Date Me

Before I was making sourdough breads and breads with levains, I was wearing out a copy of The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. There is a plethora of recipes in that book that inspired a deep appreciation for whole grains in baking. I started a rye sourdough culture using her guidelines. She’s now called Demeter and is just under two years old now. Though I haven’t picked up the book in a while, I try to remember my roots from time to time.

One of my favorites from Laurel was date bread. It was so soft and pleasantly sweet. People’s reaction to it always amused me. Here’s a typical interaction:

Them: Oh! What’s that flavor?
V: It’s date bread.
Them: Wait what’s that?
V: Bread… with dates in it…
Them: Oh…

I’m not so sure what the confusion was. I like to assume they thought I was suggesting it was bread you give to someone you want to date. Honestly, if someone gave me a loaf of (good) bread and said “do you want to go on a date”, the answers would almost surely be yes.

Date bread was one bread that I was really missing from my beginning days and I wanted to create something at the same level of quality that I was used to now. I bought some dates just before I moved and so they sat unused for a bit until I got the inspiration. My house had a welcoming party and someone brought a sweet Riesling. It was opened but not finished that night. No one in the household wanted to finish it (we aren’t really white wine people, never mind sweet wine people) and so inspiration struck me - get some dates drunk. At the same time as I built a levain, I chopped the dates and let them soak in the wine overnight.

I still consider the following recipe to be in development, but the first attempt was good enough that I feel comfortable sharing.

Date Bread, v1.0

Total Weight: 1600g (210.25%)
Hydration: 75%
Prefermented flour: 20%

Ingredient List
571g Bread flour (75%)
190g Khorasan wheat (25%)
457g Water (60%)
114gWhite wine (15%)
228g Dates, chopped (30%)
15g Salt (2%)
23g Sourdough (3%)
2g Yeast (0.25%)

Drunken Dates
114g Wine
228g Dates

Liquid Levain
114g Bread flour
143g Water
23g Sourdough culture

Final Dough
457g Bread flour
190g Khorasan wheat
314g Water
15g Salt
2g Yeast

Get the dates soaking in wine at the time you build the levain, approximately 16 hours before you build the final dough. When you build the dough, mix the dry ingredients listed, and add the water to your levain and dissolve it. Leave a little bit of water for the yeast if you are using active dry yeast. Add the dissolved levain to the dough, mix by hand until you have thoroughly hydrated the flour. The dough doesn’t need to be smooth yet. Add the dates and fold to incorporate. Don’t worry about getting the dates well distributed yet. The dough is ready for a 3-hour bulk rise.

Fold after 15, 30, 45, 60, 120 minutes, then wait for the third hour to be up. Divide into two, let rest for about 10 minutes, then shape. I let this do a final proof for about 50 minutes. Bake at 475F for 30-35 minutes, steamed for the first 20.

I got a lot of oven spring out of this bread, and this was before I was baking in a cast iron combo cooker. Such a happy bread! I think I was successful in getting the sweetness and softness I was looking for in this sourdough bread.

~ Valentine