Friday, February 19, 2010

Date Pecan Orange Bread.

Sometimes I bake because I want to, sometimes because I'm stressed. Sometimes I bake out of necessity - case in point, my mom likes to shop at wholesale clubs, especially for baking ingredients and we somehow ended up with TWO 10lb. bags of dates. We love dates here at my house though, so this isn't a problem, luckily! I plan on making date bars, date muffins and maybe even date rugelach. My mother also likes to stock up on oranges in the winter - and why not? They're cheap, plentiful and beautifully sweet. This recipe uses both perfectly.

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen the other night and knew right away I had to make it. Deb adapted it from Ina Garten which I found surprising considering it only contains a mere 4 tablespoons of butter instead of 2 sticks or more as is the case with most Barefoot Contessa recipes! I didn't make many changes except I don't keep orange liqueur around the house - my family are more wine/beer/whiskey type of people! Anyway, I used a splash of Amaretto and substituted orange juice for the rest.

This bread should have been included in my last post about comfort food, but I guess you can never have too many recipes for that sort of thing, can you? :) It made my house smell warm and cozy with its spices and orange zest - the best scents you could ask for a dark, snowy Thursday afternoon in late February.

Date Pecan Orange Bread
2 cups (10 ounces) coarsely chopped, pitted dates
1/3 cup orange liqueur (or whatever you have)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 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 cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup fresh orange juice (I used the juice of 3 large oranges)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and spray or butter a 9x5-inch loaf pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the dates and the orange liqueur and let sit for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the dates all get some of the liquid.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about a minute. Add the egg, zest and vanilla and mix. Sift the flour, spices and salt and add to the butter mixture, alternately with the orange juice, ending with the flour mixture. Stir in the pecans and the dates with their liquid.

Pour into the loaf pan and smooth the top. I added 5 pecans down the top of mine because my loaf cakes never rise the way they should and I thought it would help it look prettier - feel free to leave these off or you could even sprinkle some turbinado sugar instead. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until a knife comes out clean.

Let cool in the loaf pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.


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