Sunday, November 11, 2007

Date (or Fig) Nut Loaf

Long weekends in my house are both welcome, and a bit of a challenge to me as a baker. I like baking so much that I have trouble skipping a day, however, Chris and I try to be careful about how much we eat of my baking, and we hate throwing anything away. On previous three-day weekends, my friends "sacrificed" themselves by coming over to partake of all the goodies. This weekend I have tried to focus on recipes that are time consuming, and that benefit from waiting. There are a few batches of cookie dough in the fridge waiting to be sliced and baked later in the week. Brioche dough is rising in the fridge for pecan sticky rolls that I will finish tomorrow. All of this prep work should have been enough, but no, I was still feeling the urge.

I chose this recipe because it keeps well -- up to 5 days well-wrapped at room temperature. Not only does it keep well, it actually benefits from waiting. Awesome. The recipe is in my Dorie Greenspan book and is a variation of a pound cake. I made her regular pound cake before and felt it was a bit dry. This loaf is a bit moister than the plain one, but I can see how it might dry out rather quickly. It also has an almost corn-mealish texture to it, even though there is no corn meal in the recipe. The flavor is quite good though, slightly sweet with a chewy, corn meal texture and some nice texture contrasts with the chewy figs and crunchy walnuts.

Pound cakes are tricky because the butter, sugar, eggs sections require a LOT of mixing, and then the absolute minimum mixing when you get to the flour. I don't think I have it quite right yet, but I plan to keep working on it.


2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temp
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup soft pitted dried dates, each cut into 8 pieces
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, dust with inside with flour and tap out the excess. 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, (or a hand mixer in a large bowl), beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until 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, then beat in the extracts. The batter may look curdled -- don't worry, it will come together in a minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dates and nuts. Turn the batter into the pan.

Bake for 40 minutes. Cover the top of the cake loosely with a foil tent and bake for another 40 minutes or so (total baking time is about 1 hour 20 minutes), until the top is honey brown, bumpy and cracked and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool about 10 minutes before unmolding, then cool to room temp right side up on the rack.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This Date Nut Loaf is great with coffee. Arrived via UPS perfectly. The Direct Dish guy was here installing when the package arrived and all three of us immediately had a nice big slice. First words out of the installer's mouth was "great dunked in coffee - has the texture of bread but taste like cake". Thanks for taking the time to prepare it and then mail it to us here in Michigan. We love it and you guys too. Hugs - Brenda & Boh
"Thanks from James the installer too."