THE WASHINGTON POST – It wouldn’t feel quite like the holidays to me without some kind of sweet, fragrantly spiced quick bread sitting on my kitchen counter, beckoning to be sliced into for breakfast, or to savour with a cosy mug of tea in the afternoon. It brings so much more than meets the eye.
Besides the simple pleasure of having a cakey, aromatic, seasonal produce-packed treat to nibble on, it also fills me with a feeling of contentment to know there’s something special for my daughter and husband to dip into, and to have something to share with friends who pop over.
And since I tend to be gifted a lovingly homemade bread at least once during the season, and I also make it to give to friends, family and neighbours this time of year, the loaves have come to symbolise the shared love and generosity in my life. This sweet potato bread speaks to all of those joys, and adds another – it’s filled with nourishing, whole ingredients, with no added sugar at all. Instead of white or brown sugar, or even maple syrup or honey, the bread is sweetened entirely with mineral- and fibre- rich dates and sweet potato.
It is also made with healthy oil and a mix of whole-grain and almond flours. (It can be made nut-free by substituting the almond flour with additional whole-wheat or all-purpose flour, and omitting the pecans.) Whirring the dates in a food processor along with the other liquid ingredients until smooth distributes the fruit’s deeply flavourful sweetness throughout the bread.
The loaf emerges from the oven tender and moist, delicately sweet, and aromatic with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. It is studded with fresh cranberries which bring bright bursts of tart flavour, and pecans (if you want them) for a rich, buttery crunch. I can’t think of a better way to bring wishes for a healthy holiday to the table, for yourself, or someone you love.
SWEET POTATO BREAD WITH DATES AND CRANBERRIES
This tender sweet potato bread, studded with fresh cranberries and pecans (if you want them) and perfumed with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, is filled with nourishing, whole ingredients and zero added sugar.
NOTE: To roast the sweet potato: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prick a large sweet potato all over with a fork, then place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast, turning over midway, for 50 to 60 minutes, or until tender.
Let cool, then halve and scoop out the flesh into a bowl, and mash with a fork until smooth.
One-and-a-half-cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed, safflower, or canola, plus more for the pan
One-and-a-half-cup pitted dates
One cup mashed, roasted or boiled, orange-fleshed sweet potato
One-third cup milk (whole, low-fat or unsweetened almond milk)
Two large eggs
One teaspoon vanilla extract
One cup whole-wheat pastry flour or white whole-wheat flour (may substitute with half a cup) each regular whole-wheat flour and all-purpose flour)
Half cup almond flour
One-and-a-half teaspoons baking powder
One teaspoon ground cinnamon
Half teaspoon baking soda
Quarter teaspoon ground nutmeg
Quarter teaspoon ground ginger
Quarter teaspoon fine salt
One cup fresh whole cranberries
Half cup chopped raw pecans
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Grease the inside of a nine-by-five-inch loaf pan and line it with a piece of parchment paper long enough for a generous overhang on both of the longer sides. Grease the parchment paper with the oil as well.
Place the dates in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the sweet potato puree, oil and milk and pulse until smooth. (Small bits of the dates will remain.) Add the eggs and vanilla, and pulse to combine. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
In another large bowl, whisk together the whole-wheat and almond flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger and salt until combined. Add the flour mixture to the sweet potato mixture, and stir just until evenly incorporated. Stir in the cranberries and pecans; the batter will be very thick.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and, using a small offset spatula, smooth out the top. Bake for about one hour, or until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a wooden skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan completely, then, using the parchment overhang as a sling, remove from the pan, slice and serve.