream or certain spices.  
     Overall, the basic ingredients are nearly the same in every persimmon pudding recipe.  The persimmon pudding batter proportions are almost the same as a baked English style fruit pudding batter.  The amount of butter is the same.  The technique of baking and stirring, till the pudding becomes caramelized and brown is the same. 
     Traditional Indiana Persimmon Pudding is never made with Scotch Whisky, Bourbon or Brandy, but these liquors can add a nice complimentary flavor.  It takes a substantial amount of whisky to flavor a persimmon pudding, so replacing the milk with cream is necessary, so the whisky does not thin the rich pudding batter.  
     Some traditional persimmon pudding recipes require no spices.  Others are heavily spiced.  A small amount of winter dessert spices goes a long way in today's recipe, because the heavy nature of the persimmon pudding batter seems to amplify the winter spice flavor.  It is important to go light when adding spices or the persimmon flavor will be overwhelmed.  
     The classic choice of persimmon is a varietal that is native to the Americas.  For a richer sweeter persimmon pudding, mixing 1 large Asian Persimmon with 2 American persimmons creates a deeper persimmon flavor. 

     Persimmon Preparation:
     • About 1 1/4 cups of persimmon puree is needed for today's recipe.  2 American Persimmons plus 1 Asian Persimmon will yield about 1 1/4 cups of puree.       
     • Persimmons take a long time to ripen.  Persimmons will not ripen quickly at room temperature.  The fastest way to ripen persimmons is to place them in a refrigerator.  The persimmons have to be ripe, juicy and soft.  Hard persimmons will ripen in less than 2 weeks when refrigerated.  A persimmon is ripe when the skin starts to split open.  
     • The easiest way to prepare persimmons is to boil the whole ripe persimmons over high heat for about 3 minutes.  Cool the persimmons in cold water.  Then squeeze the pulp out of the skin into a mixing bowl.  Discard the skin and the stem bulb.  
     After the pulp is gathered, use a blender, food processor or blending wand to puree the persimmon fruit pulp.
     • Be sure to measure the volume of the prepared persimmon pulp puree.  Any extra puree can be saved for other recipes.                  

     Whiskied Indiana Persimmon Pudding:
     This recipe yields 5 to 8 portions of Persimmon Pudding, depending on the serving size!
     Persimmon pudding is notoriously heavy.  Portions can be cut small and they still will be very filling.  Each molded persimmon pudding in the pictures above is actually a double portion for two guests! 
     • Persimmon pudding has to be baked in a bain marie (baked in a ceramic dish that is placed in a water bath).  
     • Persimmon pudding has to be stirred once every 15 minutes while it bakes.  It takes nearly 2 hours for persimmon pudding to finish baking, so this recipe requires a timer and some devoted cooking skills.  One simply cannot get too far away from the oven when baking persimmon pudding!  
     At first, stirring the pudding is like stirring a custard.  After about 30 minutes, it is like stirring a wet cake.  After about an hour, it is like stirring a dense damp crumbly cake.  Finally the caky textured pudding browns and the task is finished.   
     • After the entire batch is browned, it can be spooned into individual portion molds, double portion size molds or one large casserole dish mold.  The pudding should only be lightly pressed into the mold, or it will be so dense that only a couple of bites will cause guests to feel stuffed.
     Step 1:  Measure 2 cups of all purpose flour.  
     Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
     Sift the ingredients into a container and set it aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of cream. 
     Add 1 cup of Blended Scotch Whisky.
     Add 1/4 cup of whole milk.
     Heat the liquid till it becomes warm.  (About 120ºF)
     Step 3:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Add 1 pinch of ground clove.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 pinch of cinnamon. 
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
     Set the Whiskey Cream aside.
     Step 4:  Place 1 1/4 cups of persimmon pulp puree in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 large egg.
     Add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar.
     Add 1/4 cup of light brown sugar. 
     Stir with a whisk, till the ingredients are blended.
     Step 5:  Alternate adding equal size small portions of the Whisky Cream Mixture and the Persimmon Puree to the flour, while constantly stirring with a whisk, till all the ingredients are combined.  The pudding mixture should look like a pale orange color heavy cake batter.    
     Step 6:  Brush a large wide ceramic casserole baking dish with melted unsalted butter.
     Pour the persimmon pudding batter in the baking dish.  The batter level should be about 2" deep. 
     Step 7:  Cut 1 ounce of chilled unsalted butter into small pieces.
     Scatter the butter pieces on top of the pudding. 
     Place the baking dish in a roasting pan.
     Add enough water to the roasting pan, so the water is about 2" up the sides of the pudding casserole dish.  
     Step 8:  Bake in a 350ºF oven.  
     Set a timer for 15 minutes.
     Remove the pudding from the oven once every 15 minutes and stir the pudding.  Just a few stirs with a small spoon to break up the clumps is plenty.  
     Bake for about 2 hours, till the entire pudding becomes a medium brown color.  
     Step 9:  Lightly brush a large serving pudding mold or several small portion molds with unsalted butter.
     Spoon the persimmon pudding into the molds.
     Lightly press the pudding into the molds.  
     Allow the pudding to cool to room temperature.
     Step 10:  Serve immediately or cover each pudding and chill for later use.  
     The pudding has to be allowed to warm to room temperature before it is served.  Persimmon pudding can also be warmed to about 135ºF.  

     The persimmon pudding at the top of the page was garnished with Whisked Crème Fraiche, Lemon Gelée and Cherry Moonshine Syrup.  Lemon sauce of any kind is a classic choice for persimmon pudding.  

     Lemon Gelee Sauce:
     Making a clear lemon jelly sauce with 1 part apple pectin, 3 parts sugar and 4 parts diluted lemon juice is done by simmering the three ingredients in a pan till they thicken to a thin syrup consistency.  This lemon gelee can be pour over a pudding like a clear gelatin glaze.

     Cherry Moonshine Syrup:
     Cherry Moonshine syrup is made by simmering 1 part cherry moonshine and 2 parts sugar, till it reduces to a syrup consistency.

     Marischino cherries or moonshine cherries are both good for decorating a persimmon pudding presentation. 

     Glacage Blanc:
     Glacage Blanc is made by whisking 1 egg white with powdered sugar at room temperature.  
     About a 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar to 1 egg white will produce a thin glacage that barely coats a pudding and it is more like a sauce.  The dome shaped pudding example above was covered with thin glacage blanc and cherry moonshine syrup was streamed over the glacage to create an interesting effect. 

     A thick glacage blanc requires 3 to 4 cups of powdered sugar per egg white.  The sugar must be slowly added while whisking, till the glacage becomes a consistency that can easily coat a spoon.  
     It is best to place a chilled pudding on a wire screen roasting rack that is set on a drip pan, then pour the thick glacage over the pudding.  Place the drip pan and everything in a refrigerator till the glacage sets.  A spatula can be used to transfer the glacage coated pudding to a plate.  This method was used to make the heart shaped pudding in the photos above.

     Red food coloring or cherry juice can be used to give glacage blanc a pink or red color.  The addition of liquid may require more powdered sugar to be added.
     Maraschino cherry juice or rose water are both nice flavors for a pink color glacage.  I used rose water the flavor the pink heart shaped pudding.  

     Persimmon pudding can be decorated with just about anything.  Making a creative nice looking presentation always impresses guests.  A little bit of extra effort goes a long way!

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