Persimmon bread

Last year some time I bought some persimmons, and by the time they were ripe, we were about to go on vacation. I gave them to my mother rather than let them spoil, and she pureed the pulp and put it in the freezer. Then when she was cleaning out her freezer before heading south for the winter, she gave me the container with exactly two cups of persimmon pulp. I let it languish in my freezer for several months, and this week finally decided to get it out and make something with it, come hell or high water. (The high water is an all too real possibility; between melting snow and March rain, our little castle has its very own moat.) Plus, we need some freezer space.

Persimmon pudding first came to mind, but as usual, I only had a little more than an hour, and Grandma’s pudding recipe requires a few pauses for stirring. So I turned to this James Beard/David Lebovitz recipe. This one of those quick breads that ought to be called a cake, but for the fact that you bake it in a loaf pan. Though the batter starts out bright orange, as it bakes the bread turns a dark brown. The zing of the freshly ground nutmeg really stands out, pairing well with either chocolate or fruit and nuts (or all three–why not?). This would be a lovely alternative to fruit cake around the holidays.

My eight-year-old taste tester had no words, just a groan of satisfaction. Little Three just ate his up and asked for more. Miss Five denied that there was anything so strange as persimmon in her slice–she ate Just Chocolate Chip Bread. Whatever you call it, it’s good. And the recipe makes two loaves, one to eat and one to put in the freezer. So much for gaining freezer space!

Persimmon Bread
adapted slightly from James Beard

3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups persimmon pulp
2/3 cup Cognac
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit (optional)
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of two 9″x5″ loaf pans with baking spray (or grease and flour them).

Whisk together the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the butter, eggs, persimmon pulp and Cognac, and beat until all the flour mixture is incorporated. If you want to make both loaves identical, stir in whatever combination of fruit, nuts or chocolate you prefer. If, as I did, you want to try different combinations, scrape half the batter into a second bowl and make your additions accordingly. Scrape the batter into the loaf pans and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. If the top of the bread is browning too much during baking (check at about 45 minutes), cover it with a piece of foil. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then remove from the pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.


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