Sunday, December 14, 2014

Persimmon Walnut Bars with Browned Butter Frosting

Plate of Frosted Persimmon Date Bars
Perfect for Holiday Sharing
Recipe adapted from old magazine clipping

When it comes to desserts, old school is often the best. At least that’s what I hear whenever I bring an old fashioned treat somewhere to share. This recipe came from Bruce’s parents’ recipe collection. Back in the 70s, most cooks kept a small metal box full of index cards with recipes written or glued onto them. This recipe came from just such a box. Although not terribly practical—since these boxes are small, most contain folded-up recipes that didn’t fit—these little boxes give us a glimpse back into the past, especially when they’re filled with tried and true family recipes. This recipe is more like a moist spice cake than a chewy bar cookie. The browned butter frosting has gone out of fashion, but its exquisite yet simple flavor makes it a delicious and unexpected addition to modern holiday baking.

Three Plates of Frosted Persimmon Bars
One for Work, One for Band Practice, One for Home
I added some baking powder to the original recipe, because the first time I made it I let the baking soda soak with the persimmons for a too long. I thought that its leavening power would be reduced. But after testing the recipe twice with three different groups, the unanimous vote was to leave the recipe just as I’d re-created it. I’ve also used lemon zest instead of grated lemon rind, and bumped up the quantity, which also received comments of approval. If you prefer, skip the baking powder for less leavening, and reduce the amount of zest. I’ve tried using both dates and raisins, and both received thumbs-up reviews.

For the frosting you’ll need either an electric mixer or an old-fashioned rotary hand mixer. If you use the latter, it will take some muscle to blend the butter smoothly into the other ingredients. Start out by adding 2 tablespoons of half and half to the other frosting ingredients, then beat, beat, beat. Frosting will get smoother and thinner. If it’s still too thick to spread, add more half and half, one teaspoon at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Don’t overdo it, or the frosting will be too thin.

If you’re making this for holiday potlucks, which I recommend, be sure to allow about 2 hours for the bars to cool before frosting them. Allow another hour or two before cutting so the frosting can set. You might want to decorate these with old school red and green candied cherries, as the recipe suggests.

Bruce's Parents' Recipe box with Persimmon Bar Recipe
Recipe Source: The Metal Archives
Persimmon Walnut Bars with Browned Butter Frosting
makes 20 – 25 bars

½ cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup persimmon pulp
2 cups sifted flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 cup chopped dates or raisins
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

¼ cup butter
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
2 – 3 tbsp. half and half
candied red and green cherries, optional

Cake Bars

Grease an 8” x 11” baking pan well. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream ½ cup butter. Add granulated sugar and beat until light. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir baking soda into persimmons. You can combine them using an immersion blender to smooth out the persimmon texture if desired. When gelled, stir into butter mixture.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Stir into butter-persimmon mixture until blended.

Add lemon zest, dates or raisins, and nuts to batter just until well-blended. Turn out into well-greased baking pan. Smooth batter into baking pan evenly with spatula.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 – 30 minutes, until golden brown. Place baking dish on wire rack to cool completely before frosting.


Brown ¼ cup butter in saucepan over medium heat until light amber in color, stirring constantly. Turn browned butter into small mixer bowl. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and 2 tbsp. half and half. Beat thoroughly with hand or electric mixer until smooth and a bit fluffy. If frosting is too stiff to spread, add more half and half, beat in a teaspoon at a time.

Spread frosting over cooled bars with rubber spatula. Allow frosting to set before cutting, about 2 hours. Cut into 20 – 25 bars.

The original recipe says to decorate the bars with red and green candied cherries, and that bars can be frozen for later use.

Rotary Beater in Fluffy Frosting
Whip it (Frosting) Good
Spatula spreading frosting over bars
Spread Frosting from Center to Edges

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