James Beard’s Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe

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….

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.

persimmon bread recipe

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.

persimmon bread recipe-2

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Persimmon Bread

Adapted from Beard on Bread by 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.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

Storage: Will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. The Persimmon Breads take well to being frozen, too.

Rose Sangria

Summer in France means a lot of things in France. En masse vacations, a blissfully empty Paris, price increases (which happen during August, when everyone is out of town – of course), and vide-greniers and brocantes, known elsewhere as flea markets, where people sell all kinds of things. If you’re lucky enough to take a trip to the countryside, the brocantes are amazing. But some…

rose sangria recipe

Summer in France means a lot of things in France. En masse vacations, a blissfully empty Paris, price increases (which happen during August, when everyone is out of town – of course), and vide-greniers and brocantes, known elsewhere as flea markets, where people sell all kinds of things. If you’re lucky enough to take a trip to the countryside, the brocantes are amazing. But some small towns in France also have little antique shops that are always worth poking around in. And when your other half has a station wagon, well, the possibilities are endless. (And sometimes voluminous!)

peach for sangria

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French Harvest Spritz

I discovered the Spritz many years ago when I went to espresso-making school in Trieste, Italy, and wondered what those big, icy orange drinks everyone was drinking at aperitivo hour were. I found out they were Spritzes, a drink also with roots in Aus…

I discovered the Spritz many years ago when I went to espresso-making school in Trieste, Italy, and wondered what those big, icy orange drinks everyone was drinking at aperitivo hour were. I found out they were Spritzes, a drink also with roots in Austria, that was widely enjoyed by people in the Veneto region.

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Holiday Gift Idea! Drinking French Bar Boxes from Slope Cellars and K & L Wine Merchants

What better way to send off 2020, and kick off a brand new year (…which, fortunately, is just around the corner…) with a gift for yourself, or for someone special, of a Drinking French Bar Box! I’ve teamed up with two of my favorite spirit shops to offer specially-curated bar boxes with a selection of French spirits and apéritifs. And to sweeten the pot, for…

What better way to send off 2020, and kick off a brand new year (…which, fortunately, is just around the corner…) with a gift for yourself, or for someone special, of a Drinking French Bar Box! I’ve teamed up with two of my favorite spirit shops to offer specially-curated bar boxes with a selection of French spirits and apéritifs. And to sweeten the pot, for a limited time, each bar box includes a bookplate signed copy of Drinking French.

Slope Cellars wine and spirits shop in New York includes a bottle of Old Forester Bottled-in-Bond Rye, Forthave Red Apéritif Bitters (a small-batch red bitter apéritif, made in Brooklyn), a bottle of Citadelle gin, the first gin made in France, and a demi-bottle of Dolin sweet vermouth from the French alps, as well as a copy of Drinking French. With those bottles, you’ll be able to make several drinks in the book, including my favorite cocktails, the Boulevardier and the Americano, a low ABV apéritif that’s perfect for easy-going holiday sipping.

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Bee’s Knees Cocktail

Note: Miko Abouaf and Ian Spink of the micro-distillery Audemus Spirits in France will be my guests today on Instagram Live Apéro Hour. They’ll be joining me live from their distillery in the Cognac region to show us how they distills their fabulous Pink Pepper gin, as well as how to mix up a Bee’s Knees Cocktail with it, and their fig leaf-based Covert liqueur….

Note: Miko Abouaf and Ian Spink of the micro-distillery Audemus Spirits in France will be my guests today on Instagram Live Apéro Hour. They’ll be joining me live from their distillery in the Cognac region to show us how they distills their fabulous Pink Pepper gin, as well as how to mix up a Bee’s Knees Cocktail with it, and their fig leaf-based Covert liqueur. Join us today at 6pm CET (Noon ET, 9am PT) on Instagram. To watch, head to my profile on my IG profile page at that time and when the circle around my profile pic says “Live” click on it to tune in. More info, as well as how to watch in replay later if you miss it, is here.

When doing research for Drinking French, I was on the prowl to find a substitute to Amer Picon, the classic apéritif from France that’s not available in the U.S. While I found some alternatives that were available in America (which I listed in the book) my very favorite was Sepia Amer, made by Audemus Spirits in France. (h/t to Josh of Paris Wine Company for the intro.)

As someone who ran out of organic crunchy peanut butter recently, and can’t watch Schitt’s Creek, I share your pain at not being about to get something you want where you live. But if you come to France, or live in a country that does carry their spirits, such as France, the United Kingdom, Australia, and others, I recommend you pick up a bottle or two.

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May Daisy cocktail

Note: I’ll be making this May Daisy cocktail today on my IG Live Apéro Hour. Join me at 6pm CET, Noon ET, and 9am PT. Go to my Instagram profile at that time and click on my profile picture when there is a red circle around it, which means I am live. You can also watch it in replay on my IGTV channel. More information…

Note: I’ll be making this May Daisy cocktail today on my IG Live Apéro Hour. Join me at 6pm CET, Noon ET, and 9am PT. Go to my Instagram profile at that time and click on my profile picture when there is a red circle around it, which means I am live. You can also watch it in replay on my IGTV channel. More information about how to tune in, and watch live, as well as in replay, here.

And before we know it, it’s May. After this lockdown is over, which is planned to unfold in France on Monday, I realize I’m going to have to go back and rewrite all the posts I wrote during the last few months as in the future, people will read them and wonder what the heck I am talking about when I say “lockdown,” “confinement,” and “shelter in place.”

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Vieux Carre cocktail

This post was originally published in 2013, which I updated and revised. It’s part of an online “L’heure d’apéro” or Happy Hour that I’ve been doing on Instagram Live on my IGTV channel most evenings at 6pm Paris time (which currently is 1pm ET, 10am PT) where I’m making a favorite cocktail live in my kitchen and responding to reader’s comments while I mix and…

This post was originally published in 2013, which I updated and revised. It’s part of an online “L’heure d’apéro” or Happy Hour that I’ve been doing on Instagram Live on my IGTV channel most evenings at 6pm Paris time (which currently is 1pm ET, 10am PT) where I’m making a favorite cocktail live in my kitchen and responding to reader’s comments while I mix and shake. (The videos get archived on my Instagram page in my Stories, which are available to watch up to 24 hours afterward, and in my Feed, which are there indefinitely.

In the live videos I’m also talking about French spirits, a few of which are used in this cocktail, the Vieux Carré. I’ve brought this cocktail post up to the top here on the blog, and I’ll be bringing others up others, as well as sharing other types of recipes that I hope you’ll find helpful during this time when many of us are housebound. (Tonight, March 26th, I’ll be making the Jasmin Cocktail if you want to tune in. Thanks! – David

A Vieux Carré is supposed to have Peychaud’s bitters in it. It was at the tippy top of my shopping list when I wanted to make this cocktail. I had the rye whiskey in spades, as well as the other ingredients, but the bitters eluded me.

But I went to four liquor stores that specialize in cocktail liquors and spirits in Paris and three didn’t have it. And the fourth was inexplicably closed for some sort of fermeture exceptionnelle. There was no sign, no nothing, so I don’t know. I peered through the darkened windows to see if they had the bitters on any of the shelves but couldn’t get a glimpse of the bitters selection, so went home empty-handed.

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French Manhattan

Someone told me that “cocktails” is one of the most used search terms right now on the internet. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time. Other times, I feel as if things might go the other way. Right now, I feel a little bit of both. When my planned book tour was nearing the start date, the news cycle…

Someone told me that “cocktails” is one of the most used search terms right now on the internet. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time. Other times, I feel as if things might go the other way. Right now, I feel a little bit of both. When my planned book tour was nearing the start date, the news cycle shifted and when it looked as if it didn’t seem like the right time to get on a lot of airplanes and invite people to join me at large gatherings to share food and drink, I hit the pause button.

So here I am, and there you are. Thankfully the internet can keep us connected. I don’t know if people are searching for Chocolate Chip Kitchen Sink Cookies, but I’ve got tons of cookie dough on hand from developing and retesting the recipe five times in the last ten days. In nineteen years of baking between two countries, I’ve never had any issues with French butter versus butter elsewhere, but that seemed to be the culprit.

Fortunately, liquor is a different story and what we get here is what you get everywhere else. But unlike all the butter, oats, chocolate, and eggs I used working on that recipe to get it right so it worked for everyone, after writing Drinking French, I’ve still got plenty of alcohol on hand, so there’s zero possibility of running out.

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Quick Mincemeat recipe

The word Mincemeat doesn’t quite inspire the same rapture that it does in England, most likely due to the name. Meat isn’t something normally associated with dessert in many places (although I had an interesting chocolate and beef pastry in Sicily), but traditional mincemeat is indeed, a wonderful addition to holiday desserts. To make it, one must get suet from a butcher, which posed a…

The word Mincemeat doesn’t quite inspire the same rapture that it does in England, most likely due to the name. Meat isn’t something normally associated with dessert in many places (although I had an interesting chocolate and beef pastry in Sicily), but traditional mincemeat is indeed, a wonderful addition to holiday desserts. To make it, one must get suet from a butcher, which posed a challenge for me the first time I made it in France. When I mentioned I needed beef fat to make a dessert to a boucher in Paris, from the look on his face, he wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to make with it. Or, I guess I should say, he wasn’t exactly convinced I was in my right mind. (Which wouldn’t be the first time that happened to me here.)

Not everyone wants to make traditional mincemeat, which is a bit of a chore, but there’s another way to get the wonderful flavors of candied peel, spices, dried fruit, and brandy, in your desserts, and that’s to make quick mincemeat.

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