Delicious, classic, old-fashioned date nut bread, made with walnuts or pecans and with a touch of molasses. A great date loaf to enjoy any time of day!
Why you'll love this date nut bread recipe
Date nut bread just might be one of my favourite things to have on the counter. I love the great flavours and texture and a slice with a bit of butter seems perfect to just hit the spot any time of the day.
This classic, old fashioned recipe is my favourite, delivering a loaf that is never dry, but not sticky or damp either. It's just perfectly moist, with great slicing texture. I also love that it's not too light (has a touch of molasses), and not too dark, either (not too much molasses :).
And it keeps well on the counter for several days, or refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.
Dates - regular supermarket, pitted, dried cooking dates are all you need for this recipe. These are the ones that are found in the baking aisle in brick form. The ones I buy come in a package just slightly over the pound specified for this recipe. You can use the entire package without issue, if you don't want to waste. Your loaf will just have more dates in it :)
I haven't tested this recipe with fresh dates, such as Medjool or mazafati dates. They may work, but as I haven't tried it, they higher-moisture fresh dates may affect the texture of the finished loaf.
Molasses - you'll want to use "Fancy" molasses here, for best results and flavour. Cooking molasses will work, though the molasses flavour will be stronger in the finished loaf. I don't recommend Blackstrap molasses as I feel like the flavour might be too strong here. If you don't have or want to use molasses, you can substitute it with an equal amount of honey, maple syrup or golden syrup.
Brown Sugar - I generally use light brown sugar (aka Golden Sugar), though you could use dark brown sugar, if you prefer. It will produce a darker loaf, with a touch more molasses flavour.
You can tweak the sugar a bit, to taste, but be careful making large changes to the sugar amount, as the sugar in baking recipes acts as more than a sweetener. It contributes to the texture and moistness of the finished loaf, as well. Start by making small reductions, if desired, and go from there, so you can see the effect on the finished loaf and make your own decisions on acceptable compromises. Also keep in mind that the sugar amount listed is for TWO loaves.
Pecans or Walnuts - I am usually a walnut girl in quick breads like this one, but I actually prefer pecans in this date nut bread. That's what I've use here. Of course, use what you have or prefer. Even thought the nuts used are already chopped, I like to chop them a little bit more before adding to the loaf, but that's just my preference. If you want a nut-free loaf (or don't have any nuts on hand), you can certainly omit the nuts in this one without issue.
Making Date Nut Bread: Step-by-Step Photos
First Steps: We'll start by soaking the dates in boiling water, to which we add some baking soda. (The baking soda does two things in this recipe. It helps to soften the dates, but it will also be transferred to the batter with the dates, to contribute to the rise of the loaf later.) Let the dates stand for 10-15 minutes (it needs to both soften the dates and cool somewhat, before adding to the batter).
Start the batter by creaming together the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg and molasses and beat together, scraping down the bowl at least once. You should have a smooth and creamy batter at this point.
Final Steps: Add the date mixture (liquid too) to the batter and mix in. Finally, mix in the flour on low speed, just until combined, with no visible flour. Spoon batter into prepared pan(s) and bake!
Does the Loaf Pan Matter?
Yes! This recipe specifies an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 metal loaf pan and my best advice is to use the loaf pan size specified in the recipe, as that is the pan the recipe has been tested with.
You may think that you can just put the batter into a larger loaf pan and despite having a shorter loaf, all will be fine. But that is not always the case! Quick breads like this one should fill the pan 2/3 full in order to rise properly and if you put this batter into too large a pan, it may not fill the pan enough and it may not rise properly.
Larger pans also have more surface area, so adjustments may be needed to oven temperature and/or baking time. If you don't make those necessary adjustments for the larger pan, your loaf may fail to rise properly and/or it may rise while baking and fall/collapse once out of the oven.
I can't provide specified guidance here, as I haven't tested this recipe with a larger pan. Just understand that if you veer from the required pan size, your results may not be the same.
(Side note: I use my 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch metal loaf pans far more often than my 9x5-inch loaf pans. If you don't have the smaller 8x4 metal loaf pans in your kitchen, they would be a great addition! You'll find many more recipes that call for this smaller size and you won't have to worry about adjustments and poor outcomes from using those larger pans).
If you are baking in a glass loaf pan of this same size, you will need to reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees F.
- Baking times will vary from oven to oven and depending on pan colour, so use the listed baking time as a guideline only. Bake the loaf as long as needed to test clean when a tester is inserted in the centre of the loaf.
- Be sure to measure the flour using the spoon and level method, which means to spoon the flour into a dry (metal) measuring cup, over-filling it, then scraping the excess off with the back edge of a knife.
- I prefer just halving the dates, as I like the chunks of dates in my loaf. If you don't, no worries. Simply chop the dates as fine as you like. (Same with the nuts :)
- Scrape the bowl down several times during mixing the batter, being sure to get under the paddle at the bottom of the bowl, where bits of unincorporated butter likes to hang around some times.
Love a dark date nut bread? Simply double the molasses in this recipe. No need to change anything else.
You can toast the nuts if you like, before using in your loaf. Be sure to let them cool before adding to the batter, though!
Need a nut-free loaf? You can easily omit the nuts in this loaf, without issue or any other changes.
How to enjoy your date nut bread
I love date nut bread with a generous spread of butter, but it is equally nice with a spread of cream cheese instead. With either butter or cream cheese, you can make a bit of a sandwich, cutting thin slices, spreading one with butter or cream cheese and sandwiching it by placing the other half on top.
For a fancier presentation, cut really thin slices, spread with cream cheese and cut into fingers or triangles.
A little bit of orange zest added to the butter or cream cheese makes a great flavour combination with date nut bread!
Storage and Freezing
Date nut bread does not need to be refrigerated. Simply wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. That said, as long as it is well-wrapped (to prevent drying), you can refrigerate date nut bread to stretch it out to about 1 week, if you don't want to freeze it.
You can freeze date nut bread, for longer storage. Freeze up to 3 months, for best quality.
Old-Fashioned Date Nut Bread
- 1 lb. pitted dried dates, cut in half or cut finer, if you prefer
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups boiling water
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, or salted butter, reducing the added salt below accordingly
- 1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed, light brown sugar recommended, though dark brown sugar will also work
- 2 large eggs, beaten (beat lightly with a fork in a small bowl before adding to the batter)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or vanilla bean paste
- 1 Tablespoon Fancy molasses, *see Note 1 below
- 3 cups all purpose flour, measured with the spoon and level method
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine salt, or use 3/4 tsp if using salted butter
- 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, chopped as coarsely or as finely as you prefer
- You will need two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 metal loaf pans. For glass loaf pans of the same size, reduce the oven temperature for baking by 25 degrees F. *See Note 2 below for information on using other pan sizes.
- Preheat oven to 350F (regular bake/not fan assisted).
- Grease the loaf pans lightly, then line with parchment paper, covering the bottom and the long sides and extending over the edges a couple of inches, to use as handles to remove the loaves later.
- Soak the dates: Add the chopped dates to a medium bowl. Pour boiling water overtop and stir in baking soda. baking soda. Let stand 10-15 minutes, to both soften the dates and to allow the liquid to cool before adding to the batter..
- Combine the dry ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk together, the flour, baking powder, salt and chopped walnuts or pecans. Set aside.
- Make the batter: In a large bowl with an electric mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar, until light, about 2 minutes. Add the beaten eggs, vanilla and molasses. Beat until well combined, scraping down the bowl a couple of times, as needed. *Do a quick check of the date mixture and make sure it isn't hot. A little warm is fine, but not hot, as you don't want to cook the egg in the batter. Add the date mixture (with any liquid in the bowl) and mix in on low speed (so it doesn't splash), until combined.
- Add the flour mixture to the batter and mix in on low speed, mixing just until combined. Divide batter between prepared loaf pans.
- Bake the loaves in 350F oven for 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours or until tester inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Note that baking times will vary, depending on oven and baking pans used. Check regularly after 1 hour of baking and start testing when it looks like it is nearing done.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then lift out of the pan and remove to a wire rack, carefully removing the parchment paper. Allow to cool almost completely before slicing.
Nutritional information provided for general guidance only and should not be relied upon to make personal health decisions.