As a pre-schooler, I was offered a piece of ‘brown’ bread. I was enthralled, but as I went through life, no ‘brown’ bread ever tasted as good as that, so I'd get mad. Years later my mother’s friend, who’d originally offered it to me, told me that ‘brown’ bread was her own term for date loaf. Since then, I whump this up as a special treat.
This loaf is full of healthy ingredients so I shouldn’t feel guilty, but as I’m prone to gluttonizing, I rarely make it. But this morning I was staring at the remains of a large bag of walnuts, a few left over shards of cassia, a tiny bit of jaggery, and an old box of medjool dates.
Normally, these dates are as soft and luscious as home made caramels, but this box was on the dry side from the get go, so I’ve only used them for cooking. My rationale was that if I used them all up today, I could buy another box of fresher dates soon.
This recipe has been adapted from my old stand by, my 1971 copy of The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook. This makes one loaf, baked at 350F and it takes at least two hours by the time the loaf is cool enough to eat.
15 dates, pitted, and chopped into various sizes
1 cup water
5 skinny shards Cassia * (you can omit)
|Pits come out easily when dates are old and dry...|
¼ cup butter
½ cup molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 green cardamom pods, husked and ground
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons jaggery powder
|Re-hydrated and thickened somewhat|
Because my dates were on the dry side, I simmered them in one cup of water, along with the cassia pieces. I had chopped them into various sizes, because when I’m eating the loaf, I love getting the occasional huge bit. I counted the cassia pieces carefully, knowing I’d need to count again when I removed them later. (I added it only because I’m trying to use these skinny shards up.)
Once the dates were moist, I removed from heat to cool.
|Powdered jaggery, gur, shakkar, it's better than brown sugar...|
Cream the butter, then add the molasses, and continue to beat. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating. Turn off the machine, and add flour, salt, baking soda and powder, cinnamon and ground cardamom. Turn machine on to slow speed, and add the cooled date mixture. Fold in the walnut pieces. Turn into a well buttered loaf pan.
Smooth out the batter, and sprinkle the jaggery over the top. Bake at 350 F for 55 to 60 minutes, when a toothpick comes out clean.
Rest in the pan for five minutes, then flip over onto a cooling rack. Remove from pan, let cool at least thirty minutes. Slice and enjoy. Feed at least one piece to a young child, and tell her it’s ‘brown’ bread, so as to forever confound her mother when she madly refuses to eat normal ‘brown’ bread ever again.
|Crunchy jaggery caramel on top is especially delicious!|