Kate was home sick on Friday. She's always been one of whose kids who, when she gets a cold, she's down for the court for days. Other kids seem to regenerate quickly, with just a day of bed rest. That would not be my Kate. Ever since she was a little girl, if she got a cold, we knew she would be oozing illness for at least a week.
So, here we were, Day 2 of The Cold. She had battled through it at school on Thursday, but Friday there was illness seeping from every pore of her body so she stayed home. I made her homemade chicken soup, because in our house there's no Campbell's, especially when you're sick. But since I was hanging around, I had some time in the kitchen I hadn't counted on.
I've always been a big fan of quick breads. They're quick and I like that. I can also delude myself into believing that they're a bread and not a cake. Same with muffins. Those are muffins not little mini cakes.
But back to the quick bread. I had been meaning to try Ina's Date Nut Spice Bread. I had everything I needing right in the pantry. Obviously, I had been planning this for some time because why else would I have had chopped dates at the ready? I had no excuse and lots of time.
This is a very easy recipe and it produces a really lovely loaf. It's moist and has just a hint of orange, from the zest and the Cointreau. The orange really offsets the dates nicely and the nuts give the whole thing a pleasing crunch.
I was quite pleased with my efforts and brought a piece up to Kate, who promptly announced that she didn't like date nut bread, probably because she doesn't like dates in things. Not to worry. I ate it myself. After all, it would have been a crime for it to go to waste.
Recipe: Date Nut Spice Bread
(Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, 2008)
2 cups coarsely chopped dates (10 ounces pitted)
1/3 cup orange liqueur (recommended: Cointreau or Triple Sec)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 oranges)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (3 ounces)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pan.
Combine the dates and orange liqueur in a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. With the mixer still on low, add the flour mixture alternately with the orange juice to the creamed mixture, beating only until combined. By hand, stir in the dates with their liquid, and the pecans.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
Slice the bread and serve with cream cheese and/or jam on the side for spreading.