James Beard's Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe - David Lebovitz (2024)


James Beard's Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe - David Lebovitz (1)

Like most Americans, even French people aren’t so familiar with persimmons. They may see them at the market, look at their curiously, 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 them out.

One of my friends living north of San Francisco in Sonoma County had an 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.)

James Beard's Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe - David Lebovitz (3)

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. 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. To ripen Hachiya persimmons, simply let them sit on your countertop until very soft. If they don’t riped at the same time, you can store the puree in the refrigerator until the others have ripened. You can hasten the process by putting persimmons in a well-sealed container; adding an apple, which gives off a lot of ethylene gas, which will speed things up.

James Beard's Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe - David Lebovitz (4)

The other common persimmon is the Fuyu, which is squatter 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.

James Beard's Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe - David Lebovitz (5)

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 luminaries coming through our kitchen, people like James Beard, Jane Grigson, and Richard Olney, who were really wonderful cooks and writers.

James Beard's Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe - David Lebovitz (6)

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.

James Beard's Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe - David Lebovitz (7)


Persimmon Bread

Adapted fromBeard on Breadby James Beard

Using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread. I often use bourbon, as I like the flavor, but cognac and brandy work well, instead. I'm often asked about making this cake without the liquor and haven't tried it, as the liquor is an integral flavor in the cake. If you want to try it with something else, perhaps black tea or root beer could take its place. But I haven't tried either.

  • 3 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups (400-500g) sugar
  • 1 cup (8oz, 225g) melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) Cognac or bourbon whiskey (see headnote)
  • 2 cups (500ml) persimmon puree, (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
  • 2 cups (200g) walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 2 cups (270g) raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)
  • Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC) degrees.

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

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

  • 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.


James Beard's Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe - David Lebovitz (2024)


Which persimmons are better for baking? ›

Fuyu persimmons serve a multi-purpose use. They're best eaten raw or sliced and added to salads, cereal, smoothies, but they are also suitable for baking and roasting. Hachiya persimmons, on the other hand, boast a creamy, jelly-like consistency best for baked goods such as muffins, cookies, bread, and puddings.

How do you soften persimmons for baking? ›

Persimmons will ripen and soften at room temperature or by wrapping the fruit in paper or a paper bag will increase the concentration of ethylene gas to enhance the ripening time. Once ripe, store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

How do you know when a persimmon is ripe? ›

A ripe persimmon will have a deep orange or reddish color, depending on the variety. It should also feel soft, but not mushy when gently pressed. The texture should be akin to a ripe tomato. The ultimate test, however, is its taste: a ripe persimmon will be sweet and free from any astringency.

Can you freeze fresh persimmons? ›

Persimmons freeze very well, so I tend to pick as much fruit as possible to store away for the year. To prepare your fruit for the freezer, rinse off the skin of the fruit and lightly pat dry. This is a delicate process as the fruit can be very soft.

What does baking soda do to persimmons? ›

When persimmons are beaten to a pulp, tannins form complexes with carbohydrates, causing the pulp to stiffen to a gel-like consistency. When baking soda is added, a reaction with the moist and slightly acidic persimmon creates carbon dioxide (CO2), which also plays a role in encouraging the pulp to thicken.

What not to mix with persimmon? ›

Potato and persimmon: if you eat them together very often they can form kidney stones.

Why is my dried persimmon turning white? ›

The fruit slowly dries and the sugar in the fruit comes to the surface, and the fruit flavor concentrates. The outside of the fruit turns white from its own sugar looking a bit like white mold. It's not moldy; it is purely the sugar from the fruit itself rising to its surface.

How do you get the astringency taste out of persimmons? ›

Treatment with freezing temperatures is a potential method of removing astringency of persimmon, without deterioration in the fruit quality.

Are persimmons good for you? ›

Persimmons are low in calories and high in fiber – a combination that makes them a good choice for weight control. Their mix of antioxidants and nutrients – including vitamins A and C – makes them ideal for a healthy diet.

What is the side effect of persimmon fruits? ›

It has been used in clinical research without reported adverse effects. The fruit might cause allergic reactions in some people, but this is uncommon. Eating the fruit in very large amounts might cause blockage of the intestines.

How many persimmons can you eat a day? ›

How many persimmons can you eat a day? A. It is better not to eat more than one persimmon or 100 g of fruit in a day. Excessive consumption of persimmons may lead to intestinal blockages, nausea, vomiting, or constipation.

What month do persimmons ripen? ›

When Are American Persimmons Ripe? American persimmons ripen in early fall, between September and October in most parts of the country. The fruit takes on a deep orange-yellow hue and the skin becomes almost translucent when fully ripe.

Can dogs eat persimmons? ›

Yes, dogs can safely eat persimmon fruits as an occasional treat. While dogs can consume persimmon skin, they should not eat the seeds because these cause digestive problems. In addition, you should only feed your dog a few slices or a small handful a day, as large amounts of persimmons can lead to an upset stomach.

Why do you peel and hang persimmons? ›

Texture and Flavor: Drying persimmons transforms their texture from soft and juicy to firm and chewy. The drying process concentrates the fruit's natural sugars, intensifying the sweetness and enhancing the flavor. 2. Preservation: Drying persimmons helps extend their shelf life.

Do persimmons expire? ›

Ripe persimmons are best eaten immediately, but you can refrigerate them for 1 or 2 days. Unripe persimmons will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month. Keep refrigerated persimmons unwashed in a plastic bag.

Which is better Fuyu or hachiya persimmons? ›

Fuyu and Hachiya: Knowing the Difference

Hachiya (left) and Fuyu (right) are both locally grown persimmons that have beautiful cinnamon notes, perfect for fall. However, the Hachiya's texture is best when extremely ripe, almost jelly-like in texture, while the Fuyu can be eaten while hard, like an apple.

Which type of persimmon is better? ›

As they ripen, they become jelly-like, just like the Hachiya variety. Fuyu persimmons are the better choice for eating raw because they're much more pleasant to eat even when they're crunchy.

What is the difference between Fuyu and hachiya persimmons? ›

How to Tell Fuyus and Hachiyas Apart. The one you can eat like an apple—Fuyu—is short, squat, and firm. The persimmon you have to ripen until it is squishy, and then you eat or use the pulp—Hachiya—looks like a large orange acorn.

What is the difference between persimmons and Fuyu persimmons? ›

Fuyus are less astringent and can be when they are still firm. Hachiya persimmons (longer and more heart shaped than the rounder fuyus) are only good when fully ripe and very soft. Both are delicious, but they really don't taste like any other fruit. They are both sweet and tart.

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