If you've ever been handed a bag of persimmons, then wondered what you're going to do with them, this column's for you.

When I ran Debbie Westhafer-Schoonmaker's request last week, I mentioned that persimmon queries pop up every fall. That's because so many of us are at a loss when it comes to this lovely orange fruit. If you want to eat or bake with a Hachiya persimmon, you have to wait until the fruit fully softens. By the time persimmons ripen in some forgotten corner of my kitchen counter, I often forget I had them.

But this year, I'm ready to take on persimmons, and you will be, too. An extended email conversation with Plates regular Ro Taylor, of Los Altos, has convinced me that a steamed persimmon pudding should make a holiday appearance in my house.

Steamed puddings are more like moist cakes than a pudding. They look quite elegant and are very British, but they're really easy, Taylor insists. Such recipes often call for a pudding mold, but a Pyrex bowl or ceramic dish will do, she says. The pudding steams in a water bath in the oven: You place the baking dish inside a large roasting pan, then add boiling water to the larger pan.

If you're pondering how to devote precious holiday oven space to the pudding, no worries. Taylor says the pudding freezes well. Just thaw thoroughly, wrap in foil and pop it in the oven at 250 degrees for 30 minutes. You can heat the pudding while you're clearing dinner dishes.


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"For 40 years, my mom, Evelyn Koenig, who passed away two years ago at the age of 100, would make persimmon pudding. She made it for Thanksgiving with extra to freeze for Christmas," Taylor says. "Last year was the first time I made it. It is easy and delicious with a dollop of hard sauce on it. I made so much last year we even had some on Easter in Mom's honor. Our daughter Alison loves this traditional family dessert."

Make sure to use very ripe Hachiya persimmons, she adds.

If you're looking for more uses for that bumper persimmon crop, Dale Hill offers a fruitcake-type recipe, while Dona Blackmore shares a persimmon gelatin ring.

Going vegan

Longtime Plates reader Jane Parks-McKay and her husband, Tim, are interested in vegan recipes and cookbooks -- and Denise Kast Souza, of Sunnyvale, has a recommendation. "We recently watched 'Forks Over Knives,' " Souza says. "The film makes a strong case for a more plant-based diet. I can also recommend the accompanying cookbook. It will give the Parks-McKay family plenty of ideas, whether they want to dip their toes in veganism or go 'whole hog.' "

Edited by Gene Stone, the paperback companion cookbook is available at Amazon.com and elsewhere.

If you're going to try a vegan cookbook, Karen Shagrin suggests you help a member of the Home Plates extended family at the same time. Her daughter Jenn, an actor and comedian, has published "Veganize This." There's plenty of humor, Shagrin says, along with detailed recipes for, among others, Jenn's vegan Twinkie recipe, which she baked for restaurants in Los Angeles. The book is available at Amazon and on iTunes, as well as at some local bookstores.

Request line

  • Joanne, of Benicia, hopes you can help with a "supremely simple" peanut brittle recipe she clipped from a newspaper, perhaps the Contra Costa Times, a few years ago. Joanne thinks the recipe didn't require the use of a candy thermometer, "because I've never been reliably good with it." The recipe made a brittle candy that wasn't too tough, she says.

    "I knew I had a serious saver, but darn it, it disappeared!" she says. "I've tried many since then and have not found its equal. I'd really appreciate it if someone else has it to send in."

  • "Years ago, there was a little old-fashioned bakery in Ferndale," writes Kathi, of Concord. "They made the most phenomenal hermit bars, and a trip to Victorian Ferndale was just not complete unless a bag of them was in the car when I left. They were the perfect combo of chewy and spicy.

    "They were bars, not drops, and not the kind of bar that is cut from a cookie baked in a rectangular or square pan. They must have been baked starting with a log shape, something like biscotti. I found a couple of likely candidates on the Internet, but I thought maybe one of your readers might have the real recipe or know someone who does."

    Contact Kim Boatman at HomePlates@bayareanewsgroup.com. Find recent Home Plates recipes online at www.mercurynews.com/home-plates.