Recipe Share — Persimmon Bread

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Tis the season for my friend Lia’s persimmon tree, filled to the brim with hundreds of persimmon in need of a home…or a few dozen bellies.  This has been a favorite recipe of her’s for many years, and two years ago I opted to try it with a gluten free garbanzo bean flour.  It was very tasty, mind you, but this year, since I am on the ‘grinding my own flour’ kick, I decided to give farro a try.  WOW! It sure is tasty! It has been a big hit at parties, especially Thanksgiving.  My boss at work calls it my ‘Medicinal Bread,’ since it has freshly ground farro and wild yeast (chock full of lactobacillus), in lieu of the baking soda…I am just over that stuff and I want that wild fermented goo to get in there whenever possible!

The recipe itself was created by no one other than one of the most famous chefs/bakers, Mr. James Beard. And he is not shy on sugar or butter or bourbon, and trust me, it is all well worth it.  Of course, I should add that it certainly is more healthy to use organic grass fed butter and cage-free eggs and organic sugar, but at the end of the day, it always ends up heavenly.  Your family and friends will love you even more for it and be asking for seconds!  The only one alteration I make is to the sugar and the types of persimmon…I half the amount of sugar bc the persimmon are already sweet enough and I like the nuttiness of the farro flour to shine through and I also use ‘Fuyu’ persimmon (No, I am not cursing at you!).  Fuyu’s are the short, squat ones that are crispier and less squishy than their distant relative, the Hachiya.  Those tend to be chalky tasting, and as a friend of mine says, they tend to leave you ‘devoid of all moisture in your mouth.’  We can’t have that now, can we?!

Ok, let’s get  to the recipe.  ENJOY!! And let me know how it ends up!

Persimmon Bread

Two 9-inch Loaves

Using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread.

Adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard.

3½ cups sifted flour (ground farro or other favorite)
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda (or 1 teaspoon sourdough wild yeast starter, if you have it)
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 to 2½ cups sugar (your call)
1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2/3 cup Cognac, bourbon or whiskey
2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)

1. Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

4. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.

5. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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

Wild Wild Yeast

wild yeast day 4

So after all of this research, I decided that I just need to jump in and try to raise my own wild yeast.  And in the end, that really is what happens.  You birth it, nourish it, watch it grow, and then hope to God it doesn’t die.  Every morning I would gently tip toe over to it, praying it wouldn’t be pink or moldy.  I would breathe a sigh of relief and then everyday for two weeks I would feed it.  I guess luck is on my side.  Because after those fourteen days of nervous nourishment, it grew up strong and healthy.  Months later I am creating the best breads and baked goods of my life with it. It is quite resilient.

Why did I want to make my own sourdough starter?  Well, after educating myself of the seemingly hundreds of health benefits of fermenting sourdough, I discovered that if you ferment the bread long enough, that the gluten (gliadin) molecules begin to break down leaving less gluten and thus, I have a happier belly.  Fermented sourdough bread has thousands of microflora in it, making it super healthy for the gut.  It is said that these bacteria help you to properly digest and receive nutrients from all the other foods you eat. It is chock-full of B6, B12, and lactobaccilus (a healthy bacteria).

Ok, so let me give you some deets on creating your own sourdough starter.  Trust me, if I can do it, you can!! I am not a baker and I am not a mama (yet), but I still created this puppy and nurtured it to life.  You can too!!

DAY 1:  Get yourself a mason jar with a sturdy lid.  Put the following ingredients into the jar:

2 Tablespoons flour (I began with flour I brought back from France, since I knew I did not have any allergic reactions to it and then around day 7 switched to grinding my own Farro and adding it to the starter)

2 Tablespoons unsweetened pineapple juice or orange juice (I used juice that I freshly squeezed from an organic farmer’s market orange). This is to make sure your culture is on the higher acidity side.  If you use water in the beginning, it will only neutralize it, and leave it flat.

Do not stir.  Cover with lid.  Let sit out at room temperature for 24 hours. 

Day 2: Add the following to your culture:

2 T. flour

2 T. unsweetened pineapple or orange juice

Stir well and cover with lid.  Leave out at room temp for 24 hours.  You may (or may not) begin to see a few bubbles at day two. This is the yeast!

Day 3: Add the following:

2 T. flour

2 T. juice

Stir well, cover, and let sit for 24 hours at room temp.  Bubbles should start appearing by now. 

Day 4: Stir down your culture, measure out 1/4 cup and discard the rest.

To the 1/4 cup, add the following:

1/4 cup flour (feed it whatever type of flour you want at this point — white, wheat, rye, spelt, etc)

1/4 cup filtered or spring water

Your sourdough starter should be bubbling a lot by now and should also start to smell a bit yeasty. Some people say it smells like a “fine Merlot.” If you aren’t seeing any bubbles, feel free to add a 1/4 teaspoon of APPLE CIDER VINEGAR to the culture around day 5.  The acid will wake up the yeast.  I added it for a few days around day 5,6,7 and it helped bring that puppy back to life!

Day 5,6,7: Repeat Day 4

Week 2:  Repeat days 4-7.

Week 3: If your culture is still alive and well (no pink discoloration or mold), then you can begin to place it in the refrigerator. I continued to feed it every few days that third week, and now I feed it once a week or the day before knowing I will be baking something.  It is happy and healthy in there.  People say you can go months without feeding it and that it still has a pulse when you bake with it again. I have even used it as a substitute for baking soda in a muffin recipe.  Everyone LOVED it! And it is filled to the brim with nutrients, which makes me that much happier!!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to write!! Thanks for reading and I hope I have successfully taken the fear out of creating your very own sourdough starter! Now, get cultivating!

Whole Grain Farro: What Is It Exactly?

All of this talk about what shenanigans have been added to our bread just becomes the opposite of positive in my mind.  So, I figured I would try out an alternative.  LET’S MAKE OUR OWN! There are four ingredients in bread.  Or at least, there should be only these four:  Flour, Water, Yeast, Salt.  

Today we will focus on FLOUR. 

Those four ingredients can turn goo into a delicious feast.  When I first began making bread, I would make gluten free bread, of course. And I discovered tons of delicious options.  Sorghum flour is yummy.  It makes the bread a bit dense and it great to bake with.  And garbanzo flour is also pretty awesome too.  I have made a killer persimmon bread using garbanzo flour.  There is also almond flour, coconut flour, brown rice flour (I use to thicken stews and bread chicken). The list goes on.

But lately, since my return from France, I have started experimenting with wild-yeasted sourdough (fermented yeast helps break down the gluten content), and grinding my own Farro grain into flour.  Farro is one of the original whole grain, that has not been broken down and therefore, not been oxidized yet.  My friend Jack Bezian, who owns Bezian Breads in Hollywood (a whole post on his suberb bread is to come) suggested I try to grind my own Farro.  He said that is the best way to deter any pesticides or hybrid flours in and that my belly might be able to handle it more.  Also, it has less gluten in it than wheat grain and is more easily digested.  It is super nutritious, since is in it’s full form and hasn’t been tampered with.  I am trying to eat more foods that are in their highest state, so to speak.  Because I believe they have the most life force in them, or “jing” as we call it in Chinese Medicine.  I use the medium size Farro grain, or “emmer,” as it is also referred to.  It is very popular in Italian Cuisine.  They use it to make breads, risotto, soups, and the list goes on…

Here are a couple tid-bits on Farro:

What exactly is it? It is a unhybridized grain used for thousands of years in the Middle East, parts of Europe, and Africa.  It may even have been used as money in the height of the Roman Era.  Believe it not, they say that farro grains have been found in Egyptian Tombs alongside the mummy. SPOOKY!  

How does it taste? Nutty and crisper than your regular flour, with undertones of wheat and barley.  

How does it pack a nutritious punch? It is very rich in fiber, magnesium, and Vit A,B,C, and E.

Where exactly is it grown? Italy.  Specifically in the mountains in Tuscany.  Since it is born and raised in such a rugged, richly nutritious terrain, close to the sky, you know it is going to be healthy.  

But don’t get it confused with? Spelt or Wheat Berries! It is a totally different grain and people often confuse the two because they all look so similar.  

And there you have it.  See, my friends, there are alternatives to wheat! There are soooooooo so many grains that have no gluten or less gluten.  There are more possibilities! ENJOY THEM! Image

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Here is a great article I found as a resource for me in my farro education: http://www.nytimes.com/1997/06/11/garden/farro-italy-s-rustic-staple-the-little-grain-that-could.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm