Every Christmas that I can remember my mom made this date-nut bread (along with many other sweets). I have absolutely no idea why she never made it at any other time of the year, as we all loved it as did the many recipients of her holiday largesse. It was a bit expensive so that may be why she kept it as a special – and, guess what, it is still a bit expensive to make, but that didn’t keep me from adding it to this year’s holiday baking. It is very easy to make and makes a lovely gift, particularly when accompanied by orange-flavored cream cheese or cinnamon-scented mascarpone.
I like to serve it slightly warm – and I always cut one “tester” to taste. Date-nut bread freezes very well.
My Mom’s Super Date-Nut Bread
Makes three 6-inch loaves
1 pound whole pitted dates
1 teaspoon baking soda
1¼ cups boiling water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg, slightly beaten, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups walnut halves or large pieces
Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
Lightly coat the interior of three 6-inch loaf pans with nonstick baking spray, such as Baker’s Joy.
Place the dates in a heat-proof mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the baking soda. Pour the boiling water over the dates. Add the butter and, using a wooden spoon, mix just until the butter melts.
Stir in the sugar, mixing until it begins to dissolve. Stir in the beaten egg, vanilla, and salt. When blended, stir in the flour, a bit at a time. When all of the flour has been added, beat well to incorporate thoroughly.
Stir in the walnuts.
Scrape an equal portion of the batter into each prepared pan.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Raise the temperature to 350ºF and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and invert onto a wire rack. Drop the breads from the pan and turn them right side up to cool.
When cool, wrap in plastic film or aluminum foil and store, refrigerated, for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature or reheat slightly before cutting and serving.