I’ll admit, I’m kind of diggin’ this no-plan, casual mosey through Middle Eastern cuisine I’ve got going on here. It fits with the attitude of summer, as does this food. I’ve found so far it’s low-stress, low-prep, low-time, low-brain power (and, as it turns out, low-fat), just the way food should be when we all have better things to do, like go for a run outside, visit with friends, and sip on margaritas on outdoor patios.
Yesterday was perfect weather here in the Chi- not at all humid, and the temperature where you could get away with a light sweater, or a sleeveless dress. I rocked both the past two days. As I drove around the city, it was if every dwelling in Chicago exploded, tossing its residents onto the streets to mingle and mix and be. I honestly forgot how many people actually lived in this town, since we’ve all been hibernating the past 6 months.
Yesterday I slept in later than I had on any Saturday in recent memory, and as I sat enjoying my coffee and catching up on my favorite blogs, I got the idea from Helen over at Scrummy Lane that I should dig into my cookbooks for inspiration this week. I’m actually not a cookbook hoarder. Sure, it is my favorite section in the bookstore, and I can get lost in thought for hours as I look at page after page and mentally bookmark all that I want to make, try and tweak for my own table. However, at the end of the day, only 8 occupy my shelves, and all but one was gifted to me. No matter, it was time to ditch the digital and see what I could find in paper that channeled the Middle East. I did pretty well and so we’ll kick off this week with a different sort of quick bread adapted from David Loftus’ Around the World in 80 Dishes.
If you’ve been reading along, this book should seem vaguely familiar, and if you tried the Bengali Prawns or Chutney, you’ll trust anything that comes from these pages. Right now this book is 2-2, so I had no reason to think today’s would be a fail, a date and coffee loaf.
How exactly is this Middle Eastern, you may ask? Well, way back a year ago I made a Libyan Fig-Date bread and I noted that northern Africa drew flavors from not only Africa, but the Middle East as well, and, as such, the dates, milk, honey and bread that are so common in African food are also quite prevalent in my current location. So there’s that.
Also, in a nod to Oman, there is coffee in this. But not just any coffee, a special Oman-style coffee. I’ll explain. Khawa is an Omani specialty and a symbol of hospitality throughout the country. The difference is in the details for this, and Omani coffee is Arabica coffee, strongly brewed and spiked with the flavors of cardamom and cloves…sort of like chai coffee. I figured by adding Omani coffee rather than my regular Tim Horton’s (though- Tim Hortons is THE BEST) added a little more depth to this loaf. Not that it really needed it. I will admit that just to drink, I wasn’t a fan, but then again I like my coffee the way I like my tea: milk and sugar. No flavors. No shots of anything. Plain Jane.
As I read the recipe, I was highly skeptical of the amount of flour that this called for…a mere five ounces (I used my homemade gluten-free mix ala America’s Test Kitchen). Maybe it was a measuring cup/scale discrepancy, but the batter was SO liquidy, I just couldn’t leave it as such, so I added a few more tablespoons. With so little flour and so little baking soda and no baking powder, I didn’t have much confidence that it’d rise the way I expect a loaf of bread to rise. I was right and the loaf came out rather squat and cake-like. It still tasted GREAT, though I think next time I’ll merge this recipe with the Libyan fig-date one and I think I’ll find…problem solved. For now, I leave you with my original recipe and if you choose to make it, know that it will taste wonderful and a wee drizzle of honey adds a nice finishing touch.
**UPDATE: I remade this and realized that I am, in fact, an idiot. Not only did I mis-convert metric to English measure in a major way, but apparently also misread the original recipe. The amounts have been changed below and now this comes out perfect.To be honest I’m not sure how it at all came out even close to okay the first time around, but I guess that is just a testament to its wonderful flavors. Now that I’ve corrected it, go forth and bake. I apologize if you made it already.**
- 9 ounces/2 cup pitted dates, chopped as fine as you like
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 5 TB strong coffee grounds
- 4 cups water
- 3 TB cardamom powder
- 4 cloves
- 2 TB coconut oil, melted
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 TB white sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 5 ounces/1 cup all-purpose)
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 ounces/1½ cups walnuts or pecans, chopped
- Brew the coffee with the water as you normally would, but in the pot, place the cardamom and cloves. Once it’s finished dripping, let sit for about 10 minutes to steep and then strain. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and sugar an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment.
- Put the dates into a bowl and sprinkle with the baking soda. Pour ONE CUP of the hot coffee over the dates and set aside. The rest is for you to drink.
- In another bowl, beat together the oil, egg and sugar. Add the vanilla and salt. Add the flour and gently fold. Finally, add the date/coffee mixture and fold in the walnuts.
- Bake for 1 hour, or until a tester comes back clean. Let stand for a few minutes and then remove from the pan to a cooling rack. Give it some lovin’ with honey and eat.
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