If your mother baked Date-Nut Bread when you were a kid you’re probably over “that certain age.” Not that I’m sure what that age is, but I am at it, for sure and so is my second-cousin Marlene, who lives in Haifa, Israel.
Both our mothers (who were first-cousins) made Date-Nut Bread and it wasn’t a dessert. It was for “just in case company comes.” Or for school lunch sandwiches, 2 slices smeared with a fat layer of cream cheese.
I have no idea why Date-Nut Bread fell out of favor. Just one of those 20th century popular things that came and went like Jello Mold and Beef Wellington.
I never baked one for my children, which is too bad, because after my cousin sent me the recipe and I thought about the sandwiches from the old days, I remembered how delicious those lunches were.
My mother always baked Date-Nut Bread in a coffee can. Marlene uses smaller cans. She baked up a batch for Tu B’Shevat, which falls this year next Wednesday, February 8th. It is customary on this minor Jewish holiday to cook and eat foods that contain one or more of the Seven Species that were abundant in Israel in biblical times.
Which makes old-fashioned Date-Nut Bread perfect for this holiday. Or anytime really.
Marlene says that her recipe began with one in The Elegant But Easy Cookbook by Marian Fox Burros and Lois Levine. I don’t have a copy of that book, but Marlene has also changed the recipe somewhat. Here it is as she gave it to me, with changes noted in the ingredient list.
I’ll have to scout out my Mom’s recipe and compare it.
1 large orange
2 tablespoons shortening or melted margarine or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped dates (or use one full cup)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (leave out if using 1 cup chopped dates)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. Grate the peel of an orange into a bowl. Squeeze the juice from the orange into a measuring cup and add enough boiling water to make one cup. Pour into the bowl with the peel. Stir in the shortening, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar and stir until the shortening has melted. Beat in the egg. Add the flour and stir to blend ingredients. Fold in the dates and nuts. Spoon the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If you use round cans, add batter to the halfway mark and time the bread according to the can size. Makes one loaf