Sunday, December 7, 2008

Two Old Fashioned Breads: Date Nut Loaf and Whole Wheat Raisin Bread

Much of eating is about nostalgia--just watch Ratatouilli--and this is why I made these two breads. Visits to my Grandma Clark were quiet but special. Even while playing on her special back exerciser, things didn't get too out of hand. During the visit, grandma would disappear into the kitchen and reappear with little plates of spice cake, raisin cake, or any such mystery cake containing raisins, nuts, molasses, or whole grains. Her cakes were like her personality: unassuming and down to earth.
The Date-Nut Loaf is a little more refined than grandma would have made. It's light in color and enriched with a little cream cheese in the batter. Also, grandma would have never used this much butter in a lowly loaf cake. It turned out nice, but be careful not to overbake or it will be very dry. This recipe is from Dori Greenspan's Baking.

Date-Nut Loaf
2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
3 oz cream cheese, room temp
3/4 c. light brown sugar
4 lg. eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract
1 c soft pitted dates, each cut into 8 pieces
1 c. walnuts, chopped

Grease and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or two regular sheets stacked one on top of the other.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Working with a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed untl very smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, another 3 minutes or so. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the extracts. The batter may look curdled - that's okay. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Fold in the dates and nuts with a spatula.
Turn batter into pan and bake for 40 minutes, then cover the top of the cake loosely with a foil tent and bake for another 40 minutes or so (total baking time 1 hour 20 minutes). (Note: I only baked this about one hour and it seemed very done - even with the knife test.)

Whole Wheat Currant Bread
(adapted from Nick Malgieri's The Modern Baker)
I was really happy with this bread. It was substantial without being heavy, had a nice flavor, and made an excellent breakfast bread toasted with butter. This bread is more Grandma Clark's speed: dark, healthy, and you don't need a KitchenAid to make it.

2 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 lg. eggs
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. dark brown sugar
1/3 c. oil
3/4 c. buttermilk or milk
2 c. dried currants (or chopped raisins)
1/2 c. chopeed nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch pan. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl and stir to mix.
In large bowl whisk eggs, add sugars. Whisk in oil and milk, one at a time, whisking until smooth after each. Scrape batter into pan and smooth the top. Bake until well-risen and toothpick emerges clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool bread in pan 5 minutes, then unmold and cool completely before slicing.
Fold in flour to egg mixture. Quickly fold in currants. Scrape batter

1 comment:

Linda said...

Geez Cathy your baking up a storm. just showed Katie all your good stuff on your blog and it is very impressive. I had a good laugh at Grandmas exercise machine that sometimes would pinch ones finger if not careful. Do you remember that baby blue colour?

I will defiinitely try the date bread for Paul's Mom and Dad - They'll love it.

Wish we lived in the same city so I could pay you the bake for me -- Linda lou