Date Nut Muffins

Date Nut Muffins

Date Nut Muffins have been one of my favorite foods for Christmas brunch for many years. I recently discovered that, according to HolidayInsights.com, December 22 is National Date Nut Bread Day. Yay! In the spirit of the season, this year we are having date nut bread on the 22nd and date nut muffins on Christmas.

The initial recipe worked well in a loaf pan, but it made too much for muffins. I reduced the quantities for muffins; you’ll find recipes for both muffins and bread below.

When I first started making this recipe, I used chopped dates that come in a bag next to the prunes and raisins in the grocery store. They tasted fine in these date nut muffins. After touring a date farm in Yuma, Arizona, I started keeping Pitted Medjool Dates on hand for snacking. One Medjool date would satisfy my sweet tooth almost as well as a peanut butter cup.

Yuma is one of the world’s top producers of gourmet Medjool dates. There’s plenty more to do in the area, as described in this travel article about Yuma and Parker, first published in the December, 2018 issue of MotorHome Magazine.

About Those Pans

When I made muffins, there was enough left over that I put the extra batter in another pan. Even though I cooked the two pans for the same length of time, the muffins cooked differently in each pan. In the gray pan the muffins were nicely browned, and in the beige pan the muffins were pale and mushy. I’ve had both pans for years, and neither one had a brand name on it. After reading reviews on Amazon, I ordered a Wilton Non-Stick Muffin Pan.

After that pan arrived two days later, I made the fifth batch of these muffins to refine the recipe.  I’m happy to report the Wilton pan worked even better than my old gray one. Both of my old pans went to Goodwill.

About Xanthan Gum

According to Healthline.com, “Xanthan gum is a popular food additive that’s commonly added to foods as a thickener or stabilizer. It’s created when sugar is fermented by a type of bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. When sugar is fermented, it creates a broth or goo-like substance, which is made solid by adding an alcohol. It is then dried and turned into a powder.

“Xanthan gum can improve the texture, consistency, flavor, shelf life and appearance of many foods. It also stabilizes foods, helping certain foods withstand different temperatures and pH levels. Additionally, it prevents foods from separating and allows them to flow smoothly out of their containers. It’s used frequently in gluten-free cooking since it can provide the elasticity and fluffiness that gluten gives traditional baked goods.”

Many all-purpose, gluten-free flours contain xanthan gum. Since I used Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour, I didn’t need the additional xanthan gum. If you use a gluten-free flour that doesn’t include xanthan gum in the ingredients, you may want to add some.

Serves: 12

Active time:  20 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes (muffins) or 1 hour and 30 minutes (bread)

Specialized One-Butt Kitchen Utensils

  • Depending on what you want to make, you’ll need either a Non-Stick Muffin Pan or a Nonstick Loaf Pan. See “About Those Pans” above.
  • You can use either an Immersion Hand Blender or a Hand-Held Electric Mixer to prepare the batter. I tried both. For this recipe, I preferred the hand-held mixer; the immersion blender would occasionally scatter grains of sugar around my work area.
  • An Oven Thermometer will indicate when the oven is preheated to the specified temperature.
  • A Pizza Stone on the rack helps distribute the heat of the oven.  Without it, food is likely to burn above the heating element and be undercooked on the sides.

Date Nut Bread Ingredients

  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • 1 tsp instant espresso coffee
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ¾ cup gluten-free or white flour
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum (optional. See “About Xanthan Gum” above.)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 1 cup pecans, broken coarsely

Directions for Date Nut Bread

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare the loaf pan with butter and flour.

In a bowl, sprinkle baking soda and instant coffee over the chopped dates.  (If you used whole Medjool dates, they can be a bit gummy when you dice them. Never fear; the next step takes care of that.) Pour boiling water over the dates.  Stir until the lumps have separated and the mixture is well blended. Set aside to cool.

Put the butter in a separate large bowl and beat until creamy, then add the sugar and continue beating until well blended.  Add the egg and salt into the butter and sugar mixture and blend well.  Stir in half of the flour and baking powder and mix well.  Add the date mixture and the remaining flour. When blended, add pecans and bourbon.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake at 325 degrees until done when tested with a toothpick.  A loaf of bread will take around 70 minutes.

Date Nut Muffins Ingredients

  • ¾ cup dates, chopped
  • ¾ tsp instant espresso coffee
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • 3 tbsp  butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 small egg, beaten (I used the smallest one I could find in my carton of large eggs)
  • ⅓ tsp salt (I’ve never seen a ⅓ tsp. Use a heaping ¼ tsp or a scant ½ tsp.)
  • 1 ⅓ cup gluten-free or white flour
  • ¾ tsp xanthan gum (optional. See “About Xanthan Gum” above.)
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp bourbon
  • ¾ cup pecans, broken coarsely

Directions for Date Nut Muffins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare the muffin tins with paper cupcake liners or butter and flour. See About Those Pans above to choose

In a bowl, sprinkle baking soda and instant coffee over the chopped dates.  (If you used whole Medjool dates, they can be a bit gummy when you dice them. Never fear; the next step takes care of that.) Pour boiling water over the dates.  Stir until the lumps have separated and the mixture is well blended. Set aside to cool.

Put the butter in a separate large bowl and beat until creamy, then add the sugar and continue beating until well blended.  Add the egg and salt into the butter and sugar mixture and blend well.  Stir in half of the flour and baking powder and mix well.  Add the date mixture and the remaining flour. When blended, stir in the pecans and bourbon.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake at 325 degrees until done when tested with a toothpick.  Muffins will take between 25 and 30 minutes.

 

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