This is a happy-accident story, but it doesn't start that way. This past fall, I was determined to make hachiya persimmons into smooth, spiced butter. But each time I tried, I created something so ruined, so mouth-dryingly inedible, that I had to dump the entire thing. I did this too many timescoughthree.
Fuyu persimmons are sweet and crunchy. They can be eaten as you would an apple. Hachiya persimmons are not as friendly. If you buy them hard, you must wait to eat them, or you will take a bite and your entire mouth will turn dry and chalky, like what tannins in wine do to your mouth but unpleasant, a thousand times unpleasant. To avoid this, you must tend to your hachiyas: put them in a paper bag, set them somewhere warm but not too warm, encourage them to ripen but protect them dutifully against spoilage. Hachiyas can be eaten when they are soft all over, and plump like a balloon. At that point, their astringency goes away, leaving behind soft, floral-flavored flesh that's wonderful as is, or in dozens of baked goods.
The catch, though, is that if even one bit of the persimmon hasn't reached that perfect stage of ripeness, its astringency will infiltrate and ruin whatever you're making with it. This is especially true in the case of butter, where the persimmons are cooked together and then pureed. And so it was for me, time after time, I found persimmons, coddled them to ripeness, cooked them, blended them, tasted them, cursed, and tossed the mixture into the trash. So wasteful, so frustrating. There must be a better way.
By time #4, I was determined not to throw away my creation. It also was the best of the lot -- only faintly astringent. Still, it lingered in the back of my fridge, never quite calling my name. Instead of tossing it, which I didn't have the heart to do, I doubled down on my imperfect creation by crossing my fingers and folding it into Martha Rose Shulman's persimmon bread.
My confidence about making persimmon butter was clearly misplaced, but fortunately, so was my skepticism about this persimmon bread. I worried that the persimmon flavor wouldn't come through, or that the bread would turn out wet and mushy. Wrong on both counts: my loaf cooked up moist but firm, great when toasted but also wonderful as is. If you can still find persimmons - check a Latin market, if you've got one nearby - this is the perfect thing to do with them.
And if, by some small chance, you read this and decide you want to make persimmon butter, for goodness' sake: use fuyus.
Persimmon Walnut Bread
Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman at NYT
If you can find walnut flour, I love its flavor and texture (softer than almonds) in this bread. I ground up some walnuts with a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of flour, too avoid clumping, and was very pleased with the results. Shulman uses walnuts and raisins in her bread, but I don't love chunks in quickbreads, so I skipped them. No regrets here.
- 2-3 ripe or over-ripe hachiya persimmons (enough for 1 cup purée)
- 10 grams (2 teaspoons) baking soda
- 200 grams (about 1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
- 75 grams (approximately 3/4 cup) almond or walnut flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 100 grams (approximately 1/2 cup) turbinado sugar or tightly packed light brown sugar
- 75 grams (1/3 cup) melted unsalted butter (or substitute canola oil)
- ⅓ cup plain low-fat yogurt or buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the middle. Butter a loaf pan and line with parchment. Butter the parchment. (Alternatively, use spray.) Cut the persimmons in half along the equator, remove any visible seeds and scoop out the pulp, which should be nice and soft. Purée with a hand blender or in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and measure out 1 heaped cup (260 grams). Freeze the remaining pulp.
Stir 1 teaspoon of the baking soda into the persimmon pulp and set aside. It will stiffen into a gelatinous mass but don’t worry about it. Sift together the flours, remaining baking soda, spices, and salt.
In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or using a hand mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar on high speed until they are thick and shiny and fall from the whisk in ribbons, 5 to 8 minutes. Beat in the melted butter or oil, yogurt, persimmon purée, and vanilla and beat until the persimmon purée has blended into the mixture.
Turn the mixer to low speed, and add the flour in 3 additions. Scrape into the loaf pan and smooth the top of the batter. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until the bread is firm and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and let cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Then remove from the pan and allow to cool on a rack.
Cake is great warm, but even better the next day, when the spices will have intensified.