Is there ever a time when stealing is okay? Asking for a friend. Okay, okay, I’m that friend. Honestly, I’m currently staring out of my office window at my neighbor’s tree. It’s loaded down with ripe persimmons, and this Persimmon-Walnut Muffin recipe is begging to be made with them. But then I think of how embarrassing it will be to have my face plastered over some crime stoppers site. They’d probably give me some lame alias like “The Persimmon Pincher.” Our twins won’t get into an Ivy League school. So, I sit here looking at the persimmon tree…coveting them. Consequently, if I stole them, I’d be breaking two of the Ten Commandments. Yeah. Totally not going down that road because the next thing you know, I’ll be selling fois gras out of my trunk in Chinatown.
Since I think I’m too cute to go to the pen, I’ll stick to acquiring my persimmons the old-fashioned way- paying for them. But still coveting.
But what are they? And why am I willing to start a life of crime for them?
What is a Persimmon?
Well, for starters, they’re the national fruit of Japan. Their name means “food of the Gods” in Latin, as well.
I was introduced to the persimmon, by my South Korean step-father, as dan gam (sweet persimmon). Here, in the States (or at least in my local Asian market), Fuyu are the most readily available of the persimmons. Another common variety in the States is the Hachiya. While completely edible, I tend to avoid this type of persimmon because I can never get one ripe enough to suit my tastebuds. Hachiya persimmons are very astringent when not fully ripened, and I’m very greedy and impatient when I want to make these muffins. As a result, I stick with the Fuyu because they taste like a crunchy, honeyed plum when fully ripe. Who wouldn’t love that?
How to tell the difference? Hachiya persimmons are oblong and slightly pointed at their ends. Fuyu’s are short and squat and reminiscent of a glossy pumpkin. Can you use Hachiyas in this recipe instead of Fuyus? Yes, yes, you can. Just make sure they are deep orange in color and very soft when pressed with your fingers. Anything less, and you’re bound to get a mouth full of bitterness. I don’t want that for you because you mean so much to me. Fuyu’s are commonly found in Asian markets this time of year…or on your neighbor’s tree. **look away, Marta, LOOK AWAAAYYYY!!!**
How do I prep my persimmon for baking?
To prepare your persimmons for these muffins (or to eat), lop off the thick, dried leaves from the top. You can either use a knife’s tip to accomplish this or pull them right off with your fingers…that is, if you have tough, manly fingers like I do. Give the persimmons a rinse to remove any dirt, and they’re ready! If you want to eat them on their own, slice them as you would an apple, or just bite right into them. I choose the latter method because I’m gangster and don’t need no stinking slices. Really, it’s because I don’t like doing dishes…but I can thug it out every once in a while.
For these muffins’ purposes, however, we need to cut the fruit into chunks for pureeing. To do that, take your chef’s knife and cut the fruit in quarters. Your goal is to break down the fruits into chunks that will process smoothly and as fast as possible (for convenience sake). Throw your persimmon chunks into your blender and pulse a few times to break them down.
Now, crank up the speed, and puree until the persimmons are very smooth- about 30 seconds- on the puree setting. Don’t bother transferring to another bowl just yet- no need to make more dishes than necessary. You will, however, need to take one preventative measure, chemically. We’ll talk more on that later, though.
For now, your persimmon is prepped, and you have to gather the rest of your ingredients.
And what else do I need to make these Persimmon-Walnut Muffins?
All-purpose flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and kosher salt make up the dry mixture. Oil, I use walnut oil, but vegetable oil also works here; eggs, maple (or vanilla) extract, and sugar whisk together to create our wet ingredients. Finally, the persimmon puree and baking soda are combined, and walnuts are added to the mix at the last minute.
A muffin tin for baking and paper muffin cups are optional.
How do I make tender Persimmon-Walnut Muffins?
Now, I talk a lot about the importance of over-handling muffin and quick bread batters here and here. Suffice it to say, improper mixing of dry ingredients before adding the mixed wet ingredients causes a lot of holy (full of holes, not “sanctified”) muffins. “Tunneling” is the culinary term for it, and it causes your muffins to be very tough, dense, and demonic…okay, “demonic” might be a stretch. Not demonic, but not good, either. You always want to mix your dry ingredients (minus the sugar) before adding them to your wet ingredients. The least amount of time you’re working the flour by stirring or whisking, the better, as there’s less chance of an over-development of the gluten strands, which causes that tough, chewy bite.
To start with, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.
In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar and the oil. Whisking these two together coats the sugar crystals in fat that will dissolve the sugar crystals. This is a precursor to getting all of your wet ingredients mixed before combining them with the dry. It helps reduce the amount of mixing of the final batter.
I was given this crazy aromatic La Tourangelle walnut oil at a food conference I’m attending this week. I thought, “what better way to employ it than in a recipe that uses walnuts?” It is a genius idea, my friend.
Eggs are another way we leaven products in the kitchen; they also double as a tenderizer. Using the same whisk you used earlier, whisk the eggs into the sugar/oil mixture. Then, add the maple (or vanilla) extract. Because I want a really autumnal flavor, I use maple extract. If you can’t find any, vanilla will do just fine.
The surprising chemistry of Persimmon Fruits
I have a terrible habit of going overboard when I have an excess of stuff. Case in point: the time I used a cup and half of persimmon puree instead of the cup this recipe calls for. My muffins came out of the oven gross and funky- there really was no proper way to describe how bad they were. I took out the good ol’ culinary textbook and researched what on earth happened to my precious muffins.
But, it turns out, persimmons aren’t fruits that you can add to baked goods all willy-nilly. In their ripened state, they are almost gel-like in their consistency. As a result, they continue to react when folded into quick breads and puddings, even more than you might have bargained for, which was the case with my batch. To counteract this molecular wonder, I’ve started adding the baking soda to the pureed pulp before adding it to the rest of the wet ingredients. Its alkalinity combines the persimmon’s slight acidity to balance out all the science and prevent further thickening of the fruit.
Now fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix the least amount of time possible to avoid the dreading toughness.
Add the chopped walnuts and give it three more folds to incorporate them.
How do I make sure my Persimmon-Walnut Muffins are the same size?
Scoop your muffin batter into your prepared muffin tin using a #16 (or 2 oz) portion scoop. If you don’t have a portion scoop, you can also use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop into your greased muffin tin.
How long do I bake muffins?
Now, just pop your tin into your preheated oven for 18-22 minutes and bake.
Typically, muffins only need to bake for 18 minutes. Depending on your oven’s calibration, that can change to as long as 22 minutes. When in doubt, bake them for 18 minutes and allow carryover cooking to finish the rest outside the oven. Your muffins are done when the top springs back when lightly pressed.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow them to cool for 5 minutes before de-panning. Cooling the muffins in the tin for a short period allows their structure to develop. It reduces the likelihood of your muffins going kaput when you pull them from the pan. Transfer the muffins to a wire rack and leave them to cool, or enjoy them right away.
High altitude baking adjustment:
Trial and error is the name of the game when it comes to baking at high altitudes. Ovens are calibrated differently, and I haven’t been able to test the recipe at a high altitude. Here are a few of my suggestions:
Altitudes of 8,000-10,000 feet:
- Add 3-4 tablespoons of flour with the dry ingredients.
- Add 3-4 tablespoons of water (or apple juice) with the wet ingredients.
- Decrease sugar by 1 teaspoon.
- Increase salt by 1/8 teaspoon.
- Bake for an additional 3 minutes.
- Remove the muffins from the pan after 2 minutes of cooling.
Altitudes above 10,000 feet:
- Add 4-5 tablespoons of flour with the dry ingredients.
- Add 4-5 tablespoons of water (or apple juice) with the wet ingredients.
- Decrease brown sugar by 2 teaspoons.
- Increase salt by 1/4 teaspoon.
- Bake for an additional 3 minutes.
- Remove the muffins from the pan after 2 minutes of cooling.
How do I store leftover muffins?
Place leftover muffins in an air-tight container or a food storage bag once they are cool. My muffins last two days without going terribly stale. Muffins should be stored on the countertop and not in the refrigerator. Refrigerating bread causes it to go stale faster.
You can bake these muffins a day ahead and serve them the next day for breakfast or brunch. Alternatively, you can prepare the batter and store it for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Any longer and the baking soda and powder will lose their leavening properties.
Can I freeze Persimmon-Walnut Muffins?
I encourage you to do that, yes! In fact, I often double this recipe just to freeze a batch for another time. Since finding persimmons is random in my area, I usually buy them in bulk and make recipes last for a few months. This muffin recipe is one of those recipes I make in bulk.
Allow the muffins to cool completely at room temperature before transferring them to a freezer storage bag. Freeze the muffins for 2 months. Thaw the muffins at room temperature when you’re ready to eat them.
I just want to clarify: I was totally going to share the persimmons that I thought about stealing from my neighbor’s tree. She would totally love a batch of these muffins, don’t you think? I’ll keep you posted on what becomes of the great persimmon problem. In the meantime, pin this recipe for later and let me know what you think:
Is it stealing if she benefits from my theft? (never mind, I already know it is!)
**this recipe was originally published in December 2017. I’ve updated it with gorgeous pictures (applaud here) and more streamlined instructions.**
- muffin pan
- 2 1/2 cups (320 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon (4 grams) kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon (2 grams) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) walnut oil or vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup (110 grams) packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon maple extract or vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup (300 grams) pureed persimmon about 2 medium persimmons
- 1 teaspoon (7 grams) baking soda
- 1 cup (120 grams) chopped walnuts
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a muffin pan with baking spray and line the tin with baking cups if you prefer.
Prepare the Muffin Batter
- Into a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, and ginger. Repeat the sifting process twice more for airy muffins. Set this bowl aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine the walnut (or vegetable) oil, brown sugar, and maple (or vanilla) extract. Whisk to dissolve the sugar slightly. Add the eggs, one at time while whisking vigorously. The mixture will turn an opaque brown and be slightly foamy.
- In another bowl, use a rubber spatula to fold together the pureed persimmon and the baking soda, just until mixed completely. Now fold the persimmon puree into the wet ingredients, then fold the wet mixture into the dry. Mix just until the flour is combined.
- Add the walnuts to the batter and fold just until combined, or three stirs.
Pan and Bake the Persimmon-Walnut Muffin Batter
- Scoop the batter into your muffin pan using a portion scoop or a measuring cup.Bake the muffins for 18-20 minutes, or until the muffin tops spring back when lightly pressed.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before eating warm or transferring to a cooking rack to cool completely.
High Altitude Recommendations (these recommendations have not been tested- because I don't live in at altitude, please use your best judgement):
- Altitudes of 8,000-10,000 feet: add 3-4 tablespoons of flour with the dry ingredients. Add 3-4 tablespoons of water (or apple juice) with the wet ingredients. Decrease sugar by 1 teaspoon. Increase salt by 1/8 teaspoon. Bake for an additional 3 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan after 2 minutes of cooling.
- Altitudes above 10,000 feet: add 4-5 tablespoons of flour with the dry ingredients. Add 4-5 tablespoons of water (or apple juice) with the wet ingredients. Decrease brown sugar by 2 teaspoons. Increase salt by 1/4 teaspoon. Bake for an additional 3 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan after 2 minutes of cooling.
- Prepare the persimmon-walnut batter and store it in an airtight container for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Any longer and the baking soda and powder will lose they're leavening properties.
- Place leftover muffins in an airtight container or a food storage bag once they are cool. Stored on the countertop, the muffins keep for 2 days.
- Do not store the muffins (or any breads) in the refrigerator. Refrigerating breads causes them to go stale faster.
- You can bake these muffins a day ahead and serve them the next day for breakfast or brunch.
- Allow the baked muffins to cool completely at room temperature before transferring them to a freezer storage bag.
- Freeze the muffins for 2 months.
- Thaw the muffins at room temperature when you're ready to eat them.