While we love cooking with the season, winter can be a bit tough, even in California. Lots of produce is available, but some of it has moderate appeal (we love kale, turnips and broccoli, but not every day) and some is just confounding. We love our pomegranates, but they are hard to eat and you can only sprinkle the seeds on so many salads. The citrus is a bright spot, but somehow tends to end up in desserts and cocktails, and after lemon chicken how many savory dishes are there?. And then we have Persimmons. These bright orange, beautiful fruits light up the farmers market, but what do you do with them?
For Fuyu persimmons, the round ones, the answer is easy. Treat them like apples and place raw slices into salads or serve with cheese or charcuterie. But what about the heart-shaped Hachiya persimmons, what to do with them? It turns out you need to let them ripen almost to the point of
rot over-ripeness and then scoop out the pulp. The pulp will be very sweet with pumpkin and citrus notes. One of the more popular uses of Hachiya pulp is to freeze it and serve it like sorbet, but the other primary use is in baking. And this is where we get to this amazing sweet bread. And we don’t mean “amazing way to get rid of persimmons” we simply mean “amazing”. This bread is one of the best surprises we’ve had here at Putney Farm.
In some ways, we shouldn’t be surprised. The recipe comes from David Lebovitz, one of the best pasty chefs and food writers in the world, and is adapted from a James Beard recipe. Yep, James Beard. The original recipe comes for his book “Beard on Bread“. So we are working from some very solid source materials. Ironically, the recipe itself is a bit “squishy”. You are encouraged to add or subtract sugar to your taste, add some booze and play with different dried fruit and nut combinations. We even use some white whole wheat flour with good results. But the unifying factor is the Hachiya persimmon pulp. It gives a bright pumpkin note and keeps this bread incredibly sweet and moist. With the fruit, nuts and spice this bread has lovely texture and flavor. You can eat it at breakfast, or as a daytime snack or even dessert.
And making the bread is a straightforward operation. First you must buy and then ripen some Hachiya persimmons. Leave them out and wait. They are ripe when they feel like overripe tomatoes about to burst (Lebovitz describes it as “water balloon about to burst”). You may also see discoloration on the skin, but that is OK. When the persimmons are ripe, spoon out the pulp and purée in a blender, food processor of food mill. Then you are ready to go. And making the rest of the bread is easy. Chop some nuts and dried fruit, we use pecans and dried cranberries, but walnuts, raisins, apricots or dates will work. Then make a standard sweet bread. Combine the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients, make a batter. Butter some loaf plans, then pour in the batter. Bake for an hour at 350 (the kitchen will smell great), cool and serve. And enjoy, this is the good stuff. So when winter produce gets you down, buy a few Hachiya persimmons, let them ripen and make this bread. It will be a bright spot in winter.
(Adapted from James Beard and David Lebovitz)
Notes Before You Start:
- Hachiya persimmons are more heart shaped than Fuyus. They must be very, very ripe (looking almost overripe) to be sweet. Don’t do anything with Hachiyas until fully ripe, otherwise they are tannic and bitter.
- Few recipes let you play with sugar content like this one. The Hachiyas add plenty of sweetness, but the extra sugar will make the bread more rich and “sticky”. Your choice.
- With 2/3 of a cup of alcohol suggested, this is a boozy recipe. The alcohol does mostly cook off and makes for great flavor, but substitute fruit juice if you don’t want to include alcohol. If you do use the booze, Cognac or Armagnac will be your best bet.
What You Get: Incredibly tasty bread / dessert / snack. This bread is good with butter, jam or even ice cream. A pleasant surprise, and something to do with those persimmons.
What You Need: Ripe Hachiya persimmons. No other special equipment required.
How Long? About 1 hour and 15 minutes, with 10-15 minutes of active time. Anytime dish.
- 3½ cups sifted flour (we use 2 cups whole wheat white flour and 1& 1/2 cups AP flour)
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 to 2½ cups sugar (we use 2 cups)
- 1 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled to room temperature
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
- 2/3 cup Cognac, Armagnac, bourbon or whiskey (we use Armagnac)
- 2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 very ripe Hachiya persimmons)
- 2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped (substitute walnuts)
- 2 cups dried cranberries (or substitute diced dried fruits such as raisins, apricots or dates)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.
- Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree, pecans and cranberries.
- Pour the batter into the loaf pans and then place the pans in the oven. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool completely in the pan. Then remove the bread from the pans and serve.
- Farmers’ Market Report: Pursuing Persimmons (kcet.org)
- Persimmon – A Seasonal Treat (nathanyates.wordpress.com)
- Persimmon 411 (toxicfoodie.org)
- Mixed Greens with Persimmon, Pomegranate, and Manchego Cheese (carriefehr.com)
- Pumpkin Persimmon Walnut Bread (greenling.com)
- Fall Foraging (putneyfarm.com)
- Drink of the Week: Persimmon Champagne Cocktail (nj.com)