I don’t like Halloween. There, I said it. I kinda hate it actually. The fact that everyone looks different and acts weird just freaks me out. I don’t like sudden changes in my environment and Halloween turns everything upside down. Not to mention that being dressed up in a costume becomes an excuse for so many people to get drunk and belligerent, as if a wig and a mask makes it alright to be an asshole all of a sudden.
Before you start calling me the Grinch that stole Halloween, let me clarify that I don’t like Halloween for adults but I love it for little kids. Kids are adorable when they are in their costumes (adults are just creepy). Back in the 90s I lived in a sparsely populated town in New Jersey and every year I would go buy candy and get all excited for all the kids who’d come knocking at my door, not realizing that no kids lived in our neighborhood. So every year, not a single kid came by and I ended up eating that candy for weeks afterwards.
Growing up, we didn’t have Halloween but there was Carnival, which is pretty much the same thing. I hated it. My parents always did the best they could to dress us up and take us to these carnival kids parties, where we had to socialize with kids I didn’t know who were also wearing strange costumes. It made me dread these parties. I really didn’t want to go but my parents insisted that we should go and that we should play with the other kids there. I think they just wanted time to talk to the other parents, while I navigated the weird social jungle of kids dressed in strange outfits.
The only fun memory I have of Carnival as a kid was the first one I can remember. I must have been 4 or 5 years old and my mom dressed me up as a prince. It was a homemade costume (did she make it? I don’t remember), with a paper crown, satin shorts, and a puffy shirt. But the best part of it was the cape. An orange cape that tied around my neck. Man did I love that cape. I have a distinct memory of being at one of those godforsaken kids parties and walking away from everyone to an open space where I proceeded to run around in circles just so that I could feel my cape billow out behind me. It felt like flying and I loved it. That cape was the best Carnival/Halloween experience of my life. Nothing ever matched it.
So, in the spirit of Halloween today, I give you a dessert in disguise. It is now persimmon season, a fruit I never really knew or paid much attention to, until I got The Breakfast Book by the legendary Marion Cunningham and tried her recipe for persimmon muffins. When they came out of the oven, looking like dark hockey pucks, I though I’d have to throw them out. But then I took a bite and realized, that even though on the outside they wore the costume of an ugly, stale, and dense fruitcake, inside, they were the most delicious, moist pieces of tasty goodness I had made in a long time. I guess a stick and a half of butter will do that to you.
So happy Halloween to you all. Just stay out of my way tonight as I rush back home from work and shut the door to the crazy, weird things happening outside, waiting until everything returns to normal tomorrow morning.
Persimmon Muffins – Adapted from The Breakfast Book
Makes 16 muffins
- This recipe works best with Hachiya persimmons (the heart-shaped ones). Just make sure you use really ripe ones. They should be really soft to the touch, feeling like they are past their peak ripeness. If they are hard, you can’t use them because they are still really astringent. If you use Kaki or Fuyu persimmons (the apple-shaped ones), you will also need for them to be ripe enough that you can mash them.
- I’ve tried this recipe with coconut oil instead of butter. The muffins came out almost exactly the same. The only thing missing was the delicious taste of butter. But if you are concerned about the fat content, you can use coconut oil or a mix of the two.
1 cup persimmon puree (from 3 very ripe hachiya persimmons)
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each: cinnamon, vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons brandy, (substitute with 2 tablespoons of apple juice if you prefer not to use alcohol)
1 cup pecans, broken into pieces
3/4 cup dried cherries
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease muffin tins. Put persimmon puree into a small bowl and stir in baking soda. Set aside. The persimmon puree will harden.
2. Put butter in a mixing bowl and beat, slowly adding sugar, until mixture is creamy and smooth. Add eggs and beat well. Add flour, salt and cinnamon and mix. Break up the hardened persimmon puree with a fork and add it to the bowl, beating until well blended. Add vanilla, lemon juice and brandy. Stir in pecans and cherries.
3. Fill each muffin cup three-quarters full. Bake 45 minutes, or until a wood pick comes out clean when inserted into the center of a muffin. Remove from the muffin pans and let cool on racks.