Often, when you’re cooking, things don’t go exactly as planned. I believe one of the keys to being a good home cook is not to do everything perfectly all the time, but to be able to improvise when the shiitakes hit the fan.
Monday, feeling incredibly overwhelmed by my schedule this week, I decided to do some therapeutic baking. B brought home three persimmons from the co-op last week that were just aching to be used, but without milk in the house, a cake was out of the question. I decided on a tart, but then realized I was going to have a problem with the crust. I somehow manage to frequently forget that I do not own a proper tart pan. This means I often end up making pies instead of tarts, but on this occasion I mused to my mother about it, and she made the brilliant suggestion to do a country-style tart on a sheet pan, with the edges folded up over the fruit.
Unfortunately, once I started breaking down the fruit, I found that one of the persimmons was overripe, and would never slice up nicely. I set this one aside and grabbed an apple from the fridge to supplement my remaining two as the filling. Instead of using apricot jam to glaze the top of the tart, as I normally would do, I scooped out the insides of the overripe persimmon and cooked them down a little with some lemon juice, honey, and a splash of orange liqueur, then strained. Voilà. Homemade persimmon glaze.
The tart turned out to be delicious, and I would definitely make it again, including the addition of another apple, though unless I get another mushy persimmon, in future I’ll save myself the trouble and use jam glaze.
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 stick butter
- 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 2 ripe persimmons
- 2 apples
- juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 Tbsp apricot preserves
Make your crust at least 1 hour before you plan to assemble your tart. Mix together flour, salt, and sugar, then cut in butter and shortening with two knives (as shown) until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Slowly add ice water by tablespoonfuls, mixing with a fork until dough begins to form. At the very end, use your hands to quickly form a ball and wrap in clingfilm. Chill in the refrigerator at least 60 minutes before you roll it out.
In the meantime, peel, core, and slice your persimmons and apple. Immediately squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the sliced fruit, to prevent unsightly browning. Add honey (or sugar), cinnamon, and thyme, and gently toss together.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF before you begin assembling. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out, on a floured surface, to about 20 inches in diameter. Transfer to a cookie sheet. If the dough hangs over the edges, don’t worry, since you’re going to be folding them in. Place your fruit in the center of the crust and distribute evenly into a rough circle. Begin folding up sections of the edge over the fruit one at a time, making 7 or 8 “corners.” (If you’re confused as to what that means, look at the final picture at bottom.)
Warm the preserves on the stove-top or in the microwave, to a spreadable consistency. Use a pastry brush to glaze the fruit and the exposed crust. Bake for 15 minutes, then cover the crust with strips of foil to avoid over-browing (above right), and reduce the temperature to 350ºF and bake another 20-25. Let cool and serve at room temperature. The final product looks something like this:
This tart is not overly sweet, which makes it a beautiful light finish to any autumn meal. The addition of a tart apple compliments the sweetness of the persimmons, and the 2/3 butter, 1/3 shortening ratio in the crust keeps it nice and flaky, while a light hand with cinnamon and thyme allows the natural flavors of the fruit to shine through. But go ahead, improvise. I always do.