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It’s a Date

February 24, 2010
Despite early mornings being the best time for me to bake, they’re not necessarily the best time to pick recipes. A certain amount of attention is needed for the basics, like checking you’ve got enough flour and sugar (and of the right type) that the berries you thought you had in the freezer are still in their packet; rather than spilling out and impossibly mixed in the drawer with the ever present escapee frozen peas. All this needs a relatively clear head lest you discover half way through that you’re out of some vital ingredient. It’s also not a good time to decide you’re going to take that loaf recipe and double it to fit a bundt tin and it’s most definitely not the best time to convert those doubled quantities from American cups to metric. Even if I manage all of the above at 5am the chances are something else will slip – like remembering to turn the oven on, or dusting that greased pan with flour.


In order to avoid moments of frustration part way through the baking process I’ve tried recently to plan just a little bit more, spend some time on a Saturday evening looking through my cupboards to check to see what I could bake. Seeing what I actually have in stock and then pick recipes from there, write out all my conversions and notes ready to go when I wake. I don’t go as far as to weigh out the ingredients ready – what if tomorrow morning was the one morning when I actually get to lie in? But I have a plan.


This past Saturday’s peruse of my cupboards revealed several packets of dates and a fruit bowl overstocked with oranges. Leiths offered up a Date and Orange Loaf, I doubled the quantities from those suggested for a 1 1/2 lb tin so I could fill three of my 1lb ones. It’s an easy recipe as everything is added to the date mixture after they’ve been simmered in water. Use a large pan and you can just whack it all in and save on the washing up.


Date and Orange Loaf

Leiths’ Baking Bible


Makes three 1lb loaves


450g chopped dates

250ml water

340g soft dark brown sugar

340g butter

Grated zest of two oranges

2 tbsp orange juice

2 large eggs

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp all spice


Preheat the oven to 170C.

Grease the tins and line the base with baking parchment.

Place dates and water in a large pan and bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add sugar, butter, orange zest and juice and beat well.
Once the butter has melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Add the eggs, beat well and then sift on remaining ingredients.
Bake for 60 – 90 minutes and then allow to cool in the tins for 15 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.



This is a tasty cake, the moistness from the dates and citrus zing make it perfect to eat as it is. It will improve for being wrapped well for 24 hours, and should it last long enough to dry out, I can imagine that a little spread of butter, perhaps to a toasted slice, would be lovely too.


As I’m not capable of buying just one of anything, of not having a back-up or spare, there were still more dates in the cupboard and having not made muffins for awhile I chose the recipe below, swapping walnuts for chocolate chips in order to make mocha muffins.



Mocha Date Muffins

Adapted from Leiths’ Coffee and Date Muffin Recipe


Ingredients for 12 Muffins


140g chopped dates (tip – snip into pieces with kitchen scissors rather than chopping, far easier)

1/2 Tsp bicarbinate of soda

1 tsp instant coffee

150ml boiling water

225g soft light brown sugar

115g melted butter

2 beaten eggs

250g self-raising flour

100g dark chocolate chips


Line your muffin tins with cases, or grease and dust with flour.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Place dates in a large bowl with coffee and bicarb, pour over the boiling water, stir and leave to soak for 10 minutes.

Add the butter, sugar and eggs into the date mixture, fold in the four until just combined (do not over mix, for light muffins you want it just mixed) and fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and bake 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Remove muffins from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack (the original recipe suggests covering them with a clean tea towel as they cool to keep the tops soft).


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