This recipe has been in the works for quite some time and gone through many variations to finally land with the current version, which I am thrilled with! A big thanks to all of my Portland friends who taste tested the many loaves in between - your feedback was invaluable!
This incarnation, from what started out as a banana bread, became a date bread when I came across Henrietta Inman's recipe for a Baked Banana, Date & Pecan Loaf in her book Clean Cakes. In that recipe Inman heated water and dates in a saucepan to create a date paste, genius! Of course I had used this method of preparation for dates before with making specialty bread fillings and was also familiar with using date purées, but I never thought to create a date paste and add it directly to the bread batter. Once the wheels started turning, I decided to make the most out of this step of heating the dates by first toasting some oats and spices to enhance these ingredient's natural flavors.
The next hurdle I had to tackle was the banana dilemma, how many to add? Some banana bread recipes I came across went up to as many as 6 bananas, which was just not going to happen in my kitchen. Don't get me wrong I like bananas, albeit mainly in smoothies, but I am just not a fan of an overwhelming banana flavor in anything. So I tried to get away with only adding 2 by playing with other ingredient ratios in the recipe. What ended up happening, which totally surprised me, was that this banana bread I had been trying to create actually had no banana flavor at all. I considered that a happy miracle and decided I would focus on bringing out the complexities of the dates and spices.
The last piece to this bread puzzle was how much and what kind of oil I was going to use in this recipe. After stumbling across Oil Ladi's Extra Virgin Olive Oil over at Faring Well's blog, I knew I wanted to incorporate this appropriately nicknamed 'liquid gold' in a baking recipe. My pre Oil Ladi self would have scoffed at the idea of using olive oil in baking, simply because it does not tolerate high heat temperatures, or so I thought. But when I learned that some olive oils - Oil Ladi being one of them - can withstand heat temperatures of 350°F, I knew I had to add this oil into my baking repertoire. Dina Fleishman, the lovely woman behind Oil Ladi who is bringing her family's olive oil to the states, recommends reading more on this subject here.
Bread and olive oil continue to be a winning combination. I hope you enjoy this recipe!
1 1/2 tablespoons ground chia seeds
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons cardamom
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 cup oats
8 Medjool dates pitted and chopped
1 cup milk of choice - coconut milk is my preference for this recipe
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup oat or teff flour
3 tablespoons coconut palm sugar or other sugar of choice
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon raw vanilla bean powder or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil, melted coconut oil or other oil of choice
2 overly ripe bananas, approximately 2/3 cup mashed or puréed
1 chocolate bar of choice chopped into pieces - 70% to 85% cacao is my preference (optional)
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)
1/2 dried tart cherries or currants
Preheat oven to 350°F. Put the chia seeds, water and apple cider vinegar into a small bowl, stir and let thicken up a bit. Heat a small sauté pan to medium heat and then add the oats, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. Continue to stir the mixture until the spices bloom and the oats start to toast a bit - approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
Then add the milk and dates and continue to stir and mash the mixture with a spatula until the dates have softened - approximately 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let cool.
Place the rest of the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine.
Then add in the remaining liquid ingredients, including the mashed bananas and oat/date mixture.
Stir well to incorporate all of the ingredients - this would be the point you would then stir in any additional ingredients you'd like to add to your loaf - then pour the batter into a greased bread pan (9" x 5") and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Note - this bread turns out best (more moist) without the use of the oven's convection fan.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes, then take a knife along the edge to make sure the bread is nice and loose. Flip the pan over and tap the bread out into a towel or onto your hand. Place on a cooling rack and let cool for another 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
These bread slices taste lovely on their own, but if you're feeling super indulgent, try adding a smear of butter with a drizzle of honey or spoonful of jam on top.
“Peace goes into the making of a poem as flour goes into the making of bread.”
~ Pablo Neruda