Squirrels and raccoons are descending on the last of the Hachiya-type persimmons on the tree at our front door. Time to fight back and bake! This sticky, sweet loaf is adapted from David Lebovitz’s adaptation of a James Beard recipe. Cognac instead of milk? Oh, yes.
This is not a yeasted bread, but one of those rectangular cakes that masquerades as “bread” because of the shape of the tin it’s baked in… The persimmons should be so soft you feel they might burst in your hand, the skin translucent and a deep orange. Don’t be tempted to use them if they’re at all firm — the flesh will be mouth-puckeringly tannic.
Be warned that there’s a lot of chopping involved. That simple list of ingredients is in many cases actually a series of instructions for each ingredient (e.g. nuts, toasted and chopped).
For two 9-inch loaves
Adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup golden flax seeds
1/2 cup wheat germ
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 cups white sugar
1 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup minus 2 tablespoons Cognac
2 tablespoons Cointreau
2 cups persimmon puree (from 3-4 very soft, Hachiya-type persimmons)
1 ½ cups pecans, toasted at 350′F for 10-12 minutes, cooled, and chopped
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted at 350′F for 10-12 minutes, skinned removed, toasted and chopped
2 cups dried fruit: 9-10 diced large fresh dates; 1-2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped; sliced dried apples, finely chopped, to bring total dried fruit to 2 cups.
1. Grease 2 metal loaf pans with oil or butter (I used hazelnut oil) and dust with flour, tapping out any excess.
2. Preheat oven to 350′ degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Sift the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, flax seeds, wheat germ and sugar into a large mixing bowl.
4. Combine the cooled butter, lightly beaten eggs, Cognac, Cointreau and persimmon pulp. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture, and then add the nuts and raisins.
5. Bake 1 hour to 90 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Be prepared to cover breads with foil if the tops start to darken.
Apparently this keeps a week, covered and out of the refrigerator and can also be frozen. I doubt it will last that long at our place.
This is Christmas pudding for beginners: the Cognac makes for the same rich, heady flavor. Next time I’m going to experiment with 1/2 Cognac, 1/2 milk.
I’ll also add up to 1/3 cup finely chopped crystalized ginger as the ginger is a perfect match for the boozy dried fruit and nuts.
Finally, I’m convinced dates and apples are the best combination for both flavor and texture: dried persimmons – hoshigaki – are sticky and date-like, and the soft pieces of apple lend a spring to the otherwise very dense and sticky bread!