Tu B'Shevat is one of the lesser known Jewish holidays, but also one of the more delicious ones. From my childhood I remember it as a time when my mom would buy dried figs that came in a wreath of sorts, the figs tied together with string.
I ate dozens of them.
It was also when she made her fabulous Date-Nut Bread. She served the slices like a sandwich, with cream cheese slathered between the layers.
I ate dozens of those too.
My cousin reminded me that her mother and mine baked Date-Nut bread in a coffee can. Yes, of course! Because our mothers were married young women during WWII, when metal -- and therefore loaf pans and other assorted baking equipment -- was in short supply. So they kept the cans from ground coffee and other foods such as fruit cocktail and used those instead.
I recently made a batch of date-nut bread using my mom's recipe. I used a loaf pan and was a little disappointed. Not in the pan. In the bread. It seemed dry. Maybe I over baked it. Not sure, but I always loved this recipe, so I tried again but made a few changes.
I used less flour.
I also thought it might be a good idea to include some figs (or, frankly, any other dried fruit) with the dates and I also thought the flavor would perk up a bit with a small amount of fresh orange peel.
My mother added Madeira or sherry, but because I had a lovely sample of Cherry Heering that I got at Kosherfest, I used that instead. She also mixed in walnuts but because of allergies, I replaced them with toasted almonds.
Of course, the bread was completely different with all these changes.
I loved it.
Especially when sliced and slathered with cream cheese.
Mom’s Date-Nut Bread New Version
- 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped dates
- 1 cup chopped dried figs, apricots, cranberries, cherries, prunes or raisins
- 1 cup chopped toasted almonds
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons Orange brandy, cherry Heering, Madeira, Port or Sherry wine
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup boiling water
- cream cheese, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 8”x4-1/2”x3” loaf pan (or a one-pound coffee can). Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Add the fruits and nuts and toss the ingredients to coat the fruit with the flour mixture. In another bowl, combine the vegetable oil, wine and egg. Pour the boiling water into the fruit-flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the egg mixture and blend it in thoroughly. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack to cool completely. Slice and serve plain or with cream cheese.
Makes one loaf