Chocolate Date Bread recipe

This is a bread loaf recipe that I use whenever I find myself with some dates. You can chop up your own, or score some candied nuggets as I’ve pictured. I can usually find these boxes of date nuggets at the grocery store around Christmas time, and I stock up. You can find dried dates year round, and this recipe is just as delicious with the food processor dicing up the fruit and adding a little extra sugar.

My family love this for pudding, breakfast, snack and elevensies; it’s not just a Christmas pud, even if it’s perfect for the holidays as well. I’ve often gifted a loaf of this bread to new mums or for parties, because it stays moist for ages if you store it in a ziplock bag before slicing to serve. My daughter calls this my figgy pudding, mostly because it’s always around for tree decorating and accompanied with warm drinks. It’s simply the easiest bread I’ve ever made, and it always garners rave reviews.

I like that this bread requires I put the kettle on. I call it my cuppa tea bread; it starts with making a cuppa, and is usually in the oven by the time I’ve finished it. Strictly speaking, it’s best to let the dates soak for up 45 minutes, until they’re nice and soft, but I usually get away with 20 minutes with the nuggets, and it leaves larger chunks of fruit. If I’ve diced whole, dried dates, I usually make sure I let the dates soak a little longer before I get started with the rest of the dough. That way I’ve softened the skins as much as possible before adding in to bake. Both methods are here, and both are easy, quick and delicious! Happy baking!

Chocolate Date Bread vertical.jpg

You’ll Need:

  • ¾ cup diced dates
  • 1 1/8 cup boiling water
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar (3/4 cup if using candied date nuggets)
  • 1 ½ TB butter, softened
  • 1 med egg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½+ tsp vanilla (up to 1 tsp, to taste)
  • 2 ¼ cup plain white flour (not self-raising)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • Optional 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

The Method:

Put the kettle on with enough for your cuppa and the cup of water to soak the dates. If you’re using the nuggets, you won’t need to prepare the dates first, but if you’re dicing yourself, have the bits ready for the boiling water. I usually have the food processor whizz up the dates if I’m starting with whole, but you can easily hand chop rough bits. Nuggets are usually candied with sugar, so I reduce the amount of sugar I add to the dough.

Preheat your oven to 300F/150C and grease a loaf pan, 9 x 5 inches is best.

Add the boiling water to the dates and baking soda in a heatproof container, and allow all three to fizz away for about 20-40 minutes. You want the dates to be soft and fluffy, and the water to cool before you add it to the dough.

Date bread ingredients.jpg

While your dates soften, cream together the butter and white sugar before beating in the egg.

Adding the egg.jpg

Check the temperature of the dates after they’ve soaked for 20 minutes, and add to the mixture once you’re happy the dates are soft. Add the salt and vanilla and stir together well with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Add the flour in gradually in three or four batches, ensuring the batter is well mixed.

Mixing batter.jpg

Add the chocolate chips, and walnuts if you like, and mix in with a few strokes. Try not to over stir and allow the flour to get too stretchy, it’ll make it a bit dense. The chocolate chips may melt a bit while you stir, so not over doing it at this stage will also help keep chips.

Pour the batter into your greased loaf tin and set it in the middle of the oven for one hour.

Once a toothpick slides out clean from the middle, it’s done. I almost never need more than the 1 hour exactly, but all ovens vary.

Allow to cool before removing from the tin and serve in slices. Enjoy!

Sparkly Mummy
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Tips for a perfect, portable Lemon Drizzle Cake

My mate who usually does the recipes for this blog has had the typical run of awful winter bugs this week, so hasn’t had time to write anything up for us. I’m not the cook that she is, but I occasionally excel at a bit of baking, when I apply myself. Serendipitously, this week I had the need (and by need, I mean the need to show off) to bake something for an event with my work colleagues.

The challenge I faced was that I needed to travel into London with whatever I baked, and there was a train strike on. So I needed something that I could carry on a taxi, a bus, two trains, and for a long walk, without it turning into an inedible lump of crumbs by the time I arrived at my destination.

The solution I found was this Lemon Drizzle Traybake with a lovely crunchy topping, which I found on Mary Berry’s website. That website has weird rules that you have to ask permission to link to it, so I won’t link to it, but I’m sure you can find it using our friend Google (as the BBC would say, other search engines are available) (but not really).

I’m also reliably informed that lists of ingredients cannot be copyrighted, so I’m cool to list them here, plus I’ve added all the equipment you need so there are no surprises if, like me, you don’t read the method until it’s too late. The method has been adapted to suit my own skills – in other words, I’ve tried to make it idiot-proof. I’m happy to report that not only did it travel well, but all of my colleagues ate more than one piece, so it must have been good.

Lemon Cake vertical.jpeg

You’ll need:

  • 225g (8 oz) butter, softened
  • 225g (8 oz) caster sugar
  • 275g (10 oz) self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 small unwaxed lemons
  • 175g (6 oz) granulated sugar
  • a big mixing bowl
  • 30 x 23 x 4 cm (12 x 9 x 1 ½ inches) metal baking tray
  • cooking spray oil
  • non-stick baking parchment
  • Scissors
  • electric mixer or wooden spoon coupled with strong mixing arm
  • rubber spatula
  • a wire cooling rack

The method:

One thing to consider: this cake tastes a lot better if you make it the day before you want to eat it.

At least 3 hours before baking, put your butter out on the worktop to soften. If you cut it into smaller pieces, it will soften faster.

When your butter is soft, preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Then, rummage around and find your baking tin. The tin I used is a tray I would normally use for making fish fingers and chips. It is a very shallow baking tray and I think you need to make sure you have the right depth of tin to get this right (see dimensions above).

Measure out a rectangle of baking parchment so it is the same size as the tin (including the sides, not just the base), and cut it with the scissors. If you try to rip it on the crap ripping thing on the edge of the box, it will go all crooked and Mary Berry will have bad dreams.

Baking equipment.jpg
Can you tell I didn’t take any pictures of the actual baking process?

Spray the tin with your cooking spray and then stick the baking parchment onto it neatly as possible, pushing it down so it sticks to the spray.

Now it’s time to grate your the rinds of your 2 lemons into your big mixing bowl. Do use a fine grater, like one you’d use to grate parmesan cheese. If you use a proper lemon zester, the pieces will be too big and might be a bit chewy in the cake.

A grater.jpg
Be careful not to grate your knuckles like I did.

Once you’ve done your lemon rind grating, put your naked lemons aside for later. Then stick your softened butter, caster sugar, self-raising flour, level teaspoons of baking powder, eggs and milk into your mixing bowl.

Use your electric mixer now to mix the mixture for about 2 minutes, until smooth. You could stir it with a spoon if you don’t have a mixer, but your arm will get tired.

Then, dump the mixture into your lined tin, using your rubber spatula to get all the mixture out of the bowl and then to smooth out the mixture in the tin. Try not to drop the bowl like I did. It got heavy after a minute of holding and scraping!

Stick your tray of goodness into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched lightly with a finger.

When it’s finished, remove it from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for just a few minutes. Then lift it out onto a wire rack with the baking parchment still attached. Place your tray underneath the wire rack to catch the drips of the topping you’re going to make. When it cools enough so you won’t burn your hands, extremely carefully remove the baking parchment. I found ripping it in strips worked for me, but you might find a more clever method.

Now, juice your two naked lemons and add the granulated sugar to the juice. It should have a runny consistency but enough sugar so that every spoon has lemony sugary-ness. You may need to add extra sugar for it to be right. While the cake it still warm, spoon this topping onto the cake, one teaspoon at a time, and spread it out evenly across the cake.

Leave the cake to cool completely, then cut it into little squares and store in an airtight container. Eat with tea and friends. Or hide in a cupboard so you don’t have to share it with your kids.

Sparkly Mummy
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