I’ve been obsessed with the plump, sticky Medjool dates that a friend shared with me from California’s Rancho Meladuco Date Farm, eating them out of hand, dipped in hot tea, and fried in olive oil and drizzled with flake salt. However, since one can not live on dates alone — and believe me, I’ve tried this past week — I’ve been making this quick bread with Earl Grey tea along with grated apple or carrot. The tea flavor is rather subtle so, depending on your tastes, either make a stronger brew or substitute your favorite tea for the Earl Grey. I sometimes add no sugar at all, but if you prefer a sweeter quick bread, add up to 1/4 cup brown sugar to the mix or serve slices warm, drizzled with honey.
Date, apple and tea quick bread
20 to 22 plump Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups or 1 pound)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup strong, hot, brewed Earl Grey tea (or other favorite black tea)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and grated or 1 large carrot (about 5 ounces)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (optional)
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and thoroughly grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan.
2. Place 1 1/2 cups of the chopped dates, baking soda, and hot brewed tea in a deep bowl or directly in a food processor or blender; set aside 5 to 10 minutes or until dates are softened. Using an immersion blender, if dates are in a bowl, or the food processor or blender, blend ingredients until smooth. Pour the date mixture, remaining 1 cup chopped dates, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and apple in a large bowl and stir until combined, being careful not to overmix. Stir in the flour and, if using, the brown sugar until just combined. Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pan and bake 55 to 60 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out mostly clean. Remove from oven and let bread cool in pan 5 to 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool before cutting, preferably with a serrated knife.