Dates are the sweet, edible fruit of a desert palm. The remnants of old date orchards can be seen along the highways of southern California and Nevada. The orchards were at one time, spring fed, and when the water dried-up, so too did the date business. Imagine driving across the desert in the 1930s and '40s, and stumbling upon what would appear to be an exotic desert oasis.
The once prized fruit, can now be purchased in grocery stores alongside the raisins and dried fruit.
My mother used to serve her date bread smothered in cream cheese. What a treat!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line the bottom of a large loaf pan with parchment paper.
In large bowl, mix together:
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup dates, well chopped
1/2 tsp salt
Bring 3/4 cup water to boil. Add 3 T shortening. Pour over the date and pecan mixture and let stand 20 minutes. Soaking the dates in a baking soda mixture, not only softens them, but helps break-down the date fibers so the fruit is easy to chew.
To the above, add:
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Combine well and turn into prepared loaf pan. Bake for approximately one hour, or until toothpick inserted into the center, comes out clean. The baked date bread will appear very dark in color. Don't be alarmed - that's normal.
Cool for 15 minutes before turning out of pan.