Friday, August 19, 2011

Date-nut bread

Date-nut bread

Sometimes, you bake something because you really have the itch to make a particular thing. And sometimes, you bake something because it will use up something you have in the house. This is one of the latter.

I've got to be just about the only person I know who'd buy fresh dates as an impulse purchase. But I'd never had fresh dates before, only the pre-packaged, chopped-and-dried-and-sugared king. And there they were at the grocery store, on sale and everything. And they're fruit, so they're healthy, so I should buy them... so I did.

And then they sat on the counter, snug in their package, for a couple of weeks. And I realized that other than "hey, let's get one out and try it and maybe eat a couple," I had no plan for these rather pricey little fruits.

But then, I remembered flipping past a date bread recipe in my copy of "Baking Illustrated." And I just happened to have some buttermilk going bad in the fridge, too. Perfect.

This recipe produced a moist, delicious loaf, studded with nuts and soft little morsels of date. Yum. Sure, it's not flashy or decadent like, say, cupcakes, or brownies, but it's tasty all the same (and would be even better with a nice cup of tea, I'd think).

Date-Nut Bread
From "Baking Illustrated"

2 c fresh whole dates
1 c boiling water
1 tsp baking soda
2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 c chopped walnuts or pecans
2/3 c buttermilk
3/4 c dark brown sugar
6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 egg

1. Pit the dates — sorta squish them and pull them apart with your fingers, then take out the pit (it looks kinda like a piece of walnut). Then, chop up the dates.
2. Place the dates in a bowl with the hot water and baking soda. Stir and let sit.
3. Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder in another bowl. Stir in the nuts.
4. Stir the buttermilk and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter and egg and stir. Stir in the date mixture, then the dry ingredients, just until combined.
5. Scrape into a greased and floured 9-by-5 loaf pan.
6. Bake at 350 degrees until the loaf is dark brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Cool in the pan 10 minutes, then depan onto a rack and cool.

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