Crumby date nut bread

lpinkmountainJune 18, 2014

I made BF some date nut quick bread this week and it is very crumby, will not hold together. I'd like to master this because BF loves date nut bread. I used a recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book (an oldie but a goodie) and the recipes in there are usually good. But I did make some changes, so if anyone could help me figure out what to do better next time I would appreciate it.

Here's the recipe, with notes on my changes, which may have been fatal.

2 cups whole wheat flour (I used wwh pastry flour)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. mace
1/2 tsp. salt
6 TBLSP butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 well beaten eggs
1/2 cup milk (OK, here was where I may have made the fatal mistake. I soaked 1/2 cup of dried apples in some apples juice and then drained them for the bread. I used the apple juice in place of the milk. Didn't think it would make a huge difference, but maybe it did?)
1 cup chopped dates (I used 1/2 cup dates and 1/2 cup diced dried apples that I soaked overnight in apple juice and then drained and chopped)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp. grated orange rind (I used one tsp. dried orange rind)

Sift together dried ingredients. Cream butter and sugar and beat in eggs. Add dry ing. to mix alternately with milk. Fold in dates, nuts, rind. (I mixed the rind in with the wet ingredients and mixed the fruit in with the flour to ensure even distribution).

Place in a greased loaf pan. Bake at 325 for 60-75 minutes. Cool for 5 min. (Note: this was way too long. Mine was somewhat overcooked at 55 min. So maybe over cooking may have been responsible for the dryness. Not sure why the long cooking time, or maybe my oven runs hot.)

So those are my thoughts, either subbing apple juice for the milk or too long baking may have dried it out? Or a combination. Just what does milk do for baked good anyway. I know it makes for a "softer" product with yeast bread.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Lpink, it's easier to see if it's a good recipe if you follow it without substitutions the first time you make it. If it turns out badly, try another recipe the next time.

If it turns out good, THEN you can try switching and substituting ingredients.

If you want to try it again or an alternate nut bread recipe, you know to test it earlier than the time the recipe lists.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 11:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I totally agree with Ruthanna. Make the recipe as is once first.

These are only guesses, and I'd leave it to someone who knows the science better but since puzzling out the answer is loads of fun, I'll offer up my response: It sounds like you didn't have enough protein, though you do have eggs, so maybe not? Protein makes great glue. Pastry flour has less protein, and I've learned recently that the bran in whole wheat can cut the gluten strands. That would reduce the sticky. Pastry flour is supposed to be crumbly. Then you substituted sugar (apple) for protein and fat (milk), and maybe not enough fluid. Milk is also sticky. I think by substituting the apples for both milk and some of the dates (which are sugar, but icky sticky sugar), you went too far towards apple bread, which is another recipe. :)

Ah, feh. As I was typing I realized too many side trips into I don't know, but I'll post it anyway in case any of it sparks an idea. My instincts tell me that adding another egg might help, but I have no idea if that would work. I freehand bake that way, and it comes out, but I'm not sure that applies to reading a recipe...

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 12:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I suspect the pastry flour substitution - looking at the page on flours on Cook's Thesaurus
it has less protein than regular flour and less protein means the result will be more crumbly.

Cake flour has even less protein and it says about cake flour: "It also doesn't work well in cookies, quick breads, muffins, and biscuits--it makes them very crumbly." I think you might be able to make up for that by adding some vital wheat gluten if you have pastry flour you want to use.

Since there is plenty of fat from the butter and the 2 eggs in the recipe, I doubt that the missing fat from replacing milk with juice made a difference. Maybe the reduction in protein had an affect but it was only 1/2 cup of milk so I think the lack of wheat protein is more the problem.

I also wonder about the substitution of rehydrated dried apples for dates. Dates are usually pretty wet for a dried fruit. Even though the dried apples were soaked, without heat they may not have picked up much water from that. There isn't much liquid in the recipe and as the bread heated in cooking perhaps the apples picked up water and dried it out further. Heating the apple juice and apples at the start of the soak might have helped rehydrate them better.

That may have also led to the loaf baking faster.

There are also common two sizes of loaf pan: 9 x 5 and 8.5 x 4.5. If the recipe intended the smaller size (which I think is the more usual for quick breads) and you used the larger, it may have cooked more quickly and dried out.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 2:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Lots of good advice already. Quick breads are all about PREVENTING gluten development. Therefore, low-gluten flour such as whole wheat pastry flour, spelt is another good wholegrain choice, and I often used a portion of rye flour in quick breads as another low-gluten choice, to achieve a tender crumb. Or if you are using a processed white flour try Southern all-purpose flours (which are milled from soft wheat varieties) like White Lily, Martha White, Gladiola or Red Band, which are better choices than even National brand all-purpose flour (which is milled from a mixture of hard and soft wheat). If you find you have tunnels running through your quick breads, you are over-developing the gluten - either by using a flour that is too high in gluten to begin with and/or over-mixing it.

The Cook's Thesaurus was probably referencing making yeast bread with a low-gluten flour, not quick breads.

In the world of baking science when we judge quick breads at fairs -- "crumbly" loaves of quick breads are caused by overbaking (which you indicated you did), too little liquid or fat, or too much flour (make sure you measure your flour properly - aerate, fill the cup with a spoon, sweep off the excess with a straight edge).

I suspect baking it too long was the problem. Always check a quick bread (especially a new recipe) 10-15 minutes before the recommended time for doneness according to the recipe. You can use the toothpick method to check for doneness, or you can take the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer and most quick breads are "done" when the temperature reaches 210-degrees. Did you accidently use the convection feature if you have a convection oven, because that will speed the baking time.

I'd also suggest getting an oven thermometer and check your oven for the actual temperature (and check it in several areas in your oven). It may be running a little hot.

Although many (not all) quick bread recipes call for a 9x5-inch pan, it is important to use the proper pan size. Instead of a large 9x5-inch loaf, I prefer using either a Danish Loaf Pan or Tea Loaf Pan, which are long and narrow but hold the same amount of batter as a recipe that uses a 9x5-inch pan. The large slices from a 9x5-inch pan tend to break apart - especially if you try to cut thin slices, and are much too large for a serving - so they are generally cut in the middle into 2 pieces so they don't break down the middle. As an alternative to a 9x5-inch loaf, use two 7-1/2x3-1/2-inch pans (and reduce the baking time). These smaller loaves are easier to cut into thin slices.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 3:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The instructions just said "large loaf pan" and I wondered about that. I've had good luck with using pastry flour in muffins so I didn't think it was that. I did heat up the apples while I was soaking them but they were room temp. when I cut them up to put in the bread. I knew I was leaving out some fat and protein by leaving out the milk but with 2 eggs and 6 TBLSP of butter I didn't think it would make that much of a difference. I do think it was the combo of not as much fat and also the overbaking, and perhaps using a "too large" loaf pan. The loaf only came up half the way up the pan. It was a 9x5 inch pan which I figured was your standard "large" loaf pan though. I knew that 60-70 min. was way too long but I thought I was safe with 55 min. I think it is a good recipe but next time I make it I might use the white whole wheat flour, just for the flavor. It does have great flavor! I need to get an oven thermometer, I am growing quite suspicious of my oven, it does not seem to always have reliable temps.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 5:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

1. For quick breads you usually want to fill the pans 2/3 to 3/4 full. It sounds like the recipe may have been designed for a standard/large size loaf pan - 8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inches if it was only half filled.
Jumbo -10" x 4-1/2"
Quick Bread - 9" x 5"
Standard/Large - 8-1/2" x 4-1/2"
Medium - 7-1/2" x 3-1/2"
Small - 5-3/4" x 3-3/4"
Miniature - 4-1/2" x 2-1/2"

2. Milk is a tenderizer, but I didn't have a problem substituting the juice since it was a small amount.

3. In order to avoid undesirable gluten development, batters for quick breads are mixed ONLY to the point of moistening the dry ingredients. Once you add the dry and wet ingredients, mix by hand for the best results. I suggest using a Danish Dough Whisk for batters and consider it one of the best tools I have in the kitchen. Skip the stand mixer or electric hand-held mixer because they will quickly over-develop the gluten.

4. Quick breads in general....
They are called "quick" breads because they are baked immediately after the ingredients have been mixed. This category includes pancakes, crepes, waffles, popovers, biscuits, dumplings, muffins, scones, tea breads (what we generally call quick breads), coffee cakes, cream puffs, hushpuppies, cornbread, Boston Brown Bread and "unleavened," actually steam-leavened, breads such as tortillas, and chapatis, crisp flat breads, and matzo.

5. The slow oven was also somewhat out of character with baking quick breads, but not uncommon.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 4:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It may be crumby, but on the flip side, it does taste good. I am just using butter or cream cheese to hold it together!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 11:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I compared your recipe to my favorite fruit-nut bread recipe and it is very similar. Mine is for cranberry-walnut bread and it doesn't come out to crumbly. Slices hold together

It calls for all purpose flour but I've subbed white whole wheat because I like the heartier flavor in ti.

It uses the same amount of flour, 1 egg instead of 2 and 4 tbsp of shortening instead of 6 of butter.

1 cup of liquid - orange juice, vinegar and water. (Baking soda leavening instead of powder due to the acidic ingredients, but I haven't had that make a difference in crumby-ness).

It uses a bit more sugar but its for fresh or frozen cranberries so that's understandable. Same amount of fruit and twice the nuts.

The recipe calls for baking is 60-70 minutes at 350 in a 9x5" pan and that is about how long it takes.

So it doesn't look like the baking time, temperature or substitution of apple juice for milk are likely the problem. My recipe has less fat and protein.

So it looks like the problem is either two little moisture (1/2 cup vs 1 cup), or too much heat (either oven running hot or recipe calls for too long a time). Or maybe subbing pastry whole wheat flour for regular whole wheat.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 12:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Interesting info Cloud Swift, thanks for sharing it.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 2:38PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Weird "guy food" that's actually delicious?
You know what kind of food I mean? Not the kind of...
Canning tomato juice worth it?
Hi All - I'm thinking about canning tomato juice this...
As Seen on Food Fortunes -- Can you measure flour?
Have you seen this show? Shark Tank for the comestibles...
25th Birthday Review
Hi everyone, My 25th birthday was a very special one,...
Please clarify this butter question......
Help! my brain isn't working on this one & I need...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™