Monday, December 21, 2009

Date Nut Spice Bread

After I blogged about Ina Garten's latest cookbook, Back to Basics, I decided to flip through it and try another recipe.  It was Sunday morning (okay, more like Sunday afternoon) and I didn't want to do our traditional bacon and pancakes or waffles weekend brunch, so I opted for Ina's Date Nut Spice Bread

Believe it or not, I had never eaten dates, but I like to try new stuff, so I picked up a box a few weeks ago.  I had been considering using them to make sticky toffee pudding or wrapping them in proscuitto or doing something fancy, but then I saw this recipe and figured that this was just a good a time as any to bust out the exotic dried fruits. 

I don't particularly like nuts in my baked goods, but I don't hate nuts, so I went ahead and kept them in the recipe.  I just opted to chop them up really small with my mini food processor.

I like that this bread isn't loaded with fat (only 1/2 stick butter).  It also isn't super sugary, so it can be eaten alone or with a topping.  Ina's recipe included a cream cheese spread, but I kept it real and topped my warm bread with real butter.  Why go through the hassle of making specialty cream cheese when good ol' butter will do?

This bread makes me think of weekend brunch.  It would be great for company, or you can be like me and enjoy it at the dashboard diner on the way to work the next day.  With my coffee in my cup holder and this bread balanced on my console I'm ready for my one hour commute!  Enjoy!

Date Nut Spice Bread
from Back to Basics by Ina Garten

2 cups coarsely chopped dates (10 ounces pitted)  mine came in an 8 oz. box and that was plenty
1/3 cup orange liqueur (recommended: Cointreau or Triple Sec)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges) I zested 4 clementines
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves I didn't have any cloves, so I replaced them with cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 oranges) I cheated and used Tropicana
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (3 ounces) I used walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pan.

Combine the dates and orange liqueur in a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. With the mixer still on low, add the flour mixture alternately with the orange juice to the creamed mixture, beating only until combined. By hand, stir in the dates with their liquid, and the pecans.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

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