Traditions with a Healthy Twist

There were two goodies my Mom always made at the holidays (well, she always made a lot of things, but these two were standards): her Fudge-Filled Italian Cookies and Date Breads. These are the two I also always make at the holidays and while the cookie recipe is a family secret, the Date Bread recipe is totally shareable!

The recipe as it is might sound like a healthy enough thing to eat — they even look healthy — brown and dense, with dates and walnuts. Tons of fiber there!

But the original recipe also uses AP While Flour, and a insulin-spiking 2 cups of white sugar! Oh, and butter — though only two tablespoons, so that’s not terrible spread over 2 or 4 breads.

Still, while my hubby and I have generally tried to eat well — no processed foods, mostly organics, lots of fruits and veggies, etc — we also have eaten too much saturated fat and too much sugar, historically. For health reasons, one of my goals in 2019 is to try to bake (most of the time) in a more healthy way.

So, it seemed to me that making my Mom’s Date Breads healthier would be easy: the recipe isn’t too touchy, and the ingredient changes seemed intuitive.

First, the original recipe:

Dot’s Date Breads

Prep Ahead:

  • Put 2 cups chopped dates, 2 tsp Baking Soda and 2 cups of boiling water in a Pyrex bowl and let them set until cool, or overnight.
  • Chop 1 cup Walnuts, not too fine, and put in a separate bowl.

Make the Breads:

In your mixing bowl, combine

  • 2 c White Sugar
  • 2 eggs

Mix until well combined and frothy. Add:

  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp very soft butter
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix until combined. Add:

  • 4 c  AP White Flour

Finally, add the Date/Water mixture slowly, then the nuts, your mixer on low until completely mixed into the batter.

Butter or Spray your cans or loaf pans (and if cans, put parchment or wax paper in the bottoms).

Divide batter evenly among 4 cans or 2 regular loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 60-90 minutes, until the tops are done and a toothpick comes out clean.

By the way, if you wonder what I mean by cans — my mom used well-seasoned Hi-C cans that she had for so long they were dark brown and mostly non-stick. I started my own cans years ago, but I use shorter 28-oz tomato cans that I have not quite seasoned as well as hers, but they still work very well. 🙂

For holidays I use the cans, but sometimes just for us, I go with loaves (though the huge muffin top on the can bread is something to look forward to, for sure!)

So, now for the recipe revision!

Obviously, the first thing to get cut was the sugar. I cut it by half, confident that the bread would still be fine because of the sweetness of the dates. I also used Sugar in the Raw Turbinado Sugar instead of plain white sugar (a minor health benefit, perhaps, but I like Sugar in the Raw for most things).  If you don’t like things sweet you might even try just going with 1/2 cup.

Then I had to make decisions about the fats and grains. The oil was easy — same amount, but the butter was out, and the EVOO was in! I use California Olive Ranch Olive Oil for everything, so that was what I used here.

With the flour, I went with a mixture of:

  • 2 c King Arthur’s Whole White Wheat Flour
  • 1 c Hodgson Mill’s Whole Wheat Pastry Flour  (Side Note: HM has a nice 1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 AP in a bag… saves you the trouble of combining)
  • 1 cup AP White Flour

Finally, I cut the salt in half and added 1/2 tsp baking powder–just in case the heavier flours needed a bit of a lift–and 1 heaping tablespoon of ground Flaxseed for extra health benefit. I followed the baking process exactly as it always was.

20190114_185501_hdrThe result came out perfect! I could give this to any of our family or friends, and I don’t think they’d notice a difference — it retained all of the flavors and has an even better texture! The only picture I have is of this one we’ve already consumed and the other is in the freezer. 🙂  The top looks moist, but it’s actually not. It’s nice even 2 days later.

So, the revised Recipe:

Dot’s Updated Date Breads:

(Prepare Dates and Nuts the same as instructed in original recipe above)

In your mixing bowl combine until well mixed and frothy:

  • 1 cup Turbinado Sugar in the Raw
  • 2 eggs


  • 2 tbs Olive Oil
  • 2 tbs Vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Mix together, then add:

  • 2 C Whole White Wheat Flour
  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 1 Cup AP White Flour
  • 1/2 tsp No-Aluminum Baking Powder
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ground Flaxseed

Mix until completely combined, and then add:

Chopped Nuts and slowly incorporate Water/date Mixture.  (Pssst… you could also add a 1/2 cup of Dark Chocolate Chips here. I didn’t have any on hand, but if I had, I would have!)

Bake as instructed in the original.

In my oven the loaf pans only need an hour, but the cans will need at least an hour and fifteen minutes.

I hope you’ll try this delicious–and now healthier–treat, and think of my Mom when you do. 🙂



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