Date-Nut and Orange Quick Bread

It’s no secret that I am a fan of quick breads.  They are the “little black dress” of baking:  infinitely adaptable, open to embellishment, and ready to enjoy anytime of day.  This is an old favorite, the kind of bread my mother would have made.  At this time of year citrus fruit is at its best and the orange flavor adds contrast to the sweet dates and rich pecans in the bread.  A light orange glaze ensures a moist texture and sweet edge to the crumb.  For maximum flavor and even moistness, let the baked and cooled loaf stand, tightly wrapped, overnight.  Then enjoy it, thinly sliced and spread with a little cream cheese, for breakfast, tea or coffee break.  Or serve it for lunch alongside a salad, perhaps one that features citrus fruit?  Any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days, or frozen (tightly wrapped in plastic and foil) for up to three months.

Date-Nut and Orange Quick Bread
(makes one 9×5-inch loaf)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Into a small bowl put:
3/4 cup chopped pitted dates
Cover with :
1/4 cup very hot water
Set the dates aside to soften while you prepare the batter.
In a large bowl cream together until fluffy:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
Add to the bowl and blend in thoroughly:
1 large egg
In a medium bowl whisk together:
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a glass measuring cup combine:
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk to the creamed mixture, blending well after each addition.  Fold in the soaked dates and their liquid along with:
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
Spoon the batter into a well-buttered 9×5-inch loaf pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a tester come out clean and the loaf is golden brown.  Remove the loaf from the oven and immediately top with a glaze made by stirring together:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon Cointreau or similar orange-flavored liqueur
Allow the bread to stand until the glaze is absorbed and it has cooled somewhat, about 15 minutes.  then turn the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
(minimally adapted from “Bread” by Beth Hensperger)


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