My birthday was yesterday. Another year wiser, so they say, and I think it's true. Last birthday, I was feeling a bit panicky, unsure of the future, unsure of myself. I was happy, but unsettled, and I could feel all of the energy inside of me spinning in a circle. This year, that fog seemed to lift as I gained clarity, and I'm more excited about what's to come. All of that energy is now being channeled into things I feel good about, things I feel proud of. I'm still a work in progress (aren't we all?), but I really feel that progress. Some days it's the teeniest tiniest of baby steps, like when I choose not to get angry at the person who cuts me off in traffic, and other days, it's amazing shifts, like when I realize that the person who I was envious of is actually a sweetheart who I should get to know more.
I'm learning to recognize when I've done something better than I may have done in the past, and acknowledge it. I take that small victory, celebrate it, and then move on to the next thing with even more vigor, more confidence, and more presence. The future is still looking a little bit up in the air, but rather than leaving it to chance or being shy about what I really want, I am embracing opportunities and paving my way. Only then can I make the positive impact I want to make on those around me. Only then can I live with no regrets. If I didn't take control, who would?
What do these bars have to do with any of that? Nothing really, except that they served as my birthday cake until my husband came home and we celebrated with real cake. If you know me, I'm not much of a baker. I prefer savory over sweet at home, but I always make room for a good dessert when we go out. So where did I get it in me to finally bake something? I bought too many persimmons. I got excited at the store when I saw they were on sale, and I couldn't contain my greedy little fingers from filling my basket. I didn't even know what I was going to do with them, but I knew their season isn't long. So I bought them, and then had to figure out what to do with them other than just eat them plain. As delicious as they are plain, I knew they would look beautiful baked into something. I consulted my cookbooks and blogs for ideas and found Amy Chaplin's beautiful Apple Almond Slice in her book, At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen.
I love her book- for it's pictures, it's recipe inspiration, and her wealth of knowledge. I also trust her cooking. I decided to give her recipe a try, modifying it with ingreidnets I had on hand and what I thought would go wel with persimmons. The almond flavor is robust, so for all of those marzipan lovers, you'll love this. I subbed cornmeal because I love the almost savory flavor it lends and how it marries with the maple and persimmon so beautifully. The texture is bit crumbly due to the almond meal and cornmeal, but I love it against the sillky smooth fruit. Coconut oil and slight floral essence of the persimmons creates a magical flavor that I find addicting but light. A dollop of whipped coconut cream and you're all set.
These make lovely treats for the holidays, especially since they showcase a unique winter fruit. Plus, they're super easy. The beginner baker in me wouldn't have it any other way.
Persimmon Almond Bars
¾ cup rolled oats
1 cup almond meal
¼ cup finely ground cornmeal
¾ teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten (or 1 flax egg if vegan**)
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
⅓ cup pure maple syrup + ½ tablespoon, divided
1 medium Hachiya (more oblong) or 2 Fuyu (more squat) persimmons, sliced in ¼ inch rounds.
Coconut whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a 9x5-inch loaf pan with coconut oil and line with parchment paper so that it overhangs on the shorter ends (you’ll use this to help lift it out of the pan later).
In a food processor, process oats until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Add almond meal, cornmeal, baking powder, and pinch of salt, and pulse 10 seconds to combine.
In a small bowl, whisk egg until well-beaten and no longer stringy. Add in melted coconut oil, extracts, and maple syrup. Stir to combine. Add dry ingredients to wet, and stir until well-mixed. Mixture will resemble a shortbread batter of sorts. Lightly press batter into prepared loaf pan to an even thickness and bake for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and overlap persimmon slices atop the batter, lightly pressing down so as not to squish the persimmons. Brush persimmons lightly with 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Return to oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Using parchment handles, carefully lift bars from pan and remove to baking rack to allow to cool completely. Place on cutting board to cut into eight squares. Serve with a dollop of whipped coconut cream. Bars can be stored in container in the refrigerator for 5 days. Makes 8 squares.
**To make flax egg: Stir 3 tablespoons water with 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed and allow to rest for 15 minutes