southern California date nut bread
February 29, 2012 § 3 Comments
One of my childhood food memories is Van de Kamp’s date nut bread that mom would buy as a breakfast treat. I liked it best toasted. I remember its deep molasses color in contrast to the white smear of cream cheese, very moist texture and sweetness.
The Van de Kamp’s bakery belongs to Los Angeles’ past now. It started as a family-owned business in 1915 that expanded to a chain of bakery outlets with a central production facility in just fifteen years. Distribution then started into grocery stores, and the business grew to include coffee shops and later frozen foods. Starting in the 1950’s it changed hands a few times, with part of the operation becoming a national brand under Pillsbury Co. in 1984. Around the same time, an East Coast bakery named Entenmann’s entered the California market by building a modern bakery plant and distributing a streamlined product line into supermarkets. Van de Kamp’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1990, its date nut bread and windmill cookies gone forever. I found a recipe and tweaked it to come up with a date nut loaf that lacks the dark color, but has the same sweet moist dense taste that I remember.
My sis sent me 5 pounds of California Palm desert dates (three varieties) and large pecans from Georgia for Christmas. They’re both delicious, and having a surplus of dates inspired me to make the date nut bread.
The liquid ingredient for this recipe is dates puréed with water. Check carefully to make sure you’ve gotten all the pits out! Lovely burnished loaves just out of the oven.
Date Nut Bread
(makes 2 loaves; recipe works at 5000 ft.)
1/2 pound moist fresh dates, pitted
2 cups water
juice of one orange
2 cups (10 oz.) all-purpose flour
1 cup (5 oz.) whole wheat or emmer flour (or use all-purpose)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 oz. butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped
Butter and lightly flour two loaf pans. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Place the pitted dates into the blender container and add enough water to cover them. Purée until smooth, add the rest of the water and the orange juice and blend again. Set aside.
Combine the flours, baking powder and baking soda and mix thoroughly to blend.
Cream the butter, sugar and salt in the mixer until lightened. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each; add the vanilla.
Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients mixing just enough to combine after each addition. Start with 1/3 of the dry, 1/2 of wet, 1/3 dry, rest of wet, rest of dry. Scrape the sides of the bowl down once or twice during this process. Add the chopped nuts and fold into the batter. The batter should look somewhat smooth.
Divide the batter between the two loaf pans and spread so it’s level. Bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean or with just a few crumbs. Rotate the pans if needed for even baking. Cool for 15 minutes, remove from pans and let loaves cool on a rack. This bread keeps well wrapped, and can be sliced and frozen (place wax paper between the slices).