My father, who had just celebrated his 90th birthday, showed up on Thanksgiving with a big bag of fresh persimmons. This would be unremarkable had it not been for the fact that he had dragged a ladder down the street to pick the persimmons. That part is not ok!
Finally today, a few of the persimmons were ripe enough to use for baking. I wanted to make something that I could share with my Mom and Dad, sort of little “thank you” for the effort that went into getting these persimmons. I found a recipe for persimmon bread, a James Beard original, shared by Davis Lebovitz. The recipe makes two loaves, so it was perfect. A little trip around the corner for the booze, and I was ready to bake.
If you are not familiar with persimmons, there are a few things you need to know. There are two main varieties of persimmons available in the U.S.; the squat, tomato-shaped Fuyu and the taller, acorn-shaped Hachiya.
Hachiya persimmons remain very tart until they are extremely ripe, while Fuyu persimmons are sweeter and can be eaten while still firm. For baking, you most often want to choose the Hachiya variety. You will need to wait to use them until they are very soft and the flesh is mushy, like a very overripe banana. Until they reach this stage, they are just too tart. I had a few Fuyus in the fridge, so I incorporated both varieties into my bread.
This is my adulterated version of James Beard’s recipe for persimmon bread.
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2½ cups sugar
- 1 cup melted butter, cooled to room temperature
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ⅔ cup brandy
- 2 cups persimmon purée (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
- 1 cup finely diced persimmon from 2 Fuyu persimmons (add 1 additional cup dried fruit if you don't have this)
- 2 cups chopped pecans, toasted
- 1 cup raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates) (I used cranberries)
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter 2 loaf pans and line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper (or dust with flour, tapping out any excess)
- Sift the first five dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. A large mesh strainer works great for this. Stir in the butter, eggs, brandy, persimmon purée, and diced persimmons, then the nuts and dried fruit.
- divide the batter and pour into prepared loaf pans. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Mine took a bit longer. Allow to cool in the pan for five minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Can be served warm with butter as well.