Sunday, August 17, 2014

Brunch Rules + Chock Full o' Nuts Date Nut Bread

Brunch! Photo: NK 
Sunday. A day of rest, a day of relaxation, and if you're lucky, a day for brunch. People are enamored of brunch, and for good reason. It's got so much to offer, and it even encourages day-drinking! 

Now I've mentioned that my husband is the undisputed master of breakfast foods (I nearly always leave this meal to him), but I know a thing or two about how to make your at-home brunch just a bit more special. As such, I give you my 

Brunch Rules:

1. Have one special food item to anchor the meal-  some ideas include: really fantastic Croissants, Slab Bacon from your local butcher, or, in today's case, some dense and delicious Date Nut Bread spread with Cream Cheese. For this I have to thank my mom, who took it upon herself to make and share this classic New York City cult favorite, Chock Full o'Nuts Date Nut Bread. The recipe we'll include below results in addictively delicious, moist slices of sweet, nutty goodness. 

Wine Spritzer with Fresh Fruit, Photo:NK
2. Break out the good stuff- For whatever reason, brunch always feels, at least to me, like it should be just a bit more luxurious than your average meal. Whether that means you use your good china, or skip the paper napkins in favor of cloth, do something that makes brunch feel extra special to you. 

3. Imbibe- A pretty cocktail will always help your brunch to stand out. Go with the classic Mimosa or Bloody Mary (my all time fave), or improvise with what you have on hand, as we did with our Pink Wine Spritzer made with equal parts Dry Rose and Seltzer, plus fresh Figs, a slice of Pear, and a few Frozen Raspberries. Refreshing!

4. Variety is the spice of life- To set brunch apart from other daytime meals, I like to include lots of little nibbles - they take almost no time to present, and having lots of options always seems to increase the enjoyment of the meal. Ideas include: some dried and fresh fruits, a handful of nuts, or two or more types of jam or compound butter. And don't forget the Biscotti. Nothing makes coffee more enjoyable than something crisp and sweet to dunk in it. 

5. Take your time- Brunch is a long and lazy meal. Enjoy it slowly and in good company. Take a rest, and go back for seconds. Brunch is definitely one of life's many pleasures worthy of savoring. 

Now as promised, here's the recipe for the most smashing Date Nut Bread. One loaf takes you a long way, as it is dense and very rich. It's also a wonderful idea for a hostess or holiday gift, that is if you can bear to part with it! Be sure to also read the story behind this iconic treat

Chock Full o' Nuts Date Nut Bread, Photo: NK 

Chock Full o' Nuts Date Nut Bread (and Cream Cheese Sandwiches)
(Recipe and courtesy of Capital New York
Makes 1 loaf:
1 cup pitted chopped dried dates
3/4 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
8-oz package cream cheese, slightly softened
1. Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9x5-inch metal loaf pan, set aside.
2. Add the dates to medium-sized, heat-safe bowl. Pour boiling water over top, stir and let stand 15 minutes. 
3. Meanwhile, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Add the nuts and set aside.
4. In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until combined (mixture might look crumbly). Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth and combined.
5. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and the date mixture (including remaining water), 1/2 of each at a time, mixing until combined.
6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 45-55 minutes, until bread is almost completely baked, but a few crumbs still stick to a toothpick inserted into the loaf. The bread will continue cooking after it is removed from the oven, so be careful not to overbake.
Assemble the sandwiches:

7. Let bread cool for 10-15 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool fully on a rack. Once cooled, slice bread and serve as closed or open-faced sandwiches spread with a tablespoon or two of cream cheese


  1. I remember this date nut loaf from when I was young but hadn't thought of it lately! As soon as I saw your post I ran to the store. This morning, though I no longer live in the NY area, I am enjoying that same taste I remember from childhood. The best part of the classic recipe is how moist it comes. I am looking forward to breakfast like this for the next few days. Thanks for the reminder! Rhoda F.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Rhoda, and I am glad we could bring you great memories. I just got finished eating this amazing bread, savoring it over a week myself. I would like to say I am making more but it's just too tempting. So happy you enjoyed and thank you for reading! Sam

  3. What nice memories going to chock full o nuts with my mother for lunch after we finished shopping. Date nut bread and cream cheese sandwich with a glass of chocolate milk was my favorite. The cream cheese I remember was a thin slice of cheese rather than spread. Wish I could go back in time

  4. In my late teens and early twenties I lived in Manhattan with my 2 roomies. Too poor to do much, in winter we walked from NE 28th St to 57th to Rockefeller Center to watch the skaters, see the gorgeous tree and smell and roasting chestnuts. Our treat was walking home, but always stopping at Chock Full of Nuts for Hot Chocolate and date nut bread sandwiches with cream cheese. That was the life. Thanks for the memories!

  5. In my late teens, early 20's I lived in Manhattan with my 2 roomies. We worked to pay the rent! Too poor to do anything much, in the winter we would walk from NE 28th St to 57th and Rockefeller Center to watch the ice skaters, take in that beautiful tree and smell the chestnuts roasting. Walking back home was the best part. We would always stop at Chock Full of Nuts for hot chocolate and date nut bread with cream cheese. Those were the days! Thanks for those precious memories.