I’m a total nerd when it comes to the holidays. The baking, the decorating, the gift giving, and general merry making are totally my thing.
And while I do love the bountiful produce that the local farmers markets offer in the spring and summer months, the winter has some goodies too. Pomegranates and persimmons, I think, are some of the greatest fruits this time of year. They’re greatly misunderstood, but once you get the courage to play with them, you’ll see how great their flavors can be.
Besides, anything with the name Simmons in it has to be good, right?
Let’s start with those Japanese persimmons. (I’ll show you some cool DIY projects I’ve been working on with the pomegranates later this week.)
This sweet orange fruit is actually native to China, which I just visited earlier this year, and is now grown widely in Japan, where it’s their national fruit. Persimmons are traditionally consumed on the Japanese New Year as a sign of prosperity and good luck in the year to come. (Hopefully eating these will give me the good fortune of traveling to Japan in 2015!)
I came up on some wonderful fuyu and hichaya persimmons after including them in a cute Thanksgiving centerpiece that I made, which you can see here.
Fuyus are the persimmons you’ll find with a flat bottom, and are sweet when they are just slightly ripe. Hichayas, on the other hand, are incredibly tart and tannic until they are absolutely jelly-like ripe. I used 2 of each variety for this recipe, pureeing them together because the fuyus have a more solid texture.
Just like avocados, you can ripen both types of persimmons by putting them in a paper bag. Once they’re super tender to the touch, they’re ready for baking into this fantastic holiday bread, which tastes super toasted with a slathering of salted butter.
The reason I love this bread is twofold: first and foremost the recipe is adapted from the great James Beard, the godfather of American cooking; secondly, it uses my favorite spirit, bourbon. It also makes a wonderful holiday or host gift since the recipe makes 2 loves.
Here’s how it’s done.
Spiced Bourbon Persimmon Bread
Makes two 9-inch loaves
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 Bulleit bourbon
2 cups persimmon puree (this comes from about 4 persimmons)
1 cup nuts (I used a mix of walnuts and pecans)
1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter 2 loaf pans, then dust with flour and tap out any excess.
Remove persimmon flesh from the skin and put into a food processor to puree. Set aside.
Sift the flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
Make a well in the center, then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree. After that’s mixed, add in the dried fruit and nuts. (I used much less in this recipe because I’m not nuts for nuts. The original recipe calls for double nuts and dried fruit that I used here.)
Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
The bread will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. It can also be frozen.