I love persimmon season so much. Mostly because the fruit itself can be used in a variety of ways. Persimmon are like the opposite of corn, where fresh corn is sugary and as it sits, those sugars convert to starch and the corn gets less sweet, but more creamy. With persimmon, it starts out starchy and crunchy, but over time, it ripens into this sweet, soft, and jam-like consistency. I wanted to showcase the two textures of persimmon in this cake, using the starchier persimmon to make glass chips, and the jammier one for a puree. In terms of the flavor of this cake, I was inspired by a little snack I had growing up, which were dried persimmon wrapped around smoked cream cheese. There was meatiness and sweetness from the dried persimmon, which had almost a softer version of prune or raisin-like texture, and smokiness, saltiness, and creaminess from the block of cheese inside of it. I wanted to recreate that in a roll cake, which also echoes the shape of the snack that way. In place of the cream cheese, I went with two other ways to accentuate the smoke: tea smoking and gjetost cheese. For those unfamiliar with it because it is such an obscure ingredient, gjetost(pronounced like “yay-toast”) is a Norwegian goat cheese made from slowly caramelizing the milk solids. Think Mexican cajeta, but in a cheese-fudge form, without the cinnamon, because that is literally what it tastes like. Sweet, nutty, caramel-y, and a little smoky, the gjetost perfect substitutes the smoked cream cheese in a more unique way.
So for the components, we have a brown butter and walnut chiffon cake roll, tea-smoked persimmon puree, gjetost cheese mousse, adorned with persimmon glass chips to finish. I know I talked a lot about the persimmon and gjetost at this point, so you might be wondering why I did not incorporate either into the cake batter itself. I found that the brown butter-walnut cake just works really nicely as a bridge between the persimmon and the cheese, as it compliments sweet fruit, but also creamy textures. Being a relatively neutral flavored cake batter, it will not compete with or overpower the delicate flavors of the persimmon too much. As for the technique of tea smoking the persimmon, I just wanted the smoke to give that persimmon puree, which is made with the super ripe persimmon anyways, this rich, earthy flavor, since persimmon is such a light flavor and I wanted the background of the smoke to help that be more pronounced. The glass chips are made in a similar fashion to ones I have made in the past, with a simple syrup, then dehydrating them. I did not want to throw out the simple syrup, though, so I actually used that for the base for the whipped gjetost mousse. Waste not, want not, especially during the holidays.
For the persimmon chips:
1 starchy or under ripe persimmon, firm to the touch
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
a pinch of salt
Peel the persimmon skin, and shave on the mandolin along the width. In a pot, bring the water, sugar, and salt to a simmer. Once the sugar is dissolved, take the pot off heat and place in the shaved persimmon. Allow that mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Spread your shaved persimmon pieces on a parchment-lined sheet tray, making sure that they are completely spread flat and kept apart. Bake at 200 degrees F for 1 3/4 to 2 hours in the middle rack. Carefully peel off the chips from the parchment, keeping in mind they will be very brittle. Store them in an airtight container.
For the tea-smoked persimmon puree:
2 really ripe persimmon, peeled and chopped up
3 tablespoons brown rice
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons black tea leaves
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon agar agar
3 tablespoons hot water
Line a wok with aluminum foil. Place into that the rice, sugar, and tea leaves and heat up on medium heat until the sugar begins to burn. Place a large grate over the wok. Spread the persimmons onto a flat, heat-proof surface(I just used a large plate). Place onto the grate and cover it. Leave the wok on low heat for 3 minutes. Remove the wok from the stove, and transfer the smoked persimmon into a food processor while it is still warm. Add into the food processor your salt, agar, and hot water, and puree until smooth. Pass through a sieve and transfer into either a piping bag or squeeze bottle. Refrigerate until time to use.
For the gjetost mousse:
Reserved poaching syrup from the persimmon chips
3 1/2 oz ghetost cheese
1 teaspoon gelatin powder
1 tablespoon persimmon puree
a pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
2/3 cups heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks and kept cold
In a pot, heat up the syrup with diced pieces of the gjetost. Combine gelatin with persimmon puree and add that into the pot with salt. Stir until combined as well. Temper egg yolks with half of the mixture, and whisk the egg yolks into the gjetost mixture on medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Pass through a sieve and allow to cool down to room temperature. Fold in the heavy cream and transfer into a piping bag with a large round tip. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
For the walnut chiffon cake:
4 egg whites
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup palm sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons walnut flour
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
In a bowl, whip together the egg whites with half of your sugar to stiff peaks. In another bowl, whip the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar, vanilla, and brown butter until thoroughly combined. In a third bowl, sift the remaining ingredients together. Fold your three mixtures together, pouring everything into the bowl with the egg yolk mixture. Pour onto a parchment-lined half sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 18 minutes. While the cake is still warm, coil it up along the width(you want it to be thin and long, not wide and short), using the parchment you baked the cake on to help contain the crumbs and to prevent the cake from sticking to itself. Allow the cake to cool down to room temperature coiled up, about 8 minutes, before carefully uncoiling it for assembly.
Start by spreading a thin but even layer of the puree onto the cake. Then spread a generous amount of your mousse onto the cake. Re-roll the cake, using the parchment to help contain everything, and allow the cake to set for an hour in the refrigerator or 30 minutes in the freezer. Afterwards, remove the cake, and trim off the edges to create two flat sides on the “log”. Pipe more mousse on top of the cake, and using a warmed spoon, create divots in the piped mousse. Pipe into those holes the remaining puree. On the sides, pipe on the remaining mousse, and press on some persimmon chips. Garnish the top with more persimmon chips to finish. Only do this step when you are ready to serve the cake, as the chips will soften over time.