Growing up, my cousins and I saw many seasons pass through my grandparents’ house in Oklahoma. Winter nights meant steaming pots of my aunt’s phở chay and whispering under warm blanket forts. In the spring, our fingers became green and fragrant from plucking Vietnamese herbs for spring rolls. We spent our summers making our own adventures in the closets and under the tables (and doing math). In the fall, we were filled to bursting with ripe trái hồng (Fuyu persimmons) from my grandmother’s tree. No matter the season, our cheeks were always full of laughter, and our grandparents were always full of love for us, to the brim and more.
Fuyu persimmons were my favorite fruit growing up, especially the ones from my grandmother’s tree. When eaten young, Fuyu persimmons are crisp and refreshing. At full ripeness, their texture becomes deep and tender–gelatinous globs of honeyed sweetness that melt in your mouth and make a mess when you eat them. My favorite stage to eat them is the middle stage, in which the fruit retains some bite, while still being delectably fleshy and succulent in texture. Persimmons are also amazing when dried–they are a gooey treat with a really satisfying texture.
As a young girl, I thought to myself, persimmons are truly a marvel! The other kids at school didn’t think so. A gooey, vibrant persimmon was too weird, such a contrast to the apples and oranges deemed as the norm. Growing up vegetarian, I was often made fun of during lunchtime, and persimmon season was certainly no exception. Desperate to fit in at school, I would hide away to eat my persimmons (or anything else deemed “weird”), and by high school, I eventually stopped packing these orange gems in my lunches.
I could get into a deeper discussion about how my relationship with my cultural identity has evolved throughout the years, but for now I’m just so happy to express that a lot of my 20’s has been an emerging season of me re-embracing my culture in a variety of ways. Appreciating and sharing my cultural food is part of that, and I should note that this is a fusion/non-traditional recipe. Exploring my creativity and re-visiting familiar ingredients in a different way is really fun for me. I suppose it reflects the tension and beauty of being both American and Vietnamese.
Persimmons are absolutely divine in their own right, but I thought it would be fun to dress them up in a bread pudding for Thanksgiving this year! I tested the recipe with my cousins for our early Thanksgiving potluck, and it was very well received. I’m excited to have my grandma try it this weekend. The spices and coconut whip go really well with the persimmons. Knowing my family, I’m sure the elders will laugh and ask why I had to do all this to some perfectly good persimmons.
Citrus Persimmon Bread Pudding
makes 12 servings
Prep time: 35 minutes
Wait time: 35 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
- 3 soft Kaiser bread rolls, cut into medium 2-3 inch chunks*
- 3 medium ripe persimmons, peeled and roughly cubed**
- 1 cup walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
- 3 ripe persimmons, peeled
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- one 16 oz can of coconut milk, unsweetened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- zest of one orange
- juice of one orange
- Coconut whipped cream (make your own, or find some at the store–notable brands are So Delicious, Tru Whip, and Reddi Whip even has coconut whip and almond whip now!)
- Toasted almond slices (optional, but the depth of flavor is so worth it)
- Coconut caramel–I had some on hand that I made from Oh, Ladycakes!
*The best kind of bread to use for this is a soft, fluffy bread that bounces back when you poke it with your finger. You want a bread that can soak up the sauce, nothing too dense, not a bread with a thick crust. I recommend soft Kaiser bread rolls or airy French baguettes (like the ones typically found at bánh mì shops). I also tested this recipe with some soft Ciabatta bread rolls I found at the grocery store, and it worked beautifully!
**If you can find persimmons that are at the medium ripe stage, that’s the best for this recipe. They need to be somewhat firm but smooth with a bit of give when you squeeze them. I would suggest medium ripe persimmons for the cubed persimmons, and for the sauce, full ripe persimmons would be ideal! I had a mixed bag when I made this recipe.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Toss the base ingredients together in an oiled 8″ x 12″ baking pan. I rubbed coconut oil in my pan before tossing the base ingredients into it.
- In a blender, blend the sauce ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust spices/sweetener to taste.
- Pour the sauce over the base ingredients, stirring to coat everything evenly.
- Bake the bread pudding for 35 minutes.
- While the bread pudding is baking, I like to toast some almond slices in preparation for the topping.
- Let the bread pudding cool for about 10 minutes. Enjoy warm with toppings–coconut whip, toasted almonds, and coconut caramel to taste!This pudding will last up to a week stored in the fridge in an airtight container.