Delicious, Easy & Healthy Date Nut Bread
The World's Natural Beauty
I remember my mother buying a can of date nut bread for the holidays. So we had it at Thanksgiving and Christmas and the rest of the year we never thought about it. The memory is strong, not because the bread was so good, but because it came out of a can and it was round and for children, that was very interesting.
We children spread a little butter on ours, but I've since come to realize that it's actually much better plain with good strong coffee or maybe spread with a little bit of softened cream cheese.
After not having date nut bread for 15 years, I suddenly found myself making my own this year. I think it was because I found a container of chopped dried dates on sale for half price two days after Christmas. And after all, half-price is half-price, you have to buy it. When you get home with the unusual ingredient, then you figure out what to do with it.
So as New Year's approached I experimented. Although not a scientist, my experiments were fruitful. This is a flavorful moist quick bread, far better than anything I had as a child. And it has a mild flavor, which means children are more likely to enjoy it, not the strong flavor of the dark bread that comes in the can. It's also a quick bread that is very adaptable; there are a number of options, additions, changes you can make so that the recipe is uniquely yours and suits your family's tastes.
GETTING READY TO COOK
So let's begin with the ingredients list. You want to assemble your dry and wet ingredients separately and then combine them right before baking.
The Dry Ingredients
2 cups self rising flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
10 packets Splenda, NutraSweet
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Combine the ingredients well, making sure to get all the lumps out of the brown sugar. Set aside while you combine your wet ingredients. Then, combine 1/2 cup of chopped dates with 1/3 cup water and cover loosely with plastic. Place in microwave for 30 seconds. Remove, stir well, and return to microwave for another 30 seconds. Set aside and allow mixture to cool before you blend it in with your wet ingredients.
Set your oven to 350 degrees, but it runs a little hot, try 325. If your oven runs cool, try 375. Either way, I recommend checking and rotating the pan 180 degrees every five minutes during the cooking time, to make sure your bread is browning evenly. If you trust your oven and it cooks consistently and predictably, you can ignore this suggestion.
Thoroughly grease or spray an 8 x 8 baking dish or pan. I do not recommend a traditional loaf pan, because that produces a bread that is so thick that it is very difficult to get it done in the middle before it burns on the edges.
The Wet Ingredients
1 cup 2% or whole milk
two eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
date and water mixture
Combine ingredients well. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry folding as you go. When all ingredients are well mixed, pour the batter into a greased 8 x 8 baking dish or pan. Usually this bread is done and very lightly browned within 25 to 30 minutes.
However, I recommend that you begin checking your bread at 20 minutes to gauge whether it is cooking rapidly or slowly. I would recommend the fingertip test, but the last time I used it my bread seemed nice and firm. My finger left no impression so I removed the bread from the oven.
When we sliced into the loaf, the center was still wet and uncooked. I highly recommend you use the old standby of inserting a butter knife into the center to see if it comes out clean or sticky. As of course you know, sticky, is an indication to give your bread a few more minutes.
BREAKFAST, LUNCH, OR DINNER
This bread is wonderful hot from the oven, but it is also good cold, and it is also good toasted three days later. I have never actually had it last three days, but if it did….well, you could toast it. It would probably also go well with Apple Butter.
This date nut bread is excellent for breakfast, brunch, or just snacking. It is flavorful and sweet enough to serve as a dessert, either plain or with a very light dusting of powdered sugar. And you certainly don't need to wait for a holiday to make this. It's quick, it's easy, and it's really good.
It's also easy to make it if you don't have all the specified ingredients. Below is a list of possible substitutions. Any of these would work depending on what you have in the house, and on your personal tastes. I wish you Happy Baking!
The cup of milk can be replaced with orange juice or pineapple juice. Both give an interesting citrusy undertone to the bread, reminiscent of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern taste combinations.
There is no reason why you cannot substitute half a cup of walnuts or hazelnuts or even cashews, for the pecans. If you choose to use cashews, you'll want to rinse them under warm water to remove the excess salt.
Which brown sugar you use is entirely up to you. I have made this recipe with Light Brown Sugar and Dark Brown Sugar. It is delicious either way, it is simply a matter of preference or of what you happen to already have in your kitchen…or of what your next door neighbor happens to have in his or her pantry.
You could play with the spices, adding a little more or less cinnamon, or using half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg or even ground allspice, instead of the ginger. However, allspice does have a very strong and distinctive flavor, but if you like it, you might want to first try using a quarter teaspoon of allspice.
For a healthier, but denser bread you could substitute a cup of whole wheat flour for one of the cups of flour called for in the recipe. The texture of your bread will be heavier and you might want to watch it more closely in the oven to determine exactly when it is done.
If the bread is too sweet for your taste, you can cut back on the number of packets of Splenda or NutraSweet. If you want a sweeter you could use 12 packets, for a less sweet bread, try using 8 packets of sweetener. I have never cooked with Truvia, so I can't tell you what to expect if you made that substitution. Once again, Happy Baking!
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