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Pumpkin Bread with Dates

The handsome date palm flourishes in the desert climates of the Middle East and North Africa and in Southern California. The buttery rich fruits grow in large bunches containing up to a thousand dates. Varying from oval to elongated, they have a paper-thin skin and a long pit. Dates are classified as soft, semidry or dry, according to their moisture content. Medjool, Khadrawy and Halawy are the commonly marketed soft dates. Deglet Noor and Zahidy are the most popular semidry dates. Whole and pitted dates are available year-round.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup nut oil, such as walnut or almond or
      sunflower seed oil
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pitted dates

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs and oil until smooth, about 1 minute.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth and well combined, 1 to 2 minutes. The batter will be thick. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the dates just until evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Do not overmix. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until the top is browned and crusty and develops a long center crack, 60 to 70 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf should come out clean.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Unmold the loaf onto the rack and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature, cut into thick slices. Makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Muffins, by Beth Hensperger (Simon & Schuster, 2003).