Posted Nov 20, 2010 in Food | 0 Comments

How to be Impressive: Date Spice Loaf

The first thing you should know about this loaf: it tastes a lot better when it isn’t caramelizing your tongue. I have a long history of indulging in baked goods while they are still internally cooking, and not being able to taste anything for the following week as a result. I’ve discovered that in cases of zero-self-control, such as my own, it’s best to remove baked good from oven and promptly leave the house. Going for a run is a good bet. If you’re anything like me you’ll cut your 10K time by a third just to get back to the densely-crumbed promise studded with fresh dates and walnuts that languishes on your counter. It’ll also be your justification when you find yourself 6 inches deep into the 9 inch loaf pan.

The second thing you should know about this loaf is that it will make you generally popular and well liked. It’s the combination of warming spices and orange, and how you can’t help but look completely benevolent when you’re carrying a wholesome loaf into a classroom or office. Try not to confuse the sentiment by being too sassy right off the bat (this last sentence also serves as a note-to-self).

Date Spice Loaf
1 1/2 cups fresh dates, pitted and coarsely chopped*
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 cup neutral oil
1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/3 cup triple sec
3/4 cup milk
2 zested oranges.

*If you’ve checked every Mediterranean and specialty market in your area and still can’t find fresh dates, dried will work as well. For plumping purposes, warm the triple sec before you soak the dried dates.
In a small bowl, soak the dates in the triple sec, stirring occasionally, for a half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a loaf pan (or a cake pan. I’ve made this in both with great results. Just remember that greater the surface area = less baking time). Whisk sugar and oil together. Once combined, add egg, vanilla, and orange zest, and whisk until the mixture is lemon-colored and well combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Add the dates and their liquid, mix gently to distribute. Alternating between the egg-mixture and the milk, add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold together to combine. The mixture will be a little stiff. I have an inherent distrust of dry-looking batters, but it’s important to fight the urge to over-moisten. You’ll end up with a completely unappetizing, yeasty pudding. Anyway. Smooth the top of the batter and bake for 50-60 minutes. When a knife or toothpick comes out of the center clean, the loaf is done baking. Turn off the oven and get out of the house. I want you to be able to taste this, not just consume it.

This pairs ridiculously well with spiked eggnog, or eggnog’d coffee. If you’re as particular as I am, get your ass down to Caffe Fantastico’s Roastery location (Quadra and Kings) and snatch up some Sumatra Mandheling. The medium roast has notes of coconut and praline-pecan that beg to be accentuated by a spicy homemade eggnog and a slice of loaf. Happy freezing-cold-temperatures! Lets toast and embrace our winter weight gain.

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