Joshua Tree Date Nut Bread

I am now convinced of two things: dates are amazing and great things come from Joshua Tree.

Not only do dates make amazing milkshakes, give cause for an awesome harvest festival down in Indio, or have 50 references in the Bible (according to Wikipedia), but they also make amazing bread.

Not only is Joshua Tree a funky-lookin’ tree…

(Photo credit not mine)

…or the name of an incredible U2 album…

…but it is also the place where my great-grandmother lived, who made fame in my family for her Date Nut Bread. So when I received a surprise care package from my aunt that featured a fine-lookin’ box of dates, I decided I must try my hand at the recipe.

The first time I made it, I ate it in four days. By myself. I wish I was joking.

I made it for the second time last Saturday, and worked up enough self-control to get it to last through the week. There’s still one piece left and I had actually shared some this time.

Fortunately for my conscience , this bread is full of natural ingredients and rather nutritious as a result of a few changes I made to my great-grandmother’s recipe. I used whole-wheat pastry flour, which adds some hearty fiber, and I substituted half of the sugar with unsweetened applesauce. The dates are the key ingredient of the bread, acting as a natural sweetener and giving it a very exotic flavor…if there is such thing as an “exotic” flavor…

First, crank the oven to preheat at 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine:
1 cup chopped dates
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup boiling water
After stirring mixture, set aside and let cool.

…don’t worry, it’s supposed to look like something you might encounter in a college boy’s dorm room…

In a large bowl, beat together:
2 eggs
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened natural applesauce

Stir in the date mixture. If it hasn’t cooled enough, the eggs will coagulate…and that’s bad. Frowny face :(

Hand-mix in:
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Pour into greased loaf pan and bake from 45 minutes to 1 hour.

And check it out! Look at that fine bread!

Let’s get some natural lighting on that bad boy…oh yeah!

Just a little suggestion: I ate this for breakfast with hot Breakfast tea and a bowl of sliced banana with granola and plain yogurt (mixed with a few drops of agave nectar to sweeten it a bit)…and the combo was to die for. The experience might even have been further maximized if I had listened to U2’s The Joshua Tree at the same time…

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Shred, White, and Blueberry muffins

Yes, I did just combine an Attack Attack! song with a muffin.

But, really, I just needed a title, and it doesn’t make sense if you know that this blog is about a recipe in which I didn’t make muffins, but I made bread. And I wasn’t listening to Attack Attack! while I was making it either, I was listening to Audio Adrenaline and House of Heroes. So all of such is beside the point. Here’s the story:

For my roommate’s birthday, I decided to make her blueberry muffins.

They were, you know, a’ight. One of my guy friends ate about 6 of them before we even left the kitchen. Coulda’ been a little sweeter, though (I used a not-as-bad-for-you sort of recipe).

In two days, I was freaking out because the buttermilk I had spent my precious college-student-funds on was about to expire. Waste not.

I knew I had most of the ingredients needed to make another batch of the muffins, but I didn’t have quite enough blueberries left in the fridge to make a double recipe. And I wanted to make them a little sexier, anyways.

So after buying some 19-cent bananas at Target (dimes ARE useful currency, actually!)…

 

…and pilfering some walnuts from the dining hall…

…I concocted a new recipe, and…

I think the Muffin Man is jealous of me now.

1. The blueberries, banana pieces, and walnuts worked together as deliciously as a love triangle.

2. I used a brownie pan because I didn’t have enough muffin cups left. So it turned out as a sweet-lookin’-loaf that, due to the oven I was using and my lack of tin foil, was a bit gooey except around the sides. To some people, gooeyness is not appreciated, but in my culture, we celebrate gooeyness with thanksgiving.

3. This recipe is as hearty and healthy as it is wonderful, due to the angelic gifts of whole-wheat pastry flour, applesauce, and oatmeal, as you will notice in the recipe.

4. This baked good is best enjoyed in a warm state, and is complimented well with a little spread of peanut butter. Makes me wish I still had some of this stuff in the fridge…

Now that you are dying to know how to make this new amazing breakfast food, I suppose I better give you the recipe…

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Set aside:
1 cup of blueberries (drained if previously frozen)
2 medium bananas, split into thirds and cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
*These are the general measurements I would use. If you happen to like more blueberries and less walnuts or more bananas and less blueberries, you are free to augment the recipe according to your personal fruit-and-nut desires :)

Mix in a large bowl:
2 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 cups of old-fashioned oatmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix together in a medium bowl:
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
4 tablespoons oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until the dry is wet (you don’t want to over-stir). Note: there is a scientific reason why you MUST pour the wet mixture onto the dry mixture like so; I’m sure there’s some interesting chemical formula that explains this all, but all I know is that it WORKS BETTER than the other way around (the guy that ate 6 muffins tried it the other way, and the batter was harder to mix and not quite the same…I almost made him swallow the mixing spoon. Okay, not really…).

Anyhow, after the dry and wet ingredients have been married, fold in the blueberries, banana pieces, and walnuts. Then, pour into a greased pan (I used a 9 x 8 pan, but you can use whatever depending on how thick you want your loaf, etc.).

As I’ve only baked these once, I don’t know exactly how long to cook them. The muffin recipe I had used said to bake the muffins for 16-18 minutes, but since I used a pan, the baking took at least half an hour, and the middle was still a bit gooey (as aforementioned)…My advice would be to bake for 30 minutes, check to see how brown the edges are, and adjust the time accordingly. And always err on the side of too-gooey.