Tu B'Shevat

Mom's Date-Nut Bread

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

 

Mom’s Date-Nut Bread

Why was old-fashioned Date-Nut Bread baked in a round pan?

Yesterday, when I posted about my cousin’s Date-Nut Bread, I mentioned that her mother and mine made this stuff inside a coffee can or other, smaller cans. And then I remembered that even the commercial loaves were cylindrical, so the slices came out round.

Why was that?

When you make Banana Bread or Lemon-Cranberry Bread it’s usually in a loaf pan. I use a bundt pan for a big recipe.

Anyone know why Date-Nut Breads are cylindrical?

Anyway, I also mentioned yesterday that my mother had a great recipe for Date-Nut Bread. I searched my files and — I found it! This bread was sooooooo delicious. She made me sandwiches using this as the bread and a layer of cream cheese in the middle. Oh, do I wish I had some right now.

Although my mother baked Date-Nut Bread in a one-pound coffee can the batter also fits nicely inside a standard 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. It is a terrific snack for anytime, and makes a perfect treat for Tu B’Shevat.

Mom’s Date-Nut Bread

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, margarine or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons Madeira, Port or Sherry wine
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • cream cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9’x5”x3” loaf pan (or a one-pound coffee can). Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Add the raisins, dates and nuts and toss the ingredients to coat the fruit with the flour mixture. In another bowl, combine the melted butter, Madeira 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

Marlene's Date-Nut Bread

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.  
 Like dates. 
 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.  
 Date-Nut Bread 
 1 large orange 
 boiling water 
 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

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. 

Like dates.

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. 

Date-Nut Bread

1 large orange

boiling water

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