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FOOD : Where the Proof Is : Dickens Never Tasted Anything Like This Persimmon Pudding

December 16, 1990|LINDA ZIMMERMAN | Linda Zimmerman is the author of "Puddings, Custards and Flans" (Clarkson Potter)

IN COOKING, as in life, looks can be deceiving. Take steamed puddings. Though they appear complicated, steamed puddings are deceptively easy to prepare, requiring only patience and a small amount of work. Ingredients are quickly mixed together, poured into a buttered pudding mold, then steamed. The delicious concoction that emerges is a moist and elegant dessert bearing little resemblance to that "speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm" that Charles Dickens lovingly described in "A Christmas Carol."

Once steamed, the puddings can be served immediately with hard sauce or left to mellow for several days, sometimes even several months, depending on the ingredients. With time, flavors merge, which makes a tastier pudding upon reheating. Steamed puddings also travel well, and they make terrific gifts.

Two types of persimmons are available from October to January--the large, flaming orange, acorn-shaped Hachiya and the smaller, lighter-colored, tomato-shaped Fuyu. Hachiyas have a tannic, acrid taste if they are eaten before the flesh has ripened to a soft, almost mushy consistency. The Fuyus, more delicate in flavor than the Hachiyas, have a firm, plum-like texture when ripe and are tannin-free. Both are equally delicious when used in baked goods, especially this steamed pudding.

The accompanying Rum Butter is also known as hard sauce. It lasts for months in the refrigerator and also keeps well frozen. The recipe can be doubled and stored in one-cup containers. PERSIMMON PUDDING

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday February 3, 1991 Home Edition Los Angeles Times Magazine Page 2B Times Magazine Desk 1 inches; 17 words Type of Material: Correction
For "Where the Proof Is" (Food, Dec. 16), the molds pictured are courtesy of Montana Country Antiques, in Santa Monica.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened2 tablespoons plus 1 1/3 cups sugar1/2 cup mixed dried fruit1/3 cup golden raisins1/4 cup currants1/4 cup brandy1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour2 teaspoons ground cinnamon1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg1/2 teaspoon salt2 large eggs, separated1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice1 1/2 cups persimmon puree1/2 cup half-and-half1 teaspoon baking soda1 tablespoon hot water3/4 cup chopped pecans1 cup Rum Butter or

1 cup whipped cream sweetened with 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar Butter sides and lid of 2-quart pudding mold with 1 1/2 tablespoons butter. Dust entire mold with 2 tablespoons sugar. Set aside.

Prepare pot for steaming pudding (see below).

Soak dried fruit, raisins and currants in brandy. Sift flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into small bowl. Set aside. In electric mixer or food processor, cream remaining butter and sugar with egg yolks, vanilla and lemon juice. Mix in persimmon puree and half-and-half. Dissolve baking soda in hot water and stir into persimmon mixture. Stir in sifted ingredients and pecans. In separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Carefully fold into batter. Pour batter into mold and place lid on top.

Steam on rack over boiling water 2 hours and 20 minutes or until skewer inserted into pudding comes out almost clean. Remove mold to rack and cool 10 minutes before unmolding or until pudding shrinks away from sides of mold. Invert onto serving platter.

Serve warm or cold with Rum Butter or sweetened whipped cream. Makes 8 servings.

Rum butter is also known as hard sauce. It lasts for months in the refrigerator and also freezes very well. You can double the recipe and store it in 1-cup containers.

RUM BUTTER

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted several times1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract2-3 tablespoons Jamaican rum or brandy Beat all ingredients together until light and fluffy. Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes 2 cups.

NOTES: Pudding molds should only be filled 2/3 to 3/4 full so pudding can rise and expand. Always tap the pudding on counter several times to break up any air bubbles before tightly securing lid. Use deep, heavy stock ot or spaghetti cooker that is large enough to allow steam to circulate around whole pudding mold. Filled mold should rest on small rack, trivet or folded cloth placed on bottom of pot.

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