Date and Walnut Bread:
8 ounces (225 grams) dried pitted dates, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups firmly packed coarsely chopped dates)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
1/2 cup (50 grams) walnuts
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (105 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup (113 grams) cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Date Walnut Bread: In a bowl mix the chopped dates with the baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Pour 1 cup (240 ml) of boiling water over the dates, stir, and leave to cool to room temperature (this takes about 30 minutes).
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan. Then line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper.
Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 - 10 minutes or until lightly brown and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely.
In your food processor place the flour, sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and ground cinnamon. Process to combine and then add the butter. Process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl and stir in the chopped walnuts.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the vanilla extract.
Then add the beaten egg mixture and the cooled dates (along with the water) to the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Place the batter into your prepared pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon. Bake about 55 to 65 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out just clean. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. This bread will keep for several days at room temperature. It can also be frozen.
Makes one - 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf.
Date Walnut Bread is a very nice tea bread bursting with the flavor of sweet dates and crunchy walnuts. Jean Anderson tells us in her book 'The American Century Cookbook' that the first recipes for this bread began to appear in the 1920s, and it was so popular in the 1930s that it was used to make tea sandwiches. In fact, these tea sandwiches are so delicious you may want to try them. Take two thin slices of your Date and Walnut Bread and sandwich them together with a layer of cream cheese or butter. Then cut the bread into fingers, squares or triangles.
The name 'date' comes from the Greek "daktulos" which means "finger" and refers to its' shape. Dates are the sweet fruit of the palm tree and they grow in large bunches, with each date measuring between 1 - 3 inches (2.5 - 7.5 cm) long. A large part of the date crop is dried which increases its already high sugar concentration and keeps the dates from spoiling. When dates are dried they become sticky, soft and plump, and the skin of the date seems to disappear as it cannot be distinguished from the flesh. For this recipe we are using dried pitted dates. If the dates you buy still have their pits, you will need to remove them. Just cut a slit down the length of the date with a sharp knife and then slide out the small smooth pit. Dried dates can be found in the produce section of your grocery store. I usually buy the ones that are packed in either boxes or plastic tubs. Always check the dates for any signs of mold. Now, the first step in making this bread is to place the coarsely chopped dried dates in a bowl along with the baking soda and a pinch of salt. Then pour one cup (240 ml) of boiling water over the dates, stir, and leave to cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes). This is done to soften the tough outer skin of the dates. When you make your batter the dates, along with the liquid, are added.