Friday, September 12, 2014

Date Walnut Bread


When I say “date walnut bread,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For lots of people ~ especially in the Chock Full o’ Nuts generation (I refer to the cafe, not the mental state) ~ this conjurs images of dark, dense nut bread studded with tender pieces of sweet dates. For others ~ many, many others ~ it conjurs the following response: blech.

I stand here today a little embarrassed to confess that just a few hours ago, I was in the latter camp. In all the years I’ve been baking both recreationally and professionally, I can’t recall ever having produced a single loaf of date-nut bread. But that was yesterday. Now, I’m all about it!

Earlier today, I set out to make a couple of quick breads. Banana? Snore. Zucchini? Sounds good. I called my gardening mom and asked her to hook me up with a few of the giant zukes she undoubtedly was hauling by the wheelbarrowful from her garden this late in the season. "Oh . . . well, I gave them all away. But I do have half a four-inch zucchini left. You can have that." So much for that. I dove to the back of the pantry in desperation, where I happened upon a bag of dates left over from my days of making who-knows-what I used to make with dates. Hmm. Interesting.

So a little of this and a little of that later, I was sliding two orange-scented, sugar-crusted date-walnuts loaves into the oven. And then I sat down to catch up on some blog reading and Facebook trolling, which is where I learned that there happens to be a Date Nut Bread Day! I kid you not. {Go Google that . . . September 8, Date Nut Bread Day. Seriously.} Weird, right?

Well, what's even weirder is that there are TWO Date Nut Bread Days ~ September 8 and December 22. Since we overshot the first celebration of this special occasion, I suggest you make two loaves today, eat one, and pop one into the freezer for December 22 ~ Happy holidays!

Orange-Scented Date-Walnut Bread

Yield: 2 8x4” loaves
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional)
  • 1 cup pitted dates, chopped
  • ¾ cup canola or other neutral cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; spray two 8x4” loaf pans with nonstick pan spray
  1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add liqueur and chopped dates. Cover and remove      from heat; let stand 20 minutes. Reserve all liquid in pot.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. To dates and soaking liquid in pot, add oil, vanilla, and orange zest. Stir in eggs until well blended.
  4. Add date mixture to flour mixture and stir to mix thoroughly. Fold in chopped walnuts.
  5. Divide batter evenly between pans. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of turbinado sugar over batter in each pan. Place pans on middle rack in oven and bake at 350F for approximately 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Let pans cool on rack for 15 mins. De-pan loaves and let cool on rack at least 1 hour before cutting.
Tips:
  • Like most fruit and/or nut breads, this one benefits from some resting time. If you can wait, after cooling, wrap tightly in plastic and let sit overnight before slicing and serving.
  • This bread freezes very well. Wrap cooled loaves (or individual slices) in plastic wrap and then in foil, label, and store for up to 2 months in the freezer.
  • This bread has a lot of flavor and is delicious on its own, but it’s just crazy-good with a shmear of whipped cream cheese. And don’t be skimpy.

6 comments:

  1. OK.. I admit it.. I love date nut bread.. and I have a recipe for fruitcake that I love. Does this mean I have to trade in thongs for grannies? Seriously - this looks great ... drooling into my lowcarb chemical cocktail.

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  2. Love bread recipes for a grab and go breakfast option for the kids - yum!

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  3. I love date bread and just picked up some dates - will be making this soon!

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  4. You know, I really love date nut bread, and it's been way too long since I've made it. Love the sounds of this recipe. Pinning for later!

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  5. yum! I need to try this... I love dates, but have never had date bread!

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  6. Can't say I've ever made anything with dates in it, but this bread has me thinking I need to give it a try soon!

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