Date nut bread is dark, rich, moist, and delicious. It’s an old favorite you might not have thought about for years, but if you love banana bread and zucchini bread, then you need to add this classic quick bread to your recipe collection.
date nut bread redux
Date nut bread, aka date walnut loaf, is a traditional Scottish tea bread that became popular in the US in the 1920s. Thin slices, slathered with cream cheese and cut in small triangles were the ultimate tea sandwich. No doubt your mom and grand-mom had a date nut bread in their recipe boxes, and it was so popular that several companies, including Thomas’, have made commercial loaves over the years. Pillsbury still makes a date nut bread mix, too. Retro date nut bread has fallen out of fashion but it definitely deserves a comeback. The bread is super moist, and rich. It keeps well and is even better in the days after it’s baked.
what you’ll need for a date and walnut loaf
Recipes for date nut bread follow a basic pattern but the details can vary. All require some sort of very hot or boiling liquid to soften the dates: it’s often plain water, but that definitely leaves the door open for adding flavor by changing up the liquid.
- dried pitted dates ~ look for them in the dried fruit section of your supermarket. They should be moist and somewhat sticky ~ if yours are old or very dry, buy a new fresh package.
- brown sugar ~ light or dark brown will work. Dark brown gives a richer molasses flavor and darker color.
- walnuts ~ toasting is optional but will bring out flavor and crunch.
- flour ~ I used all purpose, but you could use a good gluten free baking mix, or use half white whole wheat flour for extra nutrition.
- coffee ~ hot coffee softens the dates and adds subtle depth of flavor to the bread. Use hot water if you prefer.
- cognac or brandy ~ just a touch is fabulous in this bread, but if you don’t have any leave it out.
- vanilla ~ good quality vanilla is worth the price and really does make a difference.
- baking powder ~ helps rise the heavy batter.
- baking soda ~ helps soften the dates and rise the bread.
how to make a date nut tea sandwich
I like to use day old chilled date nut bread to make sandwiches because the bread will be moister and less crumbly. When it has completely cooled, wrap well in plastic and then refrigerate over night. The next day it will be easy to slice it very thinly.
- Use a sharp serrated bread knife to slice the loaf into very thin slices, about 1/4 ~ 1/3 inch.
- Spread a slice generously with cream cheese.
- Top with another slice and trim any rough edges.
- Cut on the diagonal into triangles.
- Keep wrapped in plastic and chilled until serving.
date nut bread tips and faqs
This bread is nice and moist and will last, wrapped in plastic, for about a week. It does not need to be refrigerated, although you can.
Yes, it freezes beautifully. Let it cool completely before you wrap it in plastic, then in foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Pecans would be great in this bread. Toast them first for about 12 minutes in a 350F oven for best flavor.
You can also use very hot water in place of the coffee, or use half coffee and half water. the original recipe comes from King Arthur Flour, and they claim that you cannot taste the coffee. I found that the coffee flavor comes through pretty strongly, so if you don’t like coffee, don’t use it.
Yes! They’re high in fiber, cancer fighting antioxidants, and provide a healthier alternative to sugar.
This recipe is really all about the dates, but you could substitute prunes or dried figs.
more quick loaf breads and cakes
- Strawberry Buttermilk Bread
- One Banana Banana Bread!
- Gingerbread Loaf Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Ultimate One Bowl Zucchini Bread!
Date Nut Bread
- standard 9×5 loaf pan
- 2 cups chopped pitted dates, this is about 8 ounces.
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup brown sugar (can be light or dark)
- 1 cup hot coffee
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp cognac or brandy
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray or butter your 9×5 loaf pan and, if desired, line it with a sling of parchment paper so you can remove the loaf easily for slicing.
- Put the dates, butter, baking soda, salt and brown sugar in a mixing bowl.
- Cover with the hot coffee.
- Stir and let it sit for 15 minutes.
- Whisk in the egg, extract, brandy, and baking powder. Fold in the flour and mix well.
- Fold in the walnuts.
- Transfer to your loaf pan and spread out evenly.
- Bake for 45-55 minutes. I cover with foil after 30 minutes to prevent the top from getting too brown. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without wet batter on it. Moist crumbs are fine.
- Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pan to cool completely before slicing.
- If you don't plan on eating right away, don't slice, just wrap the cooled bread in plastic and store on the counter or in the fridge.
- To freeze, let cool completely, then wrap in plastic, and then in foil. Use within 3 months.
- This is one loaf cake that is better eaten when completely cooled, or even chilled. The moisture and texture improve upon sitting.
- If you do not love the flavor of coffee, substitute very hot water. You can also use half coffee and half water.
- Toast the walnuts in a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes for extra flavor.
- Try adding some spice: cinnamon, or ginger would be nice.