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Date bread

If this looks familiar, it’s because it is almost identical in every way to a Banana Bread For Dory (q.v.) but it uses dates instead of bananas.

I wanted to try this out because my friend Becky B brought over a sticky date cake the other day and it reminded me of the packet of dates in the larder I had been meaning to use to make a sticky toffee pudding, but have never quite found the excuse for.

It’s also because I do LOVE that banana bread recipe but quite often don’t find I have quite the right number of overripe bananas to justify it. So I wondered if it was possible with dates. And it is! It is still a sort of date bread, rather than a cake, because it’s not especially sweet, which I think is a good thing. You could definitely spread this with butter, for example. Like all cakey/breads that are not a sponge, this keeps very well in tupperware for a few days.

Becky B did a terribly clever thing with HER date cake, which was to soak it, in the manner of a lemon drizzle cake, with a caramel sauce that she bought from Waitrose – it was Bonne Maman, she said: “Confiture de Caramel”. She thinned it with some hot water, pricked the cake all over with a skewer and then went MAD with the sauce. It was really, really fab. My mother always says that things that other people have made for you are always more delicious than something you have made yourself, but still – Becky B is a terrific cook.

You can also make your own caramel sauce if you are that sort of person – there is a recipe somewhere on here, have a rummage.

So here we go

Date bread

150 veg oil
200g dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
250g dates
75g natural yoghurt
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
225g wholemeal spelt flour (get it from Waitrose)
2 tbs caster sugar or cane sugar

1 Pre-heat your oven to 170C and butter a 2lb loaf tin and line it (YES you must do this, don’t be lazy) and line a baking sheet, too.

1 In a bowl whisk together the oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs

2 Chop up the dates roughly then put them in a bowl and pour over boiling water to just cover them. Leave them to soak for 20 mins then drain them and sort of gently mash them through the sieve to get out most of the water.

3 Add the youghurt to the dates and mix together. Sprinkle over the bicarb of soda, baking powder, and salt and stir again.

4 Mix the date mixture and the sugar/egg mixture together. Then sprinkle over the flour and stir until things are only just combined. Over-mixing is disastrous here so stop as soon as you can’t see any more flour. Spoon the batter into your smugly-lined tin.

5 Sprinkle some sugar – caster, cane or granulated -down the spine of the loaf and then put in the oven.

7 Bake for 45-50 mins.

HOW is Kitty, people say to me. How is she, how is she? I don’t talk about her that much any more because she is just off my hands. She turns two in February but she has been off since she turned 18 months old and could walk, talk, ask for things, watch tv, sit and draw or look at her books, play imaginary games with her stuffed animals, scoot around the kitchen on her little trike and so on. She is an actual person these days and it’s such a relief, I can’t tell you.

When I look back on some of the darker things I wrote when she was small I feel awful, so guilty. But it must have been bad for me to write those things, it must have been like that. She’s now this little chattering pixie, everyone wants a piece of her, everyone wants a smile and to hear her squeak “I’m knackered!” – her first party trick.

I used to dread her waking up in the night – the thought of it made me feel actually sick with anxiety. Now sometimes I wake in the night and hope that she might wake, too and need me. But she never does.

Here is a picture of Kitty with her bunny, her hair a bit wild from her nap. Note how she is gripping the bunny quite hard round the neck – I think she is trying to get him to tell her where the chocolate is. I can get pictures printed on t-shirts, mugs, bags and mousemats for a small fee if anyone is interested?

Though I can see the benefits of babies, I suppose. They are not constantly after your iPad and whatever it is that you are eating. And they don’t have a massive fucking tantrum when you try to stop them from doing incredibly dangerous things.

 

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Banana bread. Again.

There is an American writer – dead now – called Richard Yates. You will know him because he wrote a book called Revolutionary Road, which was made into a film with Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet a few years ago – 2007 I think, or 8.

Anyway he wrote loads of books and I read them all. That’s not a boast, they’re mostly very short. But I did also read his biography, which was really long. And then I wrote a very long piece, almost as long as the biography, for The Independent about him, which I think they still owe me my £90 fee for.

The thing about Richard Yates, the reason why you don’t know his name as well as you know other big American writers, is that he was just really obsessed with his mother. In every single book he wrote, there she is. Irritating, mad, feckless, vain, selfish, shrill, talentless, deluded. In Revolutionary Road she appears as an estate agent and because that’s the only book of his most people have read, they think nothing of it.

But she’s there, in all the others, lurking. And when you read one Yates book after the other, it ends up seeming really quite mad. After the third or fourth book you get a horrible psycho “ehhr ehhr ehhr” tingly feeling, like if you were to walk into the bedroom of a friend and it was plastered with photographs of you.

So the reason that Yates never really made it, died alone and mad in a tiny dirty flat, despite being a really terrific writer, was that he was unable to tackle the big themes that make you properly famous; instead he zeroed in, time after time, on miserable little people leading miserable little lives, every book, every page, stalked by his unbearable mother. Revolutionary Road was a hit by accident, while obsessing about how much he hated Ma, Yates also – almost as a side-line – struck a chord with discombobulated middle America. But it was a fluke.

I fell to thinking about Richard Yates and his unwitting, untherapised obsession with his mother when I found myself, almost trance-like, making yet another type of banana bread. Considering I am trying to get material for a book, it seems so mental and obsesseive compulsive to keep making the same thing over and over again with no reason, no explanation.

Although I suppose there is an explanation. And that is, banana bread is fucking delicious.

This recipe I found on a card in Waitrose, and it was originally a banana, chocolate and caramel cake, using a tin of Carnation caramel, but I got home and didn’t have any caramel but did have a tin of condensed milk, so I used that instead.

I know it’s just banana bread and I know there are already about fifteen recipes for it on this blog and I probably belong in a nuthouse but this is really terrific, all the same.

Banana and Condensed Milk Bread
Makes a 1kg loaf

75g butter
25g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 397g can condensed milk
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat your oven to 180c or 170c for fan ovens. Grease and line your 1kg loaf tin. You can get away with just lining the sides with one long strip of greaseproof paper, but you must grease the ends well.

1 Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy then add the egg – do not worry too much if this curdles –  followed by your can of condensed milk. Mix the flour and baking powder together and fold into the mixture.

2 Fold in the banana and then pour into the tin. You can decorate this, if you like, bearing in mind that it is going to rise quite significantly. I dotted a spine of walnut halves down the middle, which then heaved away to the left – like a hip tattoo on a pregnant woman.

3 Bake for 1 hr

Eat, then ring your shrink.

 

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