Despite a cold winter rain persisting throughout the weekend, it was otherwise warmed by a lovely afternoon with friends for a visit to the special plum tree exhibition on display in the old castle in my town, which was followed by mugs of tea and the weekend’s baking endeavors. At half past two, my two very good friends arrived and we promptly set out for a wet and chilly walk up to Koriyama Castle. The road was crowded with people who had taken part in a festival that had just finished, and we wandered up to the exhibition’s entrance amidst generations of spectators: newborns bundled up in their mother’s arms, young children running around the garden and grounds, parents tiredly lost in thought, an arm out supporting their elderly relatives.
The compound in which the exhibition was held was a long, connecting corridor spanning the huge castle gateway below. We silently slipped off our shoes to tread the carpet in thin slippers, and entered the hall. The entire structure was made of a beautiful sandy-colored wood, with gold screens along the wall emanating a pleasant warm glow in the low-lit rooms. On either side of the carpet, huge, solid ceramic pots held the miniature trees. Many had started to bloom, and their branches were dotted with delicate, paper-thin blossoms in every shade of pink and white.
For thirty minutes the three of us walked in appreciative silence, observing the beautiful trees and blossoms and taking in the sight and smells. The tiny trees had such a strength and solidness to them, despite their thin branches and small stature. Some of the trees had branches that had been grafted on, to create a spectacle of multi-colored blossoms in red, white, and pink. It was a singular sensory experience, completed by the absolutely heavenly fragrance of blooms in the air: a sweet, delicate aroma like roses in early summer.
Back at my apartment, where there lives only one sad, solitary little plant in comparison to the majestic trees we had just witnessed, I made three mugs of chamomile tea and put out a plate of these dried persimmon and almond biscotti. It was my first attempt at the classic twice-baked cookie, but I love the sweetness of the fruit and dough paired with the aromatic orange and almond flavors. I have an itch to try the same recipe with figs and vanilla in place of the persimmon and orange–for another rainy day, I think!
Dried Persimmon Biscotti
makes two small loaves of biscotti
160 grams flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
60 grams sugar
3 dried persimmons, chopped and seeds removed
50 grams sliced almonds
1 TB orange zest
2 tsp orange juice
1/2 tsp almond extract
Preheat oven to 170˚ C (340˚ F). In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and sugar together. Add persimmons and almonds to flour mixture and stir to combine.
In a small bowl, mix eggs, orange juice, zest, and almond extract. Pour over dry ingredients, and mix with spatula until incorporated.
On a well-floured surface, pour out dough, sprinkling flour on top to prevent sticking. Divide dough into two logs, place on a lined baking sheet, and dust with powdered sugar. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool slightly ( 5 minutes or so). With a sharp knife, cut into 1 inch slices, and place back on the baking sheet standing up (they won’t crisp properly if they’re on their sides). Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until biscotti is golden on the edges. Let cool completely and serve.
Wrap any extra in plastic wrap and freeze it rather than storing it at room temperature, otherwise you lose that wonderful crunch!