Fruitcake has turned into a holiday joke. As a child I looked forward to my grandmother’s version each Christmas. But today the thought of that neon-colored candied fruit makes me shudder. Instead, each Christmas season when the hachiya persimmons are ripe to nearly gooshy, I make persimmon bread. I don’t ask whether potential recipients are interested or have they tried it before. Into their hands I drop a foil-wrapped loaf adorned with a gorgeous silky bow and say, “Enjoy!” They inevitably call me back with their mouth full and ask, “Whaf ith thith stf? Ith aweeesum!”
This recipe is based on a James Beard one that my sister and I have altered over the years. All white flour has changed to partly whole wheat. All white sugar has been changed to partly brown (richer flavor). Regular raisins have been switched out for golden raisins and other minor tweaks.
When you buy hachiya (not fuyu!) persimmons in the store, they will be hard. Wait for them to ripen until soft. Or if you’re not afraid of being bold like me and live in a climate where they grow, I just knock on doors where I see a tree laden with them. “Excuse me,” I ask, “could I buy a few of your persimmons?” Most people just give them to me. They are thrilled someone appreciates them.
I’ve never given out the recipe until now. That’s how much I value and love it. Spread with butter or even toasted, it’s superior to any Christmas Stollen recipe I’ve tried and it is definitely “aweeesum!”
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground mace
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup melted butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup of Cognac or bourbon (we use a cheaper brandy)
2 cups persimmon purée (pulp of about 4 medium, ripe-to-gooshy, peeling optional.)
2 cups chopped pecans (optional)
2 cups golden raisins
Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Make a crater in the center and add the melted butter, eggs, Cognac, persimmon purée and nuts and raisins. (In my opinion the nuts are optional, not the raisins! But this is strictly my preference). Mix dough until very smooth. Butter and flour 2 loaf pans (glass or tin). Fill about ¾ full and bake for 1 hour at 350º. Cool loaves in pans and turn out on rack or wood board.
You might need to make a foil tent to protect top from burning to bake long enough to get centers done, your oven mileage may vary. Wrap in foil after cooling, can last up to 2 weeks.