My family has a few cooking traditions around the holiday season and one recipe on the “must make” list is this delicious date-nut bread. It’s moist, dark, crunchy, not too sweet, and very tasty when topped with soft cream cheese. And if you really want to be authentic, it’s best to enjoy it as a ’tea sandwich’ by layering cream cheese between TWO thin slices of bread cut into small pieces. It’s a must on a chilly morning with a hot cut of coffee or tea, and it definitely reminds me of home.
The origins of this recipe date back to the 1920s. There are several variations out there, including some that include molasses or coffee, but the core recipe usually includes the process of soaking the dried/chopped dates in boiling water and baking soda. The soda softens the tough skin of the dates and creates some creaminess before it’s all combined with the other ingredients (you can tell it’s working when the water starts to fizz from the soda).
Some say this bread is even better if you let it sit for a full day before slicing/serving. . .I’ve never been able to do this because it smells so good that I have to cut a piece as soon as it’s cool. And because it’s so yummy, you’ll even find yourself whittling off one thin slice after another and it’s hard to stop!
I might make another batch on December 22 for “National Date Nut Bread Day”. That’s right, it’s so good it has its own holiday! Be sure to mark your calendars 🙂
- 1 c. dates, finely chopped (or processed in a food processor)
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ¾ c. boiling water
- 1 egg
- ¾ c. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1⅓ c. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ¾ c. walnuts, toasted & roughly chopped
- ¼ c. unsalted butter, melted
- Heat oven to 350 degrees (if using a glass baking dish, reduce heat to 325 degrees).
- Coat a 9X5 loaf pan with baking spray (or butter and flour).
- Place chopped dates in a small bowl with baking soda and boiling water. Stir to ensure baking soda is mixed throughout the dates. Set aside for about 15-20 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg then add brown sugar, salt and vanilla. Whisk to combine; set aside.
- Add date mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine.
- Sift flour and baking powder. Fold gently into egg/date mixture.
- Fold in nuts and melted butter.
- Transfer batter to baking dish. Bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Allow to cool for about an hour before serving (if you can wait one whole day, it’s even better by wrapping it once it’s cooled, then cutting it after 24 hours).