I met my friend Marie at my first full-time job when we both worked for Domino Sugar as secretaries. Marie was almost 30 years older than I was, but she was a fellow Italian foodie so we had a lot in common. In those days, when we swapped recipes, we would type them up on recipe cards and pass them along. I still have several of Marie’s recipes on the original cards she typed up for me.
Of all the recipes Marie gave me, my favorite is the one for date nut bread. To me, the holidays aren’t complete without a loaf of this wonderfully moist dessert bread, loaded with dates and walnuts. It is delicious on its own and fabulous slathered with cream cheese and a cup of coffee for a breakfast treat or after a meal as dessert. I like to cut it very thinly and make a cream cheese tea sandwich out of it—very, very yummy!
When Marie gave me this recipe, she told me that she actually preferred the taste of the date nut bread after it had been frozen and then taken out to thaw. I agreed with her because the flavors seemed to meld and the date nut bread got even moister. It’s a great make-ahead dessert for the holidays when you have so much else going on.
Marie and I stayed in contact for years after she retired and after I moved away to Chicago, still exchanging recipes, until sadly she passed away a couple of years ago just shy of her 90th birthday. Her recipes live on, and I think of her fondly whenever I make and serve them to my family.
Date Nut Bread
- 1 8-oz. package dates
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tbl. Crisco
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
Cut dates in large chunks (halves or thirds) and place in medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle baking soda over dates.
Cream Crisco and sugar in large mixing bowl. (I usually mix up this recipe by hand using a wooden spoon.) Add egg and mix well. Add vanilla; then salt. Add flour to creamed mixture, alternately with date mixture. Mix well and then stir in nuts.
I’ve looked at recipes for date nut bread online and found many complaints in the reviews as to how the bread didn’t cook well in the middle. I was very surprised to see that not one of the various recipes I looked at called for using a long skinny loaf pan that is traditional for this dense batter. My loaf pan is 13″ x 4″ which is not easy to find these days, but Amazon does carry one. There is no way that this bread will bake properly in a 9″ x 5″ or even an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. So, don’t attempt this recipe unless you have a long skinny loaf pan. Alternatively, you could bake it in a few 5 3/4″ x 3 1/4 ” mini loaf pans which make a nice gift-sized loaf.
Source: Marie, my long-time friend, co-worker, and fellow Italian foodie