Christine Hessert of Bangor kindly supplied the recipe for this week. At the end of last year, I put out a plea for date nut bread, and like Christine, probably lots of you were so busy with holiday preparations that you had no time for digging out recipes to send me.
In fact, Christine wrote, “With all the hustle and bustle of Christmas, I didn’t get around to sending you one of my recipes for date nut bread.” This recipe came to her from an elderly aunt 30 to 40 years ago. She makes it for Thanksgiving along with several other breads since her holiday has 35-50 people in attendance.
You don’t need to wait until next Thanksgiving, though, to give this chocolaty bread a try. Plain slices are lovely alone with tea or you can make richly sweet tea sandwiches by spreading slices with a cream cheese frosting.
You also can turn this loaf into dessert by putting a scoop of ice cream on a slab of the bread and squirting whipped cream or dribbling chocolate sauce on top.
In the tradition of all recipe tweakers, I jacked up the chocolate content by adding a couple of tablespoons of dry cocoa to the dry ingredients. To simplify cleanup, instead of melting the chocolate squares in a separate pan, I broke them up and put them in the same hot water that I added to the dates. Use sweet, semisweet or unsweetened chocolate squares, depending on your taste. It occurred to me that the recipe might even bear the addition of chocolate chips along with the nuts.
Messing around with date nut breads has educated me on dates. I used the kind of pre-chopped dates you can obtain in the baking section and I also used a slab of pitted dates labeled “baking dates” that I found near figs in the fruit and vegetable section of the store.
I didn’t think chopping the slab up was too tedious a chore even though they are a bit sticky. The pre-chopped ones, of course, are terribly convenient because you can just dump them out into a measuring cup, but you know as well as I that you pay for the convenience and, in the case of dates, the manufacturers add dextrose to prevent clumping.
Chocolate Date Nut Bread
Yields one 9-by-5-inch loaf
1 cup boiling water
2 ounces chocolate
1 cup chopped pitted dates
1 cup sugar
¼ cup butter or shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sifted flour
2 tablespoons baking cocoa (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 350 and grease 9-by-5-inch loaf pan (or two smaller ones). Break chocolate squares coarsely with heavy knife, and put chocolate and dates in bowl and pour boiling water over them. Cream together sugar and butter, beat in egg and vanilla. Sift together dry ingredients and add to butter and sugar mixture alternately with date and chocolate mixture, beating well after each addition. Fold in nuts. Pour into loaf pan and bake for an hour or slightly more, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn out of pan to finish cooling.
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