This morning My littlest said, “Mommy can we keep the oven open today? It still smells so good from the date bread. The whole house smells yummy when its open”
Why not, who wouldn’t want a house that smells like sugary gooey nutty goodness?
When my gang was very young we lived walking distance from the train that took their Daddy into Chicago every day for work. We had three boys in three years so there were a few years that we spent a great deal of time either at home or pushing a double stroller. Baking and cooking was something we could do together. Usually one on the counter, one on a stool and another pulled close in his highchair. Our cooking was usually messy but always FUN. Sometimes I ended up in a sea of pots and pans and plastic containers covering the floor. They loved it.
Breads were popular, banana bread, zucchini bread, apple bread, date bread. Every bread was a vehicle for chocolate chips, especially banana bread. It was the perfect snack to travel with on walks. Especially the daily trek to the train to greet Dad. It was only about six blocks but when you have three year old legs and you are helping Mom push two babies in the stroller it may as well have been six miles. Fueled by their, off the wall, excitement to see Dad and wait for the Metra train to pull in they didn’t even notice the distance.
Walking in the door with Dad to the yummy smell of freshly baked sweet breads was always good. Now that they are all teens they still love to walk in the door to good smells and fresh sweet treats.
Today’s bread is one that brings me all the way back to my grandmothers kitchen. She used dates to sweeten several dishes. Oatmeal cookie sandwiches with date paste centers was my favorite. I loved cooking with her. She made cooking an act of love. This recipe is from my dear friend Diane who shares our love for dates. She makes this bread in recycled soup cans. I’ve tried it in loaf pans and cupcake tins but it just doesn’t come out as good as when it’s made in the cans. Not sure why but if it works, why not! Try it anyway you like and let me know what works for you. The low temperature and longer cook time makes for gooey, moist, rich bread that you will not be able to put down.
8 oz pitted dates (make sure they are fresh and moist)
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups boiling water
1/4 lb. (1/2 cup or 1 stick) butter (at room temp)
2 C sugar
2 eggs (at room temp)
4 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 C nuts
Preheat your oven to 275° (yes, very low temp)
Use 5 empty and clean #2 soup cans. spray them with non stick spray. set aside.
In a bowl add the dates and sprinkle the baking soda over the dates then pour the boiling water over the dates. Let this cool. I use a pair of kitchen shears to cut up the large dates into smaller chunks. Not too small, I like big pieces of date in the finished product.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add two eggs mix just enough to incorporate into batter.
Add 4 cups of sifted flour and salt. Then add nuts. Mix just until the flour is incorporated.
Remove mixing bowl and clean off paddle. Add the cooled date mixture to the batter and fold in with a spatula.
Fill 5 soup tins 2/3’s of the way full. Place tins on a cookie sheet. This is from experience, they will bubble up and drip onto the bottom of your stove if you don’t! You’re welcome!!
Cook for 45-60 minutes. I know that is a big spread but every oven cooks differently. It should look like a delicious muffin top at the top of the can. If you insert a tooth pick or wooden skewer and it comes out clean it is done.
Let the breads cool in the can. I have the best luck getting them out of the can when they are totally cool. Just gently loosen the top and give the can a bit of a squeeze. Turn upside down and your round, moist loaf will slide right out.
The top is the best part because of the crunchy, chewy crust but be sure to try a slice from inside the can. It’s so moist and sweet you may finish one loaf before you pack away the other four. Wrap them in plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator.