Introduction: Walnut & Date Loaf

My friend recently gave me this recipe which was an old classic she always made for hiking and camping trips. I think it was originally supposed to be baked in a damper oven in the camp fire coals.  Eat it on the day you bake it or keep for about 3 months in the freezer.   

Step 1: Ingredients

Cooking oil spray
1-11/2 cups chopped dates (if the dates are really dry use just 1  cup)
1/2-3/4 cup walnuts chopped up
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup honey - i use clover but you can use any type you like.  If its hard - warm it up to make it runny
3/4 boiling water
2-3 drops of vanilla
11/2 cups plain flour 

Step 2: Method-part 1

Before you start, heat your oven up to 185-195c (if you are using fan forced heat it up to 185c only).  For you non-metric folk, thats about 365F-383F. 
in a bowl place your chopped dates. 
Pour over the boiling water and leave to sit for about 5-10 minutes.  This will ensure your dates are properly hydrated and wont end up being little burnt lumps at the end. 

Step 3: Method - Part 2

After 5-10 minutes add the honey, stir it until it dissolves.  If you are using a hard honey like clover then heat it in the microwave for a minute to soften up a bit - it will help speed up its incorporation. 

Once dissolved add the walnuts, vanilla, salt and baking soda.  stir everything till mixed well.

Step 4: Method - Part 3

Break both eggs in stir again until well incorporated.  Its important to get everything mixed properly before you add the flour because you don't want to over-mix it.

Step 5: Method Part 4

Add the flour - 1/4 cup at a time being careful to stir slowly so as not to develop the gluten.  Once you have added all your flour scrape down the sides of the bowl and break up any flour lumps. You are now ready to bake.

Step 6: Preparing to Bake..

make sure your loaf tin(s) are clean and dry.
Spray with oil spray and line the long sides with baking parchment.  The oil spray will help stick the parchment to the pan. 
Pour in the mix - divide evenly between the two pans (if you are using two) 
Even out the tops with a spatula.  Make sure that there are no nuts or dates right at the top - they will burn. 

Step 7: Baking

place on the middle shelf of your preheated oven (preheated to 185-195c)

if you are baking in two small loaf tins then bake for 30mins
if you are baking in one large loaf tin then bake for 45-50mins

To test doneness probe the centre of the loaf with a wooden/bamboo skewer - the skewer will come out clean when done. 

Remove from oven and set aside for 5 minutes before turning out on a rack to cool. 
Use a butter knife to free the sides up if they have stuck. 
Slice into 1cm slices using a serated bread knife and enjoy.  

Step 8: Costing Out Your Loaf

This is a pretty cheap treat - it costs out at about $4 by New Zealand food prices - see below

$0.50    eggs
$0.60    Honey
$0.60    Flour
$0.05    spray oil
$0.90    dates
$1.25    walnuts
$0.01    baking soda
$0.00    salt
$0.00    water
$0.09    vanilla
$4.00    Total estimated cost