Amanda's take on James Beard's Persimmon Bread
Yes, I know. I didn’t write that title without weight. Who the hell am I to re-write the recipe of a master?! Well, I don’t claim to be a chef, and I’m certainly no James Beard, but listen to me when I tell you that I made this recipe with olive oil, and not only is it delicious, but it’s easy as pie. I mean cake. I mean, it’s a piece of cake. Or bread. Persimmon bread. Whatever, you get it.
The original recipe came from this first edition copy of Beard on Bread, a very thoughtful gift from my brother, Jason. So what did I change? Not much, actually. I substituted the butter with The Originale, added a little extra spice (because that’s the kind of woman I am), and I baked it in muffin form. I’ve made it with walnuts, as the recipe calls for, but I also like using pecans because they remind me of home.
Every fall, my Dad would blow the leaves into a pile, which Jason and I would run through or jump into. Once the leaves were hauled away, it was time to pick up pecans, which we’d throw at each other when our folks weren’t looking. The batches were placed in Braums grocery bags, because those were the perfect size, the sturdiest, and they had handles. Once mom and dad said we’d collected enough, our family would take them to get cracked and shelled. Upon returning with our carload full of nuts (the pecans and us) we’d watch Christmas movies while cleaning out any debris. It was a pecan cleaning assembly line, fueled by hot chocolate. Mom would package them in big gallon freezer bags, which were gifted to (very) lucky family and friends for all kinds of baking needs throughout the year. Oh home. I miss you.
I digress. Mr. Beard says to bake the recipe in FOUR 1-pound buttered and floured charlotte molds, but that is a LOT of persimmon bread for one household. I cut the recipe in half and used a silicone muffin tray. It yielded about 15 muffins. Depending on how much your muffin tray holds, it may come out to more or less. But don’t fret. This recipe is EASY and adaptable. Even David Lebowitz says so.
The general rule of thumb when swapping butter for olive oil is to reduce the quantity of fat to 3/4 of the original recipe. Here, he calls for 1 cup of melted butter (for the FULL recipe), so in my HALF recipe, I used 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP of extra virgin olive oil.
A note on persimmons:
I used hachiya persimmons, the type that is widely available here in Italy. This type needs to be VERY ripe for use. When I say ripe, I mean that they need to be jam consistency, almost mushy, or else they won’t taste good. Unripe hachiya persimmons are crazy astringent and basically poison to the palate. But RIPE hachiya persimmons are sugary jammy goodness. How do you know when it’s ripe? It will be dark reddish orange and will feel like it’s about to burst if you were to squeeze it. The skin will have become very thin, and the fruit will be super soft. The longest part of this recipe is the time it takes to ensure your persimmons are ripe. The rest comes together quickly. Alright, enough with the talking. Here’s the recipe.
Spiced Olive Oil Persimmon Muffins
1.75 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground mace
1/8 tsp ground clove
1-1.25 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 TBSP of The Originale EVOO
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup bourbon
1 cup persimmon purée (very ripe)
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1 cup raisins (optional)
- Sift all five dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
- Make a well in the center and add olive oil, eggs, bourbon, persimmon purèe, and if using, the nuts and raisins.
- Mix dough until quite smooth.
- If using a non-silicone muffin tray, butter and flour the molds or use paper liners.
- Fill molds about 3/4 full and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350F, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool muffins in the tray on a cooling rack.
These muffins are hearty and satiating. They’re great for breakfast, a snack, or desert. Excellent served warm, with a pat of butter or schmear of cream cheese, and a drizzle of honey. They’ll keep for a week in a sealed container or ziploc bag.