Shh, the baby is sleeping.
First of all, thank you so much for so warmly welcoming little Jacob to the Smitten Kitchen! Such love! I must officially be a mom because I have read all 2,500-plus comments, twice, and it turns out that hearing how objectively cute your newborn son is doesn’t ever get old.
And he is, that is, insanely cute. Did I mention that he punches his left fist in the air in his sleep? That he has so much hair, we had to buy him a little baby comb and brush set? Gah, do not even get me started.
So, while we’re catching up and stuff, it seems worth mentioning — you know, now, after the fact — that we were given a week’s notice that they wanted to induce little Jacob, just to play it safe. A whole week! So much time! I asked people what they would do if they knew they were having a baby, say, the very next day and I used everyone’s suggestions as an activity schedule of sorts for our last week before becoming parents. I got a manicure, pedicure and a haircut. We went out for long, luxurious meals, watched movies, finally got to Top of the Rock, came home and nearly sent myself into labor and delivery days early cracking up over Bill Cosby: Himself (this should so be a must-watch for all almost-parents) especially the part where he wants to give the baby back because it looks like a lizard that needs at least another two, three months to cook but the hospital makes them take it home. Right so, where was I? Basically, we did so much lazy, indulgent stuff that I was bored of all of that indulgence and ready to get on with it by the time his eviction date rolled around.
I also baked and baked and baked, things like those snickerdoodles I sneakily autoposted to trick y’all into thinking that I was not, say, in the midst of 51 hours of labor (your spoiler was sporadically right here, by the way). They were a hit, by the way, as were the cheesecake-marbled brownies; I had no idea they’d go over that well, not that any of that was neccessary given the ridiculously awesome nurses I saw. Heck, the only thing I didn’t think of was — whoops! — how many shifts I might need to bribe in a week’s* hospital stay. My sister swooped in with some zucchini muffins, however, and I don’t think I had to ask twice for anything all week.
Also, there was this date spice loaf. You see, as part of Baby Prep Week, we determined it essential that we clear out our DVR queue to make room for all of those new shows we’d surely miss first runs of in the coming weeks, and what was in my queue? Lots and lots of Barefoot Contessa. She made this cake. I made this cake. Heck, I even wrapped it up and brought it to the hospital with me (oh, how sweet my room smelled) thinking that at some point, they’d give me a tray of something involving Jell-O, and I’d much rather we all feast on this. Can’t say it worked out that way (four days without anything but clear liquids, my friends, but as good of a cause as any, right?) but this is still a fine, fine cake, so deliciously fall and I bet a perfect addition to any High Holiday meal.
You know, should you not be subsisting on infant feet instead.
* When you combine the longest induction ever and recovery from an emergency section. I feel awesome, by the way; a zillion times better than I’d have expected all things considered. Must be that yummy morphine they put in my drip!
One year ago: Bread Without a Timetable, Black and White Cookies, Summer Panzanella, Balsamic-Glazed Sweet and Sour Cipollini and Majestic and Moist Honey Cake
Two years ago: Cream Cheese Noodle Kugel, Spaghetti with Chorizo and Almonds and Couscous and Feta Stuffed Peppers
Three years ago: Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake and Fougasse and Rustic White Breads
Date Spice Loaf
Adapted, barely, from Ina Garten
2 cups coarsely chopped dates (10 ounces or 285 grams pitted)
1/3 cup orange liqueur such as Cointreau or Triple Sec
4 tablespoons (2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (145 grams) light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 oranges)
3/4 cup (3 ounces or 85 grams) coarsely chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom of an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pan.
Combine the dates and orange liqueur in a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for one minute. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. With the mixer still on low, add the flour mixture alternately with the orange juice to the creamed mixture, beating only until combined. By hand, stir in the dates with their liquid, and the pecans.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
Serving: Ina suggests you serve this bread with an orange cream cheese spread, which you can make by creaming 6 ounces of room temperature cream cheese with 1/3 cup sugar and one tablespoon orange zest in an electric mixer until just combined.