I am not an expert baker. But you don’t need to be to make this persimmon bread.
I love easy quick breads, breads where exactitude isn’t needed, and where you can play a bit with ingredients. Baking can be, well, persnickety, and in general I am too loose a cook to do it well. Especially pastry. But this sweet bread is right up my alley.
It is essentially James Beard’s persimmon walnut bread, from his classic book Beard On Bread. But I omitted the huge amount of brandy he adds — feel free to add up to 2/3 of a cup if you’d like — and made this recipe a bit wilder. I am, after all, a forager.
The persimmons were, er, “foraged” from my neighbor’s backyard tree; we don’t have Diospyros virginiana, the native American persimmon, here in the West. I used over-ripe fuyu and perfectly ripe hachiya persimmons here, Japanese varieties widely available in California.
The nuts are the last of the wild hickory nuts I gathered from my travels back East this fall. Wild black walnuts are another good option, as would pecans, both wild or cultivated.
The fruit? Dried wild lingonberries from, well… if I told you I’d have to kill you. Any dried fruit works.
I also added homemade acorn flour to the bread, which adds an earthy touch and darkens the bread a bit. Chestnut flour, available in Italian markets, or any dark flour works, too.
Finally, I subbed in wild, fresh rendered duck fat for half the butter. Yeah, I went there. It was good. And I am shiny-happy.
Net result? An addictive breakfast bread or accompaniment to coffee, or duck blind snack, in the deer stand or wherever.
Make this. It’s super easy, malleable to your ingredients, and it would make that icon of real American cooking, the late, great James Beard, a proud man.
There are plenty of ways to freestyle with this bread. You can use American persimmons, or Japanese hachiya persimmons, both of which need to be gooshy before you can really eat them -- otherwise they are astringent. As for the fruits and nuts, I prefer either black walnuts or hickory nuts, but regular walnuts or pecans are also nice. I happen to have lots of dried lingonberries lying around, so I used them. They can be tough to find, though, so "craisins," the dried cranberries you can buy, will get you close. But really any dried fruit works. If they are large, like apricots or dates, chop them small.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup acorn flour, chestnut flour, or whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg or mace
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1/2 cup duck fat or leaf lard, melted and cooled
- 4 eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 cups persimmon puree
- 2 cups chopped nuts (walnuts, hickory nuts, pecans)
- 2 cups dried fruit (raisins, lingonberries, cranberries, etc)
- Prep the pans. Butter two 9-inch loaf pans and then dust them with a little flour, shaking out any excess. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Mix the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda, nutmeg and sugar.
- Mix the wet ingredients. Whisk together the cooled, melted butter and duck fat, the persimmon puree and the eggs.
- Make the batter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix together. As you are doing this, add the nuts and fruit. Pour the batter into the loaf pans and bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out of the bread clean. Let rest a few minutes, then turn out gently onto cooling racks.
This bread keeps wonderfully. At least a week at room temperature, wrapped up, and basically forever in the freezer.