And so it was that I found myself at an AirBnb in Santa Barbara with persimmon trees. The trees were so beautiful — I’m mad at myself for not taking a picture of them (sorry!) — it felt like a crime to actually pull persimmons off of them. But pull persimmons off of them, I did, and when I got home with them, they were so very squishy, they almost seemed rotten. But I knew better.
These are hachiya persimmons. You know because they’re acorn shaped and they’re only edible when they get squishy like this. (The other kind, fuyu persimmons, you can eat like an apple.)
Just by itself, the jelly-like persimmon flesh tastes sweet and delicious. But I’d long been curious about James Beard’s Persimmon Bread, which David Lebovitz adapted on his blog.
James Beard, the grandfather of American gastronomy, has been on my mind lately because my friend John Birdsall has a new biography of him called The Man Who Ate Too Much. That book’s going on my Christmanukkah list and it’s already scoring rave reviews.
As for the bread, it’s as simple as whirring up the persimmon flesh (is it creepy that I call it “flesh”?) in the food processor, then mixing it along with eggs and melted butter in with flour, sugar, all the usual stuff. Plus some freshly grated nutmeg.
The secret ingredient here is booze. David calls for Cognac or Bourbon whiskey, but I had some Brandy and figured “why not?”
He also calls for walnuts or pecans, but I only had slivered almonds. So I toasted those, chopped them, and added them along with the raisins.
The only tricky thing here is the baking time. I cooked the bread for an hour, as instructed, but it was still very wet when I tested the middle. So I kept going…
…and the resulting bread came out a little dry on the ends, but wonderfully moist in the center.
If I had to do it all over again, I’d take it out while still a little wet in the middle and let the residual heat cook it.
All-in-all, though, this is a perfect way to use up squishy persimmons. Think banana bread, but more tropical and Christmasy with the nutmeg and the booze. Can’t wait to eat a piece while drinking tea and reading John Birdsall’s book which my husband is going to get for me because I’m sure he’s reading this post in its entirety. RIGHT, CRAIG?
James Beard’s Persimmon Bread
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), melted; plus, softened butter for coating the pan
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/3 cup Cognac, Bourbon, or Brandy
- 1 cup persimmon puree Scoop the flesh out of very ripe hachiya persimmons and whir in the food processor.
- 1 cup toasted walnuts, pecans, or almonds, chopped
- 1 cup raisins or other dried fruit
- Heat the oven to 350 and generously coat your loaf pan with softened butter (about a tablespoon).
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and sugar. Create a well in the center and add the eggs, booze, persimmon puree and whisk together until just combined. With a rubber spatula, fold in the nuts and fruit.
- Pour the batter into the prepped pan and bake for one hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean. (Based on my experience, it's better to under-bake a little than to over-bake.) Let cool before slicing and serving.
Persimmon Rum Bundt Cake (The Little Epicurean)
Persimmon Spice Bread (Martha Rose Shulman, NYT)
Persimmon Bread (Proportional Plate)