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B: [whining] “I just don’t feel like baking tonight”
Eva: “I know how you feel honey …”
B: [whining more] “But then I know I will feel guilty if I don’t do it.”
Eva: “Yeah, probably. It’s not like it’s that bad – what does it take in prep time anyway? Like 15 minutes right? That’s nothing!”
B: [cheerier] “You’re right! I’m just being a whiner. Besides, it’s not like I’m making fruit cake or anything – though fruitcake has booze in it – I guess there’s nothing to stop me from putting booze in it.”
Eva: ”Nope, nothing at all!”
B: “And date nut bread is so much better than fruitcake …”
Eva: [says the magic words] “Oh! You have to say that – it will be a total throwdown for Della – she’s got fruitcake coming up and she’s been soaking it in booze for ages.”
B: [A competition? Brilliant!] “Perfect – I’ll do it!”
So I did it I used the recipe from the Joy of Cooking. I followed it exactly. Well … almost exactly. That is to say, I meant to follow it exactly but I lost my attention for just the merest of moments (P and N were decorating the Christmas tree and P was trying to figure out if the ornaments were glass or plastic so I went to assist and in the course of gently flicking the little golden globe managed to discover it was glass on account of it breaking and spraying little glass shards everywhere. Oops.) so I forgot to add the melted butter to the other liquid ingredients and had to add it later. Didn’t seem to hurt it any.
I will paraphrase the recipe. Goes like this:
1. Sift together 2 c. flour, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 2 tsp. double-acting baking powder, 1 tsp. salt. Set aside.
2. Melt 2 tbsp. butter and set aside to cool slightly.
3. Beat one egg until light and frothy. Add 1 c. milk and 1/2(ish) tsp. vanilla extract and beat together. Add butter (this is the step I forgot).
4. Beat wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
5. Fold in chopped dates and nut meats. I don’t remember what the recipe said exactly. I used about 1 1/2 c. fresh chopped Medjool Dates and about 1/3 c. each of pecan and walnut pieces. Then when I was trying to “beat” it, I decided it was awfully dry and wondered why, which is about the point that I remembered the butter was still sitting in the microwave cooling slightly. Frantically added butter and beat some more.
6. Pour (or shovel) batter into greased loaf pan and put in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.
When I pulled it out of the oven, it was decidedly pale on top and I was a little concerned that it was undercooked. But I decided that I was going to stick with this whole “follow the recipe exactly” thing and put my faith in Irma Rombauer. I’m glad I did. It was nice and moist and tasty. I think if I had tried to brown it on top, I woulda dried it out for sure. It sliced up nicely and will make an excellent breakfast for my wee one. In future, I think I might dress it with a little milk or egg white or butter or something before putting it in the oven. I think I would also add more dates and nuts just for good measure.
I did not end up adding booze because the recipe didn’t call for it and I was trying to be good (which, btw, I was not entirely since the ingredients were all supposed to be at room temperature and my eggs and milk definitely were not). But I still think it was better than fruit cake. Why? Well, for starters, who actually likes fruitcake? And did I mention that I used fresh Medjool dates? Really, how can a piece of candied green maraschino cherry ever compare? The dried fruit in fruitcake is the over-painted, tarty, used-up whore to the Medjool date’s sophisticated, saucy yet regal dame. It’s true. Really. Check out the history of the Medjool date here. I betcha no piece of candied unidentified fruit has a history like that. And I could have made a boozy sauce (see below) which would have done nicely, but this bread also lends itself nicely to a savoury pairing, matching well with some Applewood Smoked Cheddar. And I quote (from N): “I don’t like fruitcake, so this is better for me.”
So, Della, consider this my throwdown. This is good. This is versatile. This was ridiculously easy to make. This did not involve fruit of unnatural colour, or the stigma of being that dried up, bitter hunk o’lead that people “gift” to one another at Christmas. I would make and eat it again. Fruitcake? You’ll have to convince me (and N).
As with most things, my date nut bread was much improved by the generous application of fresh whipped cream. Probably some rum caramel sauce would’ve finished it perfectly. Too bad I didn’t think to make any until after I ate all this and got full.