Musings on autumn and persimmon bread

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Autumn is such a Tween.

We have vacillated between nippy mornings and warm days (apparently, we were in the middle of an autumnal heat wave in Sydney, but you wouldn’t know it at 6am); grey skies and yellow-gold sunsets. The weather, like a girl-child hesitating between two stages of life, can’t make up its mind to put away summer’s strapless dresses and bring out winter’s tea cosies and mittens.

The only certainty is the shorter days that herald every winter. More and more often, I’m leaving work in the dark, and waking up to a dimmer sky.

Poets of every age have written about autumn. Its tempestuous weather, ravishing colours, just-ripened fruits and harvests of grains. The words autumn and fall evoke images of bucolic plenty, but also ideas about the fleeting passage of time. No wonder autumn is such a fickle character.

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It wasn’t until this morning that I had time to sit down, reflect, and notice, I mean really notice, the colours of the season. At the end of a crazy-hectic week, sitting down at the dining table with a large weekend-sized mug of tea was … a moment of quiet gladness.

I had made a persimmon bread-cake during the week. Persimmon seems the right kind of fruit to have in the house while we are surrounded by such gorgeously red leaves falling from neighbouring trees. I love how the fruit becomes soft, squishy, a bag of orange-red goo that you can spoon and slurp. With porridge, yoghurt, or by itself by the spoonful, so I lose none of its unique, slightly buttery yet crisp flavour. Perhaps it’s because persimmons were one of the hallmark fruits of autumn and winter in my part of China, their bright orange-red a reminder of festivities past and to come. Tied with string, they looked like little lanterns.

Edible lanterns!

The bread – made in a 3/4 sized bundt pan – was both like a quick bread and a moist fruit-laden cake. A tween, like autumn itself.

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I used the well-beloved James Beard persimmon bread recipe, but subbed some plain (AP) flour for wholemeal (whole wheat) flour. Instead of walnuts or pecans, I used macadamia nuts and chopped bits of dark chocolate. The macadamia nuts, because I always thought their texture and buttery flavour goes well with persimmons. The dark chocolate, well, because I can.

The flavours are beguiling rather than in-your-face. There is an undercurrent of honeyed sweetness from the best dried apricots and jam-like persimmon, the lightly toasted macadamia nuts provided a buttery crunch in contrast to the otherwise moist and dense bread-cake. The dark chocolate bits? They adds unexpected bits of almost-bitter intensity, which worked surprisingly well against the milder flavoured fruit and nuts.

I used more persimmon purée than the recipe asked for, so that the bread-cake came out of the oven denser than Mr Beard intended. There was almost more fruit than bread-cake, but this is how I like all things persimmon – a little over the top, a little imperfect in appearance, and a little gooey-happy all the way through.

The cake kept well for a few days, though from day three, I’d want to toast it like banana bread. And slather it with persimmon jam.

Note: there are two common varieties of persimmons. The round-bottomed one is the Fuyu (or Fuyu Fruit), which can be eaten while it’s still hard, but is also good when it has become squishy. There’s also the oblong Hachiya, which is incredibly astringent unless they are squishy and over-ripe.

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Persimmon bread-cake

(Adapted and halved from this wonderful James Beard recipe)

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups (approx 170g) sifted plain or AP flour
1/2 cups (70g) wholemeal flour
1/3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar (the original recipe allows you to use 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup brandy
1 1/2 cups persimmon purée (the original recipe asks for 1 cup)
1 cup macadamia nuts, lightly toasted and chopped (the original recipe asks for walnuts or pecans)
1 1/4 cups diced dried apricots (the original recipe asks for 1 cup)
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate, I used 65% cocoa chocolate (my addition) 

Method

1. Butter one ¾ sized bundt pan and 3 texas muffin pans. Dust with flour, and tap out any excess. This would probably fit into one full-sized bundt pan.
2. Preheat oven to 350 F / 180C.
3. Mix the first 6 ingredients together in a mixing bowl, and make a well in the centre.
4. Combine the butter, eggs, brandy, persimmon purée and add to the flour mixture. Fold through the nuts, fruit and chocolate.
5. Pour into the bundt pan and muffin pans. Bake the bundt pan for about 45 minutes, and the muffin pans for…about 35 minutes. (If using a full sized bundt pan, probably bake for about one hour.) After about 35 minutes, I kept an eye on the pans until a skewer inserted into the centre of the bread-cakes came out clean.

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20 thoughts on “Musings on autumn and persimmon bread

  1. Experienced Tutors 11 May 2013 at 11:47 pm Reply

    Scrummy-yummy-yummy 🙂

  2. johnnysenough hepburn 12 May 2013 at 11:08 am Reply

    Pretty much fell in love with persimmons last Autumn for the first time. I’d seen them before but never knew what to do with them. Now I do! They really are delicious. Although, I’ve never tried baking with them, baking being a new thing for me. Will have to wait…

  3. laurasmess 13 May 2013 at 1:04 am Reply

    Aw yum! I love persimmons, but I’ve never actually cooked with them. We have some in the fruit bowl right now… I might just squirrel them away for this recipe, it sounds delicious! You are so inventive. Love it. Thanks so much!

    • saucygander 15 May 2013 at 7:47 am Reply

      Persimmons are the best, aren’t they? I am tempted to try persimmon jam next, so I can have persimmons after their season ends around June.

  4. trevorsisboom 13 May 2013 at 12:40 pm Reply

    I really can’t get enough of persimmons when they are in season here. Pretty much a daily treat… I will save this as I really haven’t baked with them yet and might…if I can spare any. 🙂

    • saucygander 15 May 2013 at 7:48 am Reply

      That’s the difficult part, not eating all the persimmons before they get near the mixing bowl!

  5. Tea with Erika 13 May 2013 at 4:10 pm Reply

    Sounds delicious! I love persimmons but I find them a bit messy – or is it just me? 😉

    • saucygander 15 May 2013 at 7:51 am Reply

      Yes, they are a bit, aren’t they? I always end up with sticky fingers and a bit of a goopy mess on the kitchen counter or sink. I think the mess is worth it, when it’s tasty, tasty mess. 🙂

  6. Anne ~ Uni Homemaker 15 May 2013 at 5:51 am Reply

    I’m intrigued! Never had persimmon bread before. Will be putting this on my to-bake list. Thanks for the recipe.

    • saucygander 15 May 2013 at 10:47 am Reply

      It was very moist and quite tasty, let me know if you try this or James Beard’s original recipe! David Lebovitz also has a persimmon cake recipe which may be making its way to our oven soon.

  7. TheWhiteRamekins 15 May 2013 at 6:16 am Reply

    I always wanted to bake with persimmons but never got the chance. they are out of season every time I decide something to bake with them. This bread recipe sounds really interesting.

    • saucygander 15 May 2013 at 10:45 am Reply

      This is the first year I’ve been organised enough to bake with them. I have heard of people freezing the pulp so they have persimmon cookies all year round.

  8. Jody and Ken 18 May 2013 at 1:42 am Reply

    I am definitely a Hachiya man – it’s the fugu equivalent in the persimmon world – you take the fate of your mouth in your hand every time you bite into one. The cake sounds great, and good photos. Ken

    • saucygander 20 May 2013 at 2:38 am Reply

      Fugu equivalent: love it!

      Speaking of fugu, don’t know if I am game enough to eat it, what if the fugu chef was having an off day? Maybe when I’m 90 years old and have done everything else in the bucket list.

  9. lovinghomemade 20 May 2013 at 3:55 am Reply

    That sounds wonderful and I love the way you write. I don’t think I have ever seen the oblong type of persimmon but will make sure to buy the round ones as I am not an expert!

    • saucygander 23 May 2013 at 2:52 am Reply

      Yes, the round ones are safer, I like Jody and Ken comparing eating the oblong ones to eating fugu (poisonous fish, major delicacy in Japan)!!

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