Ten days after hand surgery, I’m unable to create new posts for Thanksgiving, so here’s one that features a recipe for date nut bread that has been on my family’s Thanksgiving table going back three generations…
Today is my grandmother’s birthday, and I decided to bake this rich date nut bread in her honor. She was the finest cook I ever knew, so creative that she was making risotto and paella in her tiny New York City kitchen, back when I was a small girl in the 1950’s. Even as her sight was fading and she was partially blind, my grandmother threw dinner parties and cooked everything herself. My “Moo Moo” taught me a lot about cooking, setting a beautiful table and, more importantly, how to be a good hostess to friends and family who eat at our table.
My grandmother got this recipe from her brother’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Gordon. Although I knew my great-uncle and his wife quite well, I never met the famous Mrs. Gordon, but am the third generation of women in my family to bake her dense fruit bread, studded with dates and crunchy walnuts. Come to think of it, I think my great-grandmother had this recipe before the rest of us did.
Many thanks to the friendly folks at Natural Delights for sending me a huge box of gorgeous Medjool dates. Standing at my kitchen counter while I pitted dates for my bread, I remembered how this was one of my first tasks in the kitchen when my mother allowed me to use a knife.
My mother loved this bread, and always served it at Thanksgiving, as did her mother before her. I sometimes balk at serving a sweet bread with a turkey dinner, but it is kind of Midwestern, like my grandmother was, and I am very sentimental about my family, especially around holidays.
Happy Birthday, Moo Moo, and thank you for all the gifts you gave to me throughout your long life.
- 1 cup pitted dates, chopped
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 1 teaspoon for greasing pan
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1¾ cups unbleached flour
- ½ cup walnuts, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease a loaf pan with butter.
- Place the dates in a small bowl and sprinkle with the baking soda. Add the boiling water and let stand for 30 minutes.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, egg and butter until smooth.
- Add the salt, flour and nuts and mix on low until just blended.
- Stir in the dates-soda-water mixture.
- Pour into greased loaf pan.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes until tester inserted in bread's center comes out clean.
- Allow to cool 10 minutes before turning out on a rack. Slice when cooled.