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Fall is … (+ Whole Wheat Persimmon Muffins)

Turned leaves. Extraordinarily warm days in Sonoma County. Brief trips to the coast. Sunday brunch with old friends two weekends in a row sans child. Lots of hot coffee on cool/cold mornings. Dry crackling grass underfoot. Full moons and the smell of winter in the air. Persimmons.

Truth: I have not always loved persimmons. I still do not, though after last week’s batch of Fuyu-flecked muffins I will admit to a certain grudging semi-like. Oh and THEN! I made a persimmon cake on Saturday afternoon (started it in the morning and took it out of the oven around 2 p.m. – this is how things will go for a long time, I have a feeling) that was pretty darn delicious if I do say so myself. So I think I have graduated to more of a full-on ‘like’ as long as they are peeled, chopped up fine, and folded into a dense batter thick with whole wheat flour and sweetened with a touch of maple syrup.

Otherwise known as ‘my new favorite muffins’, these humble offerings were unexpectedly good. I decided to chop up the persimmons into chunks rather than make a puree (I incorporated both into the cake which I hope very much I can detail next week so it may serve as a possible Thanksgiving dessert option) and I was happily pleased with the slightly chewy texture they imparted. Persimmons are a unique taste: fairly fruity, sweet but not too, and with a mild crunch, the Fuyus I call for here are most often used sliced up raw in salads. But I like them in baked goods as well, and as they were the ones I had available (from a neighbor’s and a friend’s trees) that was reason I used them. I probably will always use them going forward (are there persimmons in N. Africa I wonder?).

This week I have plans to make lunch on Friday — I may be spoiling the surprise, but we will start with Lisa’s butternut squash soup, move on to a quiche and an arugula salad, and finish with some, gasp, non-homemade desserts — which will probably be assembled during the entire course of the day on Thursday (how life has changed but I don’t mind; as long as things get accomplished eventually that’s all I care about). I hope the rain comes after all and thus I will be forced to hole up inside, preferably in pajamas for me and certainly pajamas for Sierra, with tea and a book and maybe even a Netflix or two, with lots of cozy warm cuddle time (I could do this when it’s sunny, too, of course, but somehow it’s vastly preferable to do these things when it’s stormy and thus I am not thinking about how I can cram in a bit of outside exercise). Fall is fleeting and we have but a month or so left; truly we must appreciate it while it still lingers cool and pleasant and with the sharp bite of the early dark in its depths.

[print_this] Persimmon Muffins

A variation of my strawberry-maple muffins, the whole wheat flour here is sturdy enough to stand up to the rather chewy (though not unpleasantly) texture of the persimmons. You could try incorporating a puree of Hachiya persimmons but I rather like the crisper Fuyus. If you do, try about a 1/2 cup of puree and either eliminate the chopped persimmons or include just a scant 1/2 cup of chopped fruit.

Makes 1 dozen muffins

3/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar, if that’s all you’ve got)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
about 4 small-medium Fuyu persimmons, peeled and finely diced
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Oat crumble topping
3 tablespoons rolled oats
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line it with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk, vinegar, maple syrup, and oil until well combined.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and the pinch of ginger. Mix in the persimmons, tossing to coat the fruit lightly.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir gently until just combined. Fold in the walnuts.

Distribute the batter evenly into the muffin tins and sprinkle each muffin with oats and brown sugar. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Remove tin from oven and let muffins cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn the muffins out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve room temperature or slightly warm, with a bit of margarine or coconut butter. [/print_this]

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