After making the New York Times recipe for Sweet and Spicy Chicken, I had some leftover Tunisian dates. The dates definitely made the chicken dish more interesting, but I still prefer dates as dessert or breakfast and was happy to have enough left to make what I'm calling "Tunisian Date Nut Bread". Now doesn't that sound fancy?
You can most definitely use any dates for this bread, but I used Tunisian dates because I liked the looks of them and they were on sale. Also known as Golden Dates or "Deglet Noir" (Queen of Dates), the Tunisian dates are a little bit firmer than Medjool dates and have a light vanilla and honey flavor. Even after being soaked in water, the Tunisian dates still have some "bite" to them which I prefer over the borderline mushiness of some other dates. I'd go so far as to say Tunisian dates are my new favorite.
The Perfect Recipe
As for the bread, this recipe was deemed "perfect" by the baker and cookbook author Murray Jaffee who included it in his Perfect Recipe Baking Book. I'm assuming he Mr. Jaffe has tried a lot more date nut bread recipes than I have, so I'll take his word. In my personal opinion, it is a very good bread and with the dark brown sugar, nuts and spices, there's a lot going on!
Loaf Pan Size
Mr. Jaffe's original recipe is for an 8 ½ by 4 ½ or 9x5 inch loaf and should look tall and stately if you use that size pan. My loaf, as photographed, is a bit stubbier because I halved the recipe and used an 8x4 inch pan. I wish I hadn't halved it because I like a taller loaf, but I only had 4 oz of dates. Another thing I wish is that I had more dates so that I could try this recipe with Tunisian olive oil. With all of the other flavors in this bread, butter is not really one you'd miss and the olive oil would taste good and keep the Tunisian theme going. If you try it with olive oil, let me know what you think.
Date Nut Bread
- ¾ cup boiling water
- 8 oz dates chopped (weigh)
- ¼ cup salted butter softened
- ¾ cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 9 oz
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- 1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts or pecans
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5 inch or an 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf pan and line with a strip of parchment paper. Dust with flour and set aside.
- Combine the boiling water and the chopped dates and set aside for 15 minutes.
- In a mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until well-blended. Add the vanilla and beat well, then add eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together for 15 seconds. Add the flour and the buttermilk to the egg mixture alternately, stirring after each addition, until fully blended.
- Stir the dates and water into the batter, then stir in the nuts.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake on the center rack for about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pan for about 15 minutes, then loosen sides and let cool completely.