Monday, November 24, 2008

The New Classic

My colleagues and I are pretty regular customers at the Chock Full o'Nuts on 23rd Street, between Park and Lex. We stop in once or twice a week for mid-morning coffees, often adding a Chock Classic to our order. A classic indeed (my dad has apparently been a fan of the CC for years and loves it), the CC is a sandwich made from two slices of date nut bread spread with cream cheese. Sounds good, right? My friends and I have shared many a Chock Classic, and with a hot cup of coffee, it makes a fun snack. Here's the thing, though. The Chock Classic is kind of treacly. Really sweet. And they always put on too much cream cheese. And the bread is cold. We want to love the Chock Classic, but we're always a little disappointed.

So this weekend I took matters into my own hands. I went back to a recipe for Date & Walnut Bread that Patricia Wells had contributed to Runner's World a few years ago when she was training for a marathon. I've made the bread before and it's terrific. I substitute whole wheat flour for half the all-purpose flour, and there's no sugar (only honey), plus plenty of chopped dates and toasted walnuts. Once the bread had cooled, I cut a slice, spread a little cream cheese on it and... heaven! Not too sweet, just hearty enough, with the perfect balance of smoothness and crunch. Thank you, Chock Full O' Nuts, for the inspiration.--S

Date and Walnut Bread

1 t walnut [or other] oil
1 1/2 c dates [about 12], pitted and cubed
1/2 c walnut halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t fine sea salt
1/2 c honey
3/4 c hottest possible tap water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour [I substitute 3/4 c whole wheat flour]

1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Coat a nonstick one quart rectangular bread pan with walnut oil. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine dates, walnuts, baking soda, salt and honey. Add hot water and stir to blend. Add eggs and vanilla to the date mixture and blend thoroughly. Slowly add flour; blend well. The batter will be fairly thick.
3. Pour batter into pan, evening out the top with a spatula. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.
4. Remove from the pan and let cool for at least an hour. Bread can be stored for up to three days, tightly wrapped in plastic.

Recipe courtesy of Runner's World

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