High Country Baking: This date nut recipe from my mother is my all-time favorite quick bread￼
My all-time favorite quick bread, that’s how I rank this date nut bread. The sea-level version is my mother’s recipe and she made it often, so each bite fills me with nostalgia and takes me to my childhood home. Moist and dense, with the thick, sticky sweetness of dates and the mealy, crunchiness of walnuts, it’s a delicious combination of complex tastes and contrasting textures. I serve it for breakfast, with soup for lunch, snack on it, and, for a simple dessert, pair it with cheeses and slices of pears and apples.
Like the name for this type of bread implies, this little winner comes together quickly. After softening the dates and butter in hot water and baking soda for 20 minutes, it takes less than 10 minutes of active time to prepare the bread for the oven. When my mother made it, she baked it in a six-cup loaf pan. At our elevation, I get better results using a six-cup Bundt pan which provides heat through both the pan’s center tube and its sides and cooks the batter more rapidly and uniformly.
Because it’s moist and dense, it has a longer shelf-life than many other breads. Store it, wrapped air-tight, in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for a month.
Date nut quick bread
Adjusted for elevations of 7,000 and above
Make in a 6-cup Bundt pan, preferably non-stick
1 cup chopped dates
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, preferably superfine
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preparation: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center position. Generously grease the six-cup Bundt pan (even if it’s non-stick) with a baking spray that contains flour. Put the chopped dates and baking soda in a medium bowl and toss to mix. Cut the butter into small pieces and add them, with the boiling water, to the bowl. Stir gently to submerge everything in the hot water and set the bowl aside for 20 minutes.
Make the batter: Whisk the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl to blend well. Add the eggs and vanilla and, using a fork, stir to combine until all the ingredients are uniformly moistened. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in the date mixture and the chopped walnuts until combined.
Bake the bread: Pour the batter into the greased pan, leveling it as you go, and filling the pan only to about an inch and a half from the top (even if you have some batter left over). Place the pan directly on the oven rack so that hot air can circulate up the center tube of the pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, from 45-50 minutes, but start checking earlier. Don’t overbake or the bread will lose its lovely moist texture.
Cool and store the bread: Remove the pan from the oven and cool the bread in the pan for about 15 minutes. Turn it out onto a rack and let it cool completely. Store the bread, well-covered, in the refrigerator for up to seven days or freeze it for a month.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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