Autumn Date and Walnut Bread

This past weekend I relished in what I deem to be a perfect autumn weekend.  John, Shelby, and I drove the scenic two hour trek from eastern to western Massachusetts, out to Stockbridge and Great Barrington in the Berkshires. We took a beautiful hike up to the summit of Monument Mountain, enjoyed a lovely night at the Red Lion Inn, then returned home for a leisurely Sunday afternoon of baking (me) and football (John).

Before we get to the Autumn Date and Walnut Bread, I wanted to share a few photos of our trip out to the Berkshires with you. If you’re anxious to read about the bread, go ahead and skim down :).

After gobbling down a packed picnic lunch, the three of us took off on the most “strenuous” of the trails up Monument Mountain (FYI: the word strenuous is definitely relative. Although steep, the trail wasn’t all that difficult to ascend). Despite underdressing for the cold mountain air, the “gift” Shelby deposited for us at the trail head (dog owners, you know what I’m talking about), and the slightly less-than-vibrant past-peak foliage, I was smiling from ear to ear for most of the hike. I am happiest when outside, hiking in the woods… especially when I’m with the two loves of my life:

We were a few weeks past the prime “leaf peeping” season, but caught sight of the waning fall foliage before the trees turn bare for winter.

Of course, we took advantage of a scenic outlook for a self-timed family portrait.

Once at the summit of the mountain, we sat for a while and enjoyed the breeze and view.

If you ever decide to visit western Massachusetts, I definitely suggest stopping off in Great Barrington for this hike! Mt. Greylock is next on my list.

Ok, back to the eats. Thanks for sticking with me through the weekend recap!

My desire to bake has been in overdrive lately. The cooler weather serves as a strong motivation for cranking up the oven and spending an afternoon in the kitchen. I have an ever-growing list of muffins, cookies, and breads to make, but settled on an adapted version of a date and nut bread from Boston.com.

I subbed in sweet potato puree for the butter and an equal ratio of whole wheat pastry flour and white whole wheat flour for all-purpose.  I also cut the 1 cup of sweetener called for in the original recipe down to 1/4 cup. The Medjool dates and sweet potato puree lent a good amount of natural sweetness, which was complemented by a modest amount of maple syrup and brown sugar.

John described the bread as “dessert-y”, though it is hearty enough to incorporate into a healthy breakfast or snack. The bread is moist, soft, sweet, and rife with autumnal flavors. The pockets of chewy dates and nuggets of crunchy walnuts provide a lovely textural contrast. The bread is simply divine when served warm and slathered with a bit of butter or nut butter, but would also be delicious accompanied by a sweet spread such as pumpkin butter or jam.

Autumn Date and Walnut Bread

adapted from Boston.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (7 oz) chopped pitted Medjool dates
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup sweet potato puree (can substitute unsweetened applesauce or pumpkin/butternut squash puree)
  • 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar or Sucanat
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp pure maple extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with canola oil cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, cover chopped dates with boiling water. Let sit and soften for about 2 minutes.
  3. To the water and dates, add the sweet potato puree, maple syrup, brown sugar, egg, and both extracts. Stir until well-mixed.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flours through salt) and whisk until combined.
  5. Stir dry ingredients into wet just until moistened. Fold in the chopped walnuts.
  6. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan and bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.
  7. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer bread to a cooling rack and let cool before slicing.


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