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Whole Wheat Persimmon Bread

Like most places around the country, autumn in California’s San Joaquin Valley is a beautiful time of year.  While we might not have as many vibrant colored leaves as other places, we do have fruit trees.  Pomegranates, persimmons, lemons – these are our fall colors.  Take a drive through the country or just about any older neighborhood and you’re bound to run across some of these beautiful trees with their red, orange, and yellow fruit.  Persimmon trees are my fall favorite.  The trees drop their leaves as the fruit ripens, leaving nothing but the spectacular glowing orange orbs – it’s quite a beautiful sight.

Persimmons are more than just autumn decorations; they are wonderful to bake with.  The persimmons I’m talking about today are the larger, acorn-shaped Hachiya variety.  Hachiya persimmons can be very astringent and not suitable for eating raw until they are very, very ripe.  But by the time they are ripe enough to eat, the flesh is gooey and gelatinous.  Because of this, I find that Hachiya persimmon pulp is better for baking than for eating raw (although some people do like to eat it with a spoon).  The smaller, squat variety of persimmon that has been showing up at more and more grocery stores lately is the Fuyu.  These can be eaten raw while they are still firm, and their mild sweet flavor makes them easy to love.

I usually bake cookies when I get my hands on some persimmons, but this year I decided to try something a little different.  I saw that David Lebovitz had written about a persimmon bread from James Beard’s book Beard on Bread. I happen to have an old battered copy of that book (it’s a year older than I am, actually), so I dug it out and looked at the recipe.  James Beard’s Persimmon Bread is a butter-rich quick bread filled with fruit, nuts, and booze.  It sounded great to me and seemed like a good way to use up some of the brandy that I bought for the Caramel Apple Pear Cake.

The original recipe makes enough batter for two large loaves, but since I was afraid I would devour an entire large loaf myself, I decided to cut the recipe in half and bake it in three mini loaf pans. That way I could give two away, and eat one small loaf myself.  I have a big bag of mixed dried fruit that I bought for the Panettone I’m making next for The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, so I decided to use that instead of just plain raisins.  I also decided to use whole wheat pastry flour in place of all-purpose – I thought it would add a bit of extra flavor and nutrition.  The original recipe calls for mace as the main spice, but I used a combination of ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

A new thing I learned from Beard on Bread is that you can use the persimmon skin along with the pulp.  I have always peeled the fruit before making the puree, but this time I used the skin, too.  It was much easier and I liked the tiny flecks of orange that the skin added to the bread.  You must use very ripe Hachiya persimmons for the puree.  To ripen persimmons, just leave them sitting out at room temperature until they are very soft and feel like they are turning to liquid inside the skin.  As David Lebovitz says, a completely ripe Hachiya persimmon should feel like a water balloon about to burst.  To make the puree, just blend the persimmon pulp (and skin, if you like) until smooth.

Whole Wheat Persimmon Bread

1 cup chopped dried mixed fruit or raisins
1/3 cup brandy
1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (use freshly ground nutmeg, if possible)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup persimmon puree (from approximately 2 very ripe Hachiya persimmons)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preaheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter one 9×5-inch loaf pan or three mini loaf pans.

In a small bowl, stir together mixed fruit and brandy; set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in melted butter, eggs, persimmon puree, brandy-fruit mixture, and chopped nuts.  Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.  Pour batter into a greased 9×5-inch loaf pan or divide between three mini loaf pans.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for one hour (40-45 minutes for mini loaves) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.  Store well-wrapped bread at room temperature for up to a week or freeze for longer storage.

Related Recipes:

Hachiya Persimmon Recipes around the Web:

Fuyu Persimmon Recipes around the Web:

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