Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Date and Walnut Loaf

As I was making the scones on Sunday, I remembered that I had been intending for some time to make a date and walnut loaf. I dug up the recipe obtained from my mother many, many moons ago and, forgetting the fact that I didn't have any eggs, which was why I was making scones rather than something else in the first place, decided to give it a whirl.

The lack of eggs however, was not the first problem I encountered - that was one of method. The "recipe" I had jotted down on the telephone several years ago consisted of the first 5 ingredients followed by the word "cool", then 3 more ingredients (including a beaten egg) followed by "mix up" and then "Put in greased loaf tin, gas mark 3, 1 1/4 to 1/1/2 hours". This is a little sparser than your average list of instructions, you have to agree. Extrapolating from this point, I assumed that some heating together must precede the cooling, that the method should be that below and choose which size loaf tin based on the volume of the final mixture.

The egg problem I didn't spot until I got to the stage where I was supposed to add it, at which point I wasn't prepared to go out and buy some. So, reasoning that the egg was probably a joint raising agent and moisture provider, I added another half teaspoon of bicarb and enough milk to get a near-dropping consistency. And since the loaf came out just fine, I give my version below. To make the original, use only one teaspoon of bicarb, no milk and one beaten egg.

I think this is relatively healthy for baked goods: it contains quite a small quantity of butter, and most of the sweetness is provided by the dates, which are also high in fibre.

For a 2lb loaf tin:
  • 2oz butter
  • 8oz dates, roughly chopped
  • 2oz sugar (caster or soft brown for a darker crumb)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 pint boiling water
  • 2oz walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 8oz self-raising flour
  • 3 tablespoons-ish milk

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease a 2lb loaf tin. PLace the butter, chopped dates, sugar and water in a saucepan with 1 teaspoon of the bicarb. Heat until the butter has melted - the mixture will begin to foam due to the bicarb. Leave to cool until lukewarm then stir in the flour, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of bicarb and chopped walnuts. Stir in the milk to obtain a thick dropping consistency. Scrape into the loaf tin, smooth the surface and bake for about 50 minutes. Test with a skewer or sharp knife to make sure the centre is not still gooey. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack, then slice thinly and spread with butter to eat (thereby ruining the healthfulness advertised above, admittedly).

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