Dates and walnuts are nutritional powerhouses, full of fiber and omega-3 fats, respectively. Their sweet and fragrant flavors pair naturally together, especially in a classic date-nut quick bread. Unfortunately, date-nut bread often suffers from unmitigated sweetness and hard, chewy dates. We wanted a more wholesome loaf that was full of soft, sweet dates and toasty nuts and featured a tender, not-too-sweet crumb. Our first step was to soften the fibrous dates in an alkaline mix of hot water and baking soda; we included both the softened dates and their flavorful soaking liquid in the batter. Given the dates’ sweetness, we found that just ⅓ cup of dark brown sugar was enough to complement their flavor and give our loaf an appealing, rich color. Swapping out butter for canola oil was easy; we tasted no difference. Incorporating whole-wheat flour also seemed like a natural choice and, indeed, tasters loved the nutty, hearty flavor of this whole grain in combination with the dates and walnuts. We found we could use 75 percent whole-wheat flour, with just a bit of all-purpose flour providing structure and lift. For an accurate measurement of boiling water, bring a full kettle of water to a boil and then measure out the desired amount. Note that this recipe calls for an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan; if you use a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, the loaf will not be quite as tall.
- Yield: 12 Servings 1 Loaf
- 10 ounces pitted dates, chopped coarse (1⅔ cups)
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1½ cups (8¼ ounces) whole-wheat flour
- ½ cup (2½ ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 0.66 cup organic low-fat buttermilk
- 0.33 cup packed (2⅓ ounces) dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup expeller-pressed canola oil (click here for more information)
- 1 large organic egg
- 1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped coarse
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan. Combine dates, boiling water, and baking soda in medium bowl, cover, and let stand until dates have softened, about 30 minutes.
- Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. In separate bowl, whisk buttermilk, sugar, oil, and egg together until smooth, then stir in dates and their soaking liquid until combined. Using rubber spatula, gently fold buttermilk mixture into flour mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Gently fold in walnuts.
- Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until golden and skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 55 minutes to 1 hour, rotating pan halfway through baking.
- Let bread cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan and let cool completely on wire rack, about 2 hours. Serve.