It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve posted. Doesn’t Monday seem really far away? I’ve had a busy week, including some out-of-town relatives staying with me, which is lovely but it hasn’t left me much time for the ol’ blog.
I recently purchased a gem of an old cookbook (for $1!) called the Canadian Family Cookbook by the Culinary Arts Institute, published way back in 1975. I would link to a copy of it, but I couldn’t find it for sale anywhere! According to the cover, it contains “over 3,000 recipes, including a 70-page, province by province cross section of Canada’s best-loved native cuisine.” As a born-and-raised Calgarian, I decided immediately I needed to try something from the Alberta section, and found a recipe for Date Nut Bread that looked promising.
Reader, I have no idea how this recipe counts as “native cuisine.” Dates are grown in desert areas, and although Alberta has some terrain that may qualify as desert, palm trees (like the date palm, on which dates are grown) are not a regular sight here. A recipe on the next page is called Sweetgrass Buffalo and Beer Pie, which sounds a wee bit more Albertan.
However the recipe made it into this book, I am certainly glad someone decided to include it. The loaves of bread it makes are moist and chewy, with a wonderful cinnamon-infused flavour and texture coming from chopped pecans and the sweet dates. It was rather tasty fresh from the oven with a smear of butter, reminiscent of a really great cinnamon raisin bread.
Leftovers are fantastic toasted, and on the third day (if any of it lasts that long!) fat slices of this bread make some pretty killer french toast. I have a theory that it would produce some delicious bread pudding, but sadly I ran out of bread before I ran out of ideas. Additional loaves will freeze well for a few weeks, just make sure you wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and aluminium foil.
The dough comes together quite easily, and although I was a bit thrown off when the recipe specified letting the loaves rise in the refrigerator, it ended up working out quite perfectly. The recipe says to refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours: I left mine in the fridge for 3 and a half and they had doubled in size and came out well, so that’s what I’ve indicated in the recipe below.
Enjoy this (apparently) native Albertan recipe. Since this one turned out so well, I’ll definitely be sharing more dishes from my homeland in the near future!
- ½ cup warm water
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1 and ¾ cups warm milk
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 4-5 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup chopped dates
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon canola or vegetable oil
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the warm water and yeast. Add warm milk, sugar, salt and butter. Stir in 2 cups of the all-purpose flour and beat until smooth (about 1 minute). Add another cup of all-purpose flour, beating until smooth (about one minute). Add one more cup of all-purpose flour and beat until smooth. Stir in the whole wheat flour, dates, pecans and cinnamon and mix to combine. If the dough is too wet, add up to 1 more cup of all-purpose flour to make a soft dough.
- Using the dough hook (or by hand on a lightly-floured surface) knead for 8-10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with plastic wrap, then with a towel. Let rest for 20 minutes.
- Punch down dough. Divide into two equal portions, shaping each into a long loaf shape. Place in two greased 9x5-inch loaf pans. Brush loaves with the canola or vegetable oil. Cover pans loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours).
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees F and remove loaves from refrigerator. Carefully uncover dough and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the loaves are golden and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans and place on wire racks to cool.