Friday, June 7, 2013

Flashback Friday: Colonial Date-Nut Bread

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

Everything about this recipe intrigued me, not to mention the fact that the recipe belonged to my great-grandma.   Hmmm, where to start?  I've heard of baking bread in cans but have never actually done it, that is until now.  When I asked my great-aunt about this recipe she explained the reasoning behind the cans, "to make the loaf round, of course."  Any other shape is apparently unthinkable.

I was more interested in the recipe method than the can aspect.  The first step of the recipe involves pouring boiling water over your dates, baking soda and butter.  I was puzzled by the concept of dissolving the baking soda in boiling water rather than adding it at the end with the dry ingredients.  Wouldn't it lose some of it's leavening power? Then again, the amount of soda is quite high for the amount of flour used, and there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of activating acidic ingredients.  Perhaps the soda is just there to help soften the dates.  Trusting my great-grandma's experience rather than my over-thinking-the-science perspective, I went ahead with the recipe.  But to be honest, I was half expecting a flop with that soapy baking soda aftertaste.

Fortunately these round slices have sweet date and vanilla flavors.  They also taste surprisingly buttery, especially considering the batter has only 2 tsp of butter.  For some reason I expected a pale bread studded with dates and nuts.  Instead the loaves turned a dark brown similar to a molasses bread.  These sweet, sticky loaves were most unusual, to say the least.  Though a little on the sweet side for me, it's not hard to see how the seeming unusual quickly turns to a usual treat.

Mother's Colonial Date-Nut Bread
recipe from my great-aunt, who got it from her mother, my great-grandmother

1-1/2 cups dates, chopped
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp butter
1 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 3 No. 2-1/2 cans**(see note below)
* To a large bowl add dates, baking soda and butter.  Pour in boiling water and let cool to lukewarm.
* Add sugar, egg and vanilla, mixing well. Stir in flour and salt then fold in nuts.  Pour into prepared cans and bake 50-60 minutes (or less if using smaller cans as described below).  Let stand in cans 5 minutes before turning out.  

**A No. 2-1/2 can holds approximately 3-1/2 cups and usually contains food weighing 27 to 29 ounces.  If you don't have 3 cans this size try replacing one or more cans with two 15-ounce cans each (also called No. 300 cans, these cans hold approximately 2 cups).  Reduce the baking time for the smaller cans.  I made half of a recipe and used one 28-ounce can and one 15-ounce can.

Food for Thought: "The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, familiar things new." -William Makepeace Thackeray

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this recipe! We lost my grandmother's recipe. Hers was exactly the same, only a larger batch. (12 cans) We used empty vegetable cans with the golden interior colored lining. This recipe can be doubled or tripled!