Date loaf single

My mum dropped in over the weekend as she was passing by my area.  I was (surprise, surprise), flicking through some recipe books.  I was actually researching for an upcoming local baking competition that I signed up for.  (More on that later!)

One of the cookbooks I was looking at was published in the 1950s.  This is easily the oldest cookbook that I own.  It was given to me by my mother.  The book contains, in many sections, a Julia Child-esque level of detail; particularly for meat preparation.  But my interest is in the back half of the book where finely chopping, simmering and glazing is replaced with mixing, kneading and baking.

Mum and I were looking through the book and amongst the 600+ pages came across some old handwritten notes.  One, written by my mum, listed a range of desserts and cakes.  We laughed about the sweet tooth I have obviously inherited from her.

The book is certainly the most precious I own.  And needless to say, I am extremely careful with it.  There is something to be said for good old fashioned classics.  Fads and trends come and go but these solid little performers continue to shine and delight.

One item that indeed falls into that category is date loaf.

Admittedly, I have never made date loaf.  Sticky date pudding (yum!), yes.  Many times.  Date loaf, no.  With an extensive list (read: categorised and colour coded spreadsheet) of well over 100 baking items to tackle, date loaf was probably not going to climb the order of priority without intervention.  That being, a local baking competition.

I have never entered a competition before.  When I lived in the US, I used to see many local and national cooking competitions around (The Pillsbury Bakeoff and Better Homes and Garden competitions, etc.).  Back in Australia (well, in Brisbane anyway), the opportunities are limited.  To my knowledge I have only one option available.  The annual Royal Queensland Show – affectionately known as The Ekka, by locals.  Originally an agricultural show over 100 years ago, it has expanded to now include fairground rides, sideshow alley, animal parades, wood chopping competitions, agricultural displays and … cooking competitions

I have entered into five categories of the cooking competition.  All old fashioned baked favourites.  Date loaf, chocolate loaf, scones, yeasted fruit buns and small cakes.  With veteran bakers entering year after year, I hope I am not completely disappointed in my outcome.  Regardless, it will be a great experience and I will have fun trialling different recipes over the next couple of months (along with my macarons for my wedding!).

If anyone has any tried and tested recipes for date loaf, chocolate loaf, scones, yeasted fruit buns and small cakes (oh, and not obviously entering the RNA competition!), please let me know.

In the meantime, here is my first trial.  Date loaf.  Overall, it was packed full of the requisite yummy date-y goodness, but could probably have been a little more moist.  Next time!

{ Old Fashioned Date Loaf }

* Ingredients *

1 cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
100g / 3 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg
2 cups of all purpose / plain flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder

* Directions *

Preheat oven to 180°C or 350F. Grease and line the base of a 10cm x 20cm (or 4 x 8 inch) loaf tin.  Place dates, water and baking powder into a bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes.  Beat together sugar, butter and lemon rind. Beat in egg. Fold through sifted flour.  Fold through date mixture.  Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour or until the loaf is cooked.