Post by Alison Hein.
My grandma used to bake Date Nut Bread in an old coffee can. It was common practice to clean and generously grease a coffee tin with shortening, then fill it with batter, place it in a hot oven, and bake a dense, round loaf. As kids, we would anxiously gather around the stove, inhaling the baking bread’s sweet aroma, eagerly awaiting its completion.
While you still see many round bread loaves (Boston Brown Bread as well as Date Nut and Raisin Nut), it is becoming ever more difficult to locate tin, oven-proof coffee containers. Check carefully in the grocery store before purchasing, as many modern containers are made of paper, plastic or cardboard – none of which work well in the oven!
My ongoing frustration with food history compelled me to skip it for this post (so many claim to be the originators of Date Nut Bread!), with one important exception. In the 1950s and ‘60s, when Chock Full o’Nuts lunch counters were wildly prolific, Date Nut Sandwiches – two thick slices of Date Nut Bread slathered with cream cheese – were a star of the menu.
Chock Full o’Nuts tried to make a recent comeback with mixed results. The company still makes and sells its popular coffee (anyone remember the famous “heavenly coffee” jingle?). Why not go buy some? Make a giant pot of coffee, then use the canister to whip up a loaf of Date Nut Bread. Bake. Cool. Slice. Slather with cream cheese. Pour yourself a steaming cup and reminisce over a heavenly breakfast in bed.
1 tin coffee can, with top removed
½ cup butter
½ cup light brown sugar
1 cup white flour
¼ cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped walnuts
Cooking spray, or other shortening, for greasing coffee can
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. In a separate bowl, mix together white flour, wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients all at once to butter mixture, stirring to combine. Add eggs, honey and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in dates and walnuts. Spoon batter into a well-greased coffee can. Bake at 350° for about 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack at least 20 minutes. Remove from coffee can and slice.
Makes one loaf.