By Dale Dougherty
Persimmons are the last fruit of the season, coming late in the fall and staying around through December. The trees lose their leaves but the fruit remains on the branches, hanging like ornaments. We are fortunate to have two kinds of persimmon trees, the Fuyu (left below) and the Hachiya (right below).
The acorn-shaped Hachiya is so astringent that it cannot be used until it is ripe and softened. I have not started using ours yet. The Fuyu can be eaten directly from the tree. Dice a persimmon as a salad topping, which is especially nice when mixed with pomegranate seeds. However, like many fruit, you simply have too many of them, if you have your own supply.
I made a holiday bread substituting persimmons for candied fruit. I don’t like anything about candied fruit and I had fresh persimmons. I modified a recipe for Bara Brith, a Welsh “speckled bread” that uses currants and golden raisins. It’s in the family of fruit cakes but I think it’s more like raisin bread. I found the basic recipe in Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads. There are versions online that use self-rising flour and no yeast. Mine had yeast but it was slow to rise. In fact, I thought the recipe had failed.
Bara Brith: A Welsh Holiday Bread
1 cup flour + 1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 acket dry yeast
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tablespoon margarine
1 cup diced persimmons
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup brandy
In a mixing bowl, add a cup of flour, a teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 cup of sugar and one packet of dry yeast. In a pan, warm a half-cup of milk and 1-1/2 tablespoons of margarine. Then, after removing the pan from the heat, add two eggs to the liquid and stir. Add the liquid into the flour and begin beating with a mixer — I used the dough hooks. Add up to another cup and a half of flour and knead for ten minutes. The dough is a tan color and seemingly dense, a bit like taffy.
Set aside the dough in a greased bowl and cover it. Let the dough rise for at least an hour. I allowed two hours because I didn’t see much change. It was a cold and rainy day outside. In writing up this recipe, I found this account on the Food Glorious Food blog of a similar experience. Next time, I plan to try adding the yeast to the warm milk and letting it proof.
While the dough is rising, put a cup of diced persimmons and a half-cup of golden raisins in a bowl to soak in a half-cup of apple brandy (or sherry). Let them sit while the dough is rising.
Turn out the dough on a floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Now it’s time to mix in the fruit. (The Clayton recipe called for 1/2 cup of candied fruit but I omitted it.) The persimmons and raisins had been soaking in brandy for a couple hours. I drained off the remaining brandy and began working them into the dough, which is not easy. It really does seem as though there is too much fruit for the size of loaf. I wondered if the recipe underestimated the amount of dough to use.
I did not plan to use a loaf pan but instead hand-shaped the loaf. Now the loaf is set aside to rise again for about an hour. I had the same problem — that it didn’t seem to rise much. And I was nearing a deadline when I was having to leave the kitchen. Thinking the room was cold, I slid the loaf into the oven. Unfortunately, I went out for the evening and did not get back that evening in time to bake the loaf. So it sat overnight in the oven. When I removed it, the loaf had maybe tripled in size. Finally, it seemed to be alive, in the bread sense.
I reshaped the loaf and let it sit out while I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees. I cut a slash down the top of the loaf before putting it in the oven. When I took it out a half-hour later, it looked and smelled wonderful. I could hardly wait to taste it — such that I didn’t get a good photograph of the untouched loaf.
About the Author:
Dale Dougherty is the editor and publisher of MAKE, and general manager of the Maker Media division of O’Reilly Media, Inc.