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American persimmon panna cotta

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American persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) are a delicious native fruit with features that make it quite different from Asian persimmons. In this recipe article, you’ll discover how to make American persimmon panna cotta, a beautiful dessert that brings out the best flavors from raw American persimmon fruit!


An ode to American persimmons — and some trash talk, too… 

We grow Asian persimmons and love them. They’re large, sweet, last a long time, easy to process (virtually no seeds), and maintain a creamy texture after cooking. 

We also have numerous nearby spots where we can forage loads of American persimmons, so we don’t bother to grow them. 

A handful of forest candy: ripe American persimmons (Diospyros americana).

A handful of forest candy: ripe American persimmons.

Which type of persimmon do we like better — American or Asian?

When it comes to fresh eating, a perfectly ripe (read: not puckery) American persimmon is hands down a better flavor than any Asian persimmon variety we’ve ever tried. American persimmons are candy sweet but they also have rich, nuanced undertones.

An Instagram friend described them as tasting like “little pumpkin pies,” which is pretty accurate!     

(Related read: Asian vs American persimmons: growing, foraging, eating.)

The detriments of American persimmons

American persimmons do have some strikes against them though:

  1. The bitter, puckery tannins in unripe fruits (or even in ripe fruit on certain wild trees) can turn your mouth inside out and make a newbie never want to try one again. 
  2. Due to the thin skins and mushy texture of the ripe fruit, it is highly perishable. In fact, it’s sometimes unusable by the time it’s fallen from the canopy to the ground. Splat! 
  3. The fruits are fairly seedy and require processing for use in recipes. 
  4. If you cook American persimmon pulp, it tends to take on a mealy consistency and lose a lot of its sweetness. While that feature is not a problem for breads, muffins, cookies, etc it’s definitely a problem for puddings and similar desserts where smooth texture and mouthfeel are desired. 

Since the flavor of American persimmons and dairy pair so well together, isn’t it a crime not to come up with a dessert recipe combining the two ingredients? Yes. 

Enter American persimmon panna cotta, a simple gelatin-based dessert recipe that uses raw American persimmon pulp. 

Dairy and persimmons sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.

Dairy and persimmons sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.

American persimmon panna cotta recipe notes & tips:

1. Materials you’ll need

This recipe makes 4 large servings, a little under 1 cup total per serving. Therefore, we used 8 ounce/1 cup glasses as serving dishes.

Clear glass also shows off the beautifully contrasting orange and white colors of the dish. 

You'll pour your warm panna cotta base into the serving glasses then letting it set in your fridge for 6+ hours before making and adding the top persimmon layer. Clear glasses are the perfect serving dish for this recipe! | American persimmon panna cotta, American persimmon dessert

You’ll pour your warm panna cotta base into the serving glasses then let it set in your fridge for 6+ hours before making and adding the top persimmon layer. Clear glasses are the perfect serving dish for this recipe!

In addition to glass serving cups, you’ll also need:

  • Something to separate the persimmon pulp from the seeds. We use a chinois strainer, but a pasta strainer, cheese cloth, or other tools can work fine, too. 
  • A blender/food processor for the persimmon pulp (we use a small Ninja, which works great). 
  • A flexible spatula to smooth out the persimmon pulp topping. 
American persimmon pulp processed through a chinois strainer to remove the seeds.

American persimmon pulp processed through a chinois strainer to remove the seeds. The small brown/black bits in the puree are not dirt, they’re bits of persimmon skin that were discolored near the calyx. Make sure you don’t leave any dirt or grit on your persimmons before you process them! 

2. Ingredients you’ll need

First you’ll make the panna cotta base and let it set in your fridge for 6-24 hours before making and adding the persimmon topping. 

For the panna cotta base, you’ll need the following ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup organic heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups organic half and half (or you can use ALL half and half and no cream for a lighter version)
  • 1/4 cup organic cane sugar (alternatives: organic light brown sugar for a richer flavor, but don’t use dark brown / or use the sugar-free powder/crystalline sweetener of your choice) 
  • 1/2 packet of gelatin (3.5 grams or about 1 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp cold water (or cold milk) to bloom gelatin – water is easier to work with!
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the American persimmon topping, you’ll need the following ingredients: 

  • 1 cup American persimmon pulp 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice (to prevent oxidation)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp half and half
  • 2 tbsp water (the liquids help thin out the thick persimmon mixture)
  • dusting of nutmeg for top
  • Optional ingredients that you might consider: bourbon to flavor persimmons or whipped cream topping for decorative touch
American persimmons pulp pureed in a Ninja blender with other ingredients takes on a different texture without leading to a mealy consistency characteristic of the cooked fruit. This process also preserves the wonderful sweet, rich flavor of the raw fruit.

American persimmons pulp pureed in a Ninja blender with other ingredients takes on a slightly different almost caramel-like texture without leading to a mealy consistency characteristic of the cooked fruit. This process also preserves the wonderful sweet, rich flavor of the raw persimmon fruit. You’ll gently scoop this on top of the panna cotta base, then carefully smooth the surface with a flexible spatula.  

Could you make this recipe with Asian instead of American persimmons? Yes, but it won’t be quite as good.  

3. Working with gelatin to make panna cotta

If you’ve never made panna cotta before, you’re in for a happy surprise. That’s because it’s VERY easy to make, it’s delicious, and it’s versatile. 

In fact, you can make the creamy panna cotta base then add pretty much any fresh seasonal fruit (hello summer ground cherries!) you want and you’ll be the star of a dinner party. Just keep it a secret between us that it’s so easy to make. 

And since it is so easy to make, we won’t expound on it further  — just follow the simple instructions in the recipe card below and you’ll be on your way!  

Recipe: American persimmon panna cotta 

American persimmon panna cotta, American persimmon dessert recipe, Diospyros virginiana dessert

Recipe: American persimmon panna cotta
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American persimmon panna cotta

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: american persimmon dessert recipe, american persimmon panna cotta, american persimmon recipe, persimmon panna cotta
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Setting time: 6 hours
Servings: 4 cups
Author: Aaron von Frank

A simple, elegant, and delicious dairy-gelatin dessert featuring American persimmons! Made using the raw fruit to preserve the best texture and flavor.

Ingredients

For panna cotta base

  • 1/2 cup organic heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups organic half and half (ALT: you can use ALL half and half and no cream for a lighter version)
  • 1/4 cup organic cane sugar (ALT: organic light brown sugar for a richer flavor, but don’t use dark brown sugar / Or use the sugar-free powder/crystalline sweetener of your choice) 
  • 1/2 packet of gelatin (3.5 grams or about 1 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp cold water (or cold milk) to bloom gelatin (Water is easier to work with, so use it if you're new to making panna cotta)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For persimmon topping

  • 1 cup American persimmon pulp/puree
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (to prevent oxidation)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp half and half
  • 2 tbsp water
  • dusting of nutmeg for top (optional)
  • whipped cream for topping (optional)

Instructions

For panna cotta base

  1. Put small saucepan over medium heat and add cream, half-and-half, and sugar, whisking constantly as the temperature increases. Do NOT bring mixture to boil. You only want to heat it to the point that the sugar dissolves and the cream begins to steam. Remove pan from heat, add vanilla, stir, then set aside.

  2. Put 1.5 tablespoons of COLD water or milk into small microwave-safe bowl, then slowly pour gelatin over surface of liquid. Let sit and bloom for 5 minutes. Put into microwave for 10 seconds to dissolve. Slowly whisk the now-dissolved gelatin into warm cream-sugar mix, slowly whisking as you go to incorporate).

  3. Pour warm, liquid panna cotta into clear glass serving dishes. Refrigerate for 6-24 hours or up to three days before serving. If not serving within 24 hours, cover each panna cotta with plastic wrap or an equivalent as soon as it's chilled after ~1 hour (you don't want to capture condensation).

  4. After ~6 hours hours of panna cotta chilling, put persimmon pulp and other ingredients into blender and blend until smooth. Carefully and evenly distribute persimmon topping onto the surface of each chilled panna cotta then smooth surface with a flexible spatula. Cover each dish with plastic wrap or equivalent to prevent surface oxidation/discoloration, especially if not serving same day. Return to fridge and let chill for at least one hour before serving.

    Optional: Add a bit of whipped cream and/or a dusting of nutmeg to the top before serving.

We look forward to American persimmons every fall and hope you do too. With this recipe in hand, you’ll now have even more reason to welcome in the season!

Other persimmon articles to chew on: 

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