James Beard’s Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe

persimmons

Like most Americans, I’ve discovered that French people also aren’t so familiar with persimmons either. They see them at the market, but don’t stop to buy any. Or if they do, they take them home, bite into an unripe one, make a face, and toss ‘em out.

One of my friends living north of San Francisco in Sonoma County had a enormous persimmon tree. Each fall, the leaves would drift off the tree, leaving bright orange globes of fruit dangling off the sparse branches. The beautiful, gnarled wood was quite a contrast to the smooth, brilliantly-colored orbs of fruit. (The wood of the persimmon tree is not just beautiful but it’s prized by makers of many of the finest golf clubs in the world and is considered superior to most others woods or man-made materials.)

persimmons

The most common persimmon you’re likely to find is the Hachiya, a slightly elongated fruit that tapers to a point. They’re incredibly tannic and astringent when not ripe and need to be squishy-soft and feel like a full water-balloon before using, or you’ll be sorry. Once ripe, the sweet jelly-like pulp can be spooned out and pureed through a blender, food processor, or food mill, although some folks like to eat it as is or frozen. The pulp freezes beautifully, and in fact, I’ll often freeze some for late-winter use.

persimmon bread

To ripen a Hachiya persimmon, simply let it sit on your countertop until it’s so soft, it’s like a water balloon about to burst. You can hasten the process by putting persimmons in a well-sealed container; adding an apple, which give off a lot of ethyline gas, which will speed things up.

The other common persimmon is the Fuyu, which is more squat than the Hachiya and matte-orange. Unlike the Hachiya, the Fuyu is meant to be eaten hard and is delightfully crunchy. I peel them, then mix pieces into an autumnal fruit salad along with dates, slices of Comice pears, pomegranate seeds and yes…even some bits of prunes!

Finding recipes for using persimmons can be difficult. I invented a recipe for a quick Persimmon Cake for my book Room For Dessert, which I make often for Thanksgiving. And I also like James Beard’s Persimmon Bread, a nifty recipe from his classic book on breadmaking, Beard on Bread, published over 30 years ago.

I was fortunate to meet James Beard several times when he came to dinner at Chez Panisse. In the years after he passed away, we’d get all sorts of celebrity chefs breezing through our kitchen. Many of them were hyped, media-created hotshot superchefs who I never found as interesting as people like James Beard, Jane Grigson, and Richard Olney, who were really wonderful writers.

persimmons sifting

The most charming thing about this simple Persimmon Bread recipe is that Beard gives bakers an inexact amount of an ingredient: sugar. So go ahead just this one time to improvise a little. Although I recommend using the higher amount of sugar, feel free to use whichever quantity you’d like…after all, you have permission from the granddaddy of all cooks, James Beard himself.

persimmon bread 1

Persimmon Bread

Two 9-inch Loaves

Using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread.

Adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard.

  • 3½ cups sifted flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 to 2½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup Cognac, bourbon or whiskey
  • 2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
  • 2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)

1. Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

4. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.

5. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Storage: Will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. The Persimmon Breads take well to being frozen, too.

perfectscoop.jpg


51 comments

  • Thank you! I bought persimmons recently to make a persimmon salsa and found that they were too soft and pulpy..it just turned into mush. So I tried again and asked for hard ones the second time, and still no luck. I guess I am buying the wrong kind. I was just about to toss them today because I had no idea what to do with these super squishy things, but now you’ve given me some good ideas. Bless you my friend, you saved my persimmons.

  • Ohhhhh, that looks good! I am soooooo trying that this weekend.

    Funny you should have this entry, today. On the front page of the university newspaper (or the local paper, I didn’t pay attention) is an article about the upcoming persimmon festival in the next town.

    I remember my grandparents used to have a persimmon tree in their backyard, but alas! I no longer live close enough to drive over and get some.

    So, to the festival I go! That, paired with the annual post-Halloween Pumpkin Launch (wherein all of the local catapult and trebuchet enthusiasts come out of hiding), ought to make for quite a Saturday.

  • oh, YUM. I’ve had an eye on your persimmon cake for a long while and was planning on making it for the holidays this year, but this bread could nudge it out of the running!

  • All this talk of Chez Panisse and the Monterey Market make me miss home so much! If only I wasn’t stuck in Rhode Island where markets’ idea of local produce is apples.

  • I usually just spend the Fall eating Fuyus like apples and skipping the Hachiyas, but this bread looks wonderful! Have you ever tried adding candied ginger along with the raisins? For some reason the tastes seem like they would work together. I can’t wait to try it and see — I’ll let you know how it goes in my post next Fri.

  • well, it is always nice to have another persimmon recipe! Thanks.

  • I do not like persimmons au natural, so since they are everywhere and for free here, I decided this year I am going to come up with a recipe for a hot persimmon souffle’. I have no idea who is going to want to eat the failures along the way. (shrug) But by end of season, it will be.

  • I really enjoyed what you said about improvising recipes, even for baked goods. There are some rules one needs to follow in baking or the chemistry is all wrong and all your lovely ingredients will be lost to the trashman. BUT experimenting is fun and running out to the market for slivered almonds when there are lovely toasted hazelnuts in the cupboard would be simply wasteful.

    Some people do get frightened when not following an exact recipe and I have a tough time attempting to exactify my recipes to post on my blog… and sometimes when I attempt it, I totally screw up! Ah well, Grandmother would have been proud, anyway.

  • Persimmons are tasty, but you should have mentioned that the tastiest is the american persimmon — when fully ripe the sugar and nutrient levels exceed the persian date. It is a much smaller fruit than the asian variety. It is not surprising that persimmons were popular in american cooking. The tree grows widely across most of the US. I grew up on a farm in Indiana and have great memories of collecting persimmons in the chicken yard after the first hard frost with my grand- and great-grandmother. Persimmons were then converted into bread, cookies and puddings and always served at Thanxgiving.

  • Loved this recipe.WE have a lot of persimmons back home in Brazil. I live in England and people are not too sure what to make of them. I will def make the bread.

  • Your description of persimmons is mighty tempting, but I could never get myself to like them. The hard and soft varieties are staples in Chinese homes. I’ll eat them if I HAVE to, but I wouldn’t reach for one on my own.

  • Bonjour! I live in Paris too and the markets are bursting with Kaki (persimmons). I bought 4 ripe ones two days ago and I’ve just been staring at their orangeness wondering what to do with them. I don’t like to eat the Hiyacha types raw (too mushy), I much prefer the Fuyu crunchy type but I haven’t been able to find them here. Merci bien for the recipe, I can’t wait to try it out!

  • I planted a persimmon tree in our NW D.C. backyard back in 1999 and finally some of the fruits stayed on the tree long enough to reach maturity. HOORAY! Yield is about 2 dozen HUGE orange fruits in the classical American shape. I picked about 10 last night as the first hard frost was coming up. I ate the single fruit that had already ripened on the tree. It was so soft and ripe I could even eat the skin without consequences! Our two black omnivorous Bombay black kittens loved eating the pulp around the stem end.

    So who has a persimmon souffle recipe? There was one in the Washington Post about 20 years ago but I neglected to save it… For the time being I may attempt persimmon pie or jam.

    Andrew S.

  • Thanks so much for this recipe. It was a huge success this past Christmas. At present I am having a difficult time finding persimmons and was wondering if they could be substituted in this recipe for something else? I know it sounds strange because the whole bread is based on the persimmon, but would pumpkin be a good alternative? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks again for this wonderful recipe.

  • Paula: Perhaps you could try banana puree. That has the same viscosity as persimmon puree. I’ve never substituted anything in this recipe, but give it a go! BTW: Persimmon puree can be sucessfully frozen (I use yogurt containers, which are exactly one cup!) or you can freeze the entire fruit, as they are…just pop ‘em in the freezer.

  • Thanks for the recipe! I’ve never been fond of persimmons, as pretty as they are, but my daughter’s boyfriend’s mother gave me some — (she’s been giving me loquats, pears, apples, meyer lemons as they ripen all year, you name it!) — and rather than let the persimmons go to waste, I decided to make this bread — it’s wonderful! I improvised a little — substituted some chunky applesauce on hand to make up the difference in the amount of persimmon pulp — (I discovered long ago that works with banana bread as well). Now I know what to do with these Hachiya persimmons – Thanks again.

  • I made this wonderful bread for Thanksgiving. It is absolutely amazing! The flavor is pure “holiday”. I love big spice flavor so I doubled the nutmeg.

    Thanks for posting the recipe, David!

  • i just finished baking this persimmon bread. it is absolutely fabulous, flavor, texture, color, all in one loaves. thank you

  • I have a true passioin for food since childhood and have traveled the world for specifically for this purpose including France/Belgium.

    Galettes/savory crepes – I’ve been using organic unbleached all purpose flour 3 to 1 with pure buckwheat. I could not find the blanc buckwheat in France. I have found light buckwheat up in Canada, but there are shipping problems. A very long search. Can you suggest a supplier for the correct blanc buckwheat flour?

    Baba rums – One of my favorite things and unable to locate the correct mold to produce the “golf ball” size/shape napolean style bite. A French chef at the Four Seasons Hotel has offered to help teach me and while I had this preparation twice there with whipped cream in the middle, they threw out their mold for the new silican ones and everything has changed upside down including the taste. Now they are large and horrible tasting. What mold makes this small round ball please? Eager to try the persimmon bread.

    S.

  • I used to make this recipe but I had lost the copy with my notes. I realize now that I didn’t include raisins and used less than 2 cups of sugar. I found that the loaf I just baked with 1 3/4 cup sugar and raisins resulted in a loaf that was too sweet for my taste. Thank you, though, for posting this recipe. I was a fan of James Beard, too.
    Ana

  • Oh, by the way–the persimmons I used were Sharon from Israel. They are a seedless persimmon.
    Ana

  • Just made this recipe and decided to make it a “fruit” bread by adding different dried fruits (cranberries, raisins, pineapple, mango, apricot, blueberries, cherries). It was amazing!! Everyone who ate it thought it was fantastic! Thanks for the recipe, David.

  • Lovely recipe !
    I also substituted 2/3 cup Galliano (vanilla) liquor for a real aromatic scent.

  • This is a yummy festive quick bread. I halved the recipe. I used Bourbon whiskey. I used half craisins and half raisins. Toasted walnuts. Perfect!!

  • Would it be possible to omit the sugar altogether and use more persimmon as the sweetener?

  • Rachel: I’ve only made the recipe as printed and wouldn’t advise omitting the sugar.

  • Fantastic recipe. I baked so many loaves of this bread today that I am tired, possibly from the inhalation of Cognac or drinking too much red wine while baking. The cognac smell and taste is absolutely perfect with this fruit combination. Thanks from Brussels, where we have more than just mussels….and chocolates.

  • I’m making a persimmon bread for someone who does not do alcohol (even if cooked out), and this one looks too good to pass up (not to mention having implicit faith in the author). Does anyone know what will make a good substitute for the liquor? Apple juice – maybe with a hint of balsamic or am I crazy? Orange juice?

  • This is wonderful. Favorful and rich, and so easy to make. What a treat. Enjoyed by all! Thank you

  • Argh, I bought brandy instead of bourbon, anyone more familiar with liquors know if that will be okay? Also, David, in the photo, what size are your loaves?

  • maria: You can use brandy, which is similar to the Cognac listed. The cake pans shown are smaller than the 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pans called for in the recipe, which are gift-sized. If you wish to use smaller molds, simply bake them until they feel just done in the center and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

  • Hello-
    If I needed to omit nuts and alcohol, what might I substitute/add in?
    I have been given about 2 dozen of these orange beauties and want to bake up some give away breads for my neighbours…
    Any suggestions?
    Thanks!

  • Ali: You could try fruit juice (like orange or apple juice), although since I haven’t tried it, I can’t say for sure. If you do give it a try, let me know how they turn out. And just skip the nuts, or add chocolate chips in their place.

  • Made this last night for a dinner party. Everyone loved it. Mine browned too quickly. Had to cover with an aluminium foil. Used orange juice and not cognac. Thanks for this wonderful recipe.

  • David: thank you so much for your help! Used brandy (omitted the nuts and dried fruit, but left one of the persimmons a little chunky), baked in mini-loaf pans about 40 minutes. Turned out beautifully. Waiting for the rest of my persimmon haul to ripen, so I can bake a few batches for Christmas baskets.

  • I hate persimmons but my mother made the persimmon bread and I actually liked this bread. Gave a loaf to a coworker and she LOVED it and so did another of her coworkers. The persimmons seem to really sweeten and moisten the loaf and give it a suble fruity flavor. My 7 year old niece even liked the loaf though she did pick out the cranberries.

  • David i just loved your persimmon recipe …my breads are beauitful and delicious
    but i used Brandy for this batch ….next i will use Cognac…Yummy can’t wait
    Thank You!

  • i just made this bread and it did in fact come out amazing! i used Fuyu Persimmons because i couldnt find the other kind. I loved it the way it was, but do you think that it would come out different with the hachiya kind?

  • This recipy sounds delicius. But I’m on diet is any way to figure out how many calories per serving.

  • This bread is amazingly scrumptious!!! I have to admit that I about ate the entire 2 loaves myself. I love how easy it is to make as well. The way the wet ingredients are mixed in with the dry (only one bowl needed!) I used the nutmeg and cinnamon and then added pumpkin seasoning (yes I know it contains both ingredients) and the flavor was delightful. For the sugar I used just over a cup of white granulated sugar and just over a cup of brown sugar. Also, I used grand marnier, walnuts, raisins, and dried cranberries…mmm mmm good! I’ve never followed a recipe such as this, however I like it much better! Seriously this is the best recipe for quick/sweet breads I’ve ever used!

  • Just made some of your persimmon bread using native persimmons, pecans, and Brandy. I prefered the consistency of this bread to both that of persimmon pudding and the bread recipe I’ve been using. It stands up to the knife, not falling apart even when sliced thinly, yet still tender.Very flavorful and balanced.
    Persimmoms need not be nipped by frost to assure sweetness. The best ones are those that have fallen or are just about to. And like apples I used to collect from the ground (‘drops’) to bring to the cider press, the onset of fermentation opens a new range of flavor.

  • Hello, I am going to try this bread today,,,,but I am going to lower the sugar and use raw cane instead of granulated sugar. Would this be very ill-advised do you think? You see the other day I tried a persimmon cake, and it had the same 1 to 1 persimmon;sugar ratio, and I even used raw instead of granulated, and it was so sweet I could not bear to eat it. My question is, why do all persimmon bread and cake recipes seem to use this 1 to 1 ratio, when persimmons are already very sweet fruits? I find this very curious, and would be very interested to hear your thoughts. Well, off I go for some nutmeg and walnuts, cheers!

  • Maya: As noted in the recipe, Mr. Beard gave a variation in the amount of sugar in the recipe, so I’ve only made it using his guidelines–using the lesser amount, with great success. If you do make it with less sugar, please let me know how it turns out.

    (For more information, check out my post: Baking Ingredients and Substitutions.)

  • Hello, I halved the recipe, so instead of the 1 cup sugar I would have used, I used 3/4 cup sugar. I used raw cane sugar. I used whiskey as the alchohol. The bread is great–I’m so happy to have found this recipe, because I had begun to think that I was a persimmon failure. I think that I could use the full cup raw cane sugar, and it would still be great for me. I think maybe this has something to do with the whiskey, and that if I used brandy, I would stick to the 3/4 cup. Indeed, the whiskey flavour is quite present, which is not a bad thing, but maybe if I do whiskey and the full cup, it won’t taste so much of whiskey. I used apricots as the fruit, which also lent some sweetness. Thank you for posting this recipe….I will certainly make it again. Cheers.

  • I made this recipe and cut lots of corners because I was just trying to use what was in the house. I used whiskey and orange liquor, nutmeg and cinnamon because I didn’t have enough nutmeg, mixed nuts, and figs, dried apricots and dried prunes for the fruit. It still came out delicious and I got compliments every time I served it. This one is a keeper!

  • So glad I found this recipe. I have now made it twice due to my overzealous son who picked several boxes of persimmons from our neighbors field (with their permission, of course!). I have persimmons coming out the ying yang and have been madly scouring the internet for recipes. This one peaked my interest and I’m so glad that I made it. Everyone loves it!!!
    I used the 1 1/2 cups of sugar and it came out great. I have used brandy for the liquor and raisins and pecans for the fruit/nuts. I’m looking forward to making this for Christmas gifts.
    Question: In looking for a persimmon jam/preserve recipe (using the hachiya) I read a comment that you don’t want to heat the hachiya persimmons, saying that this makes them bitter. Have you ever tried making preserves/jam w/hachiya’s? Would a freezer jam be better? Any ideas on recipes are greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  • I’ve just made this with some persimmons from my veg box. It was a great loaf, with slightly reduced sugar from the recipe and a mix of dried fruits. Thanks for the advice about letting them get very ripe, now I know what to do with them!
    Thanks!

  • This bread was so good, I received numerous compliments on it and it was ravenously consumed. I used a combination of cranberrries, raisins, and dried apricots and completely omitted the alcohol for 1/2c all natural applesauce and 1/3c more persimmon puree. So good! Thank you for the recipe!

  • je viens juste de finir ma deuxième tranche et je dois avouer que ce cake est parfait!
    merci pour la recette, je ne sais jamais quoi faire avec des kakis et même si on est un peu tard dans la saison et que les miens étaient un peu trop fermes, mon sublime vieux cognac a compensé un peu je pense ; )
    j’ai mis du mélange quatre épices, (celui que j’utilise pour mon pain d’épice), des dattes et des noix de pécan…mmmmm!!!

  • I put bags of whole persimmons in the freezer then take them out to thaw overnight. They weren’t ripe going in but are always ripe when thawed! I mix them with my oatmeal in the morning. Can’t wait to try this bread recipe especially after reading all the great comments.

    This is a spectacular tree in the garden with a layered growth, gorgeous fall color and beautiful when just the fruit is hanging there.

  • Hi David, I made the bread and we love it! Thank you!!

    I also made a blog post of it, I totally linked your site, and I also made some pictures :)

    http://zsbcreations.blogspot.com/2011/01/persimmon-bread.html

    Thank you for the recipe!