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A Spice-Laced Date and Tamarind Loaf + Giveaway

by Kristina Gill

Nik Sharma, author and photographer behind the blog , has made a name for himself by creating recipes using ingredients that reflect flavors of his native India — combined with techniques from his American home with tasty success. The Date and Tamarind Loaf recipe we’re sharing from Nik this week exemplifies his approach to food. It is from his debut cookbook, . This could finally be the fruit cake that people look forward to receiving for the holidays! Try it out and let us know! —

Why Nik loves this recipe: This cake is my take on the spice cakes of the west that we love to bake and eat during the cooler months of the year. I find tamarind to be one of the most wonderful ingredients to work with, either in savory or sweet recipes. It brings back many memories of the two large trees that stood in front of my childhood home in Bombay. Tamarind is usually accompanied by spice in curries or chutneys, savory or sweet, so I wanted to play on that idea and construct a cake that emphasized those features. In this loaf cake, the sweetness of the dates and the fruity acidity of the tamarind go beautifully together.

For a chance to win a copy of Season, respond to the following question in the comments section below by October 17th, 5PM. What single ingredient are you absolutely obsessed with? When did you first encounter it? Tell us the story! The winner will be announced in the comments section, so be sure to check in again.

About Nik: Nik Sharma is the writer, photographer, and recipe developer behind , an award-winning blog that has garnered best-ofs from Saveur, Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, and the International Association of Culinary Professions. His weekly column, , appears in the San Francisco Chronicle and he has written for many other publications. Nik lives in Oakland, CA with his husband and two pets. You can find Nik on Instagram at and find his previous recipe in our archives here.

Image above: Removing the parchment from the loaf

Image above: Cover of Season. All photography by

Image Above: Nik Sharma

Image above: The loaf before glaze

Image above: Nik pours glaze on the loaf

Date and Tamarind Loaf

The inspiration for this cake is a sweet chutney made from dates and tamarind, which is commonly served as a dipping sauce with samosas and other fried snacks. I often dust this cake with confectioners’ sugar or drizzle it with a little Kefir Crème Fraîche.

makes 8 to 9 servings (one 8½ in [21.5 cm] loaf)

Ingredients

  • 3¼ oz [90 g] sour tamarind pulp or paste
  • 1 cup [240 ml] boiling water
  • 2 cups [280 g] all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 16 pitted Medjool dates, finely chopped
  • ½ cup [60 g] chopped walnuts, 6 walnut halves
  • ¾ cup [180 ml] 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup [150 g] packed jaggery or muscovado sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup [120 g] confectioners’ sugar

Preparation

1

Put the tamarind in a medium heat-proof bowl and add the boiling water, pressing down on the tamarind with a spoon so it’s covered with water. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 1 hour. Massage and squeeze the pulp to soften it, and press through a fine-mesh strainer suspended over a bowl, discarding the solids in the strainer. Measure out 1 cup [240 g] pulp for this recipe. Reserve 2 Tbsp of the pulp in a small bowl to prepare the glaze.

Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C]. Grease an 8½ by 4½ in [21.5 by 11 cm] loaf pan with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, pepper, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Put the dates in a small bowl. Add the walnuts and 2 Tbsp of the whisked dry ingredients and toss to coat evenly.

Combine the ¾ cup [180 ml] olive oil, the 1 cup [240g] tamarind pulp and jaggery in a blender and pulse on high speed for a few seconds until completely emulsified. Add one egg and pulse for 3 to 4 seconds, until combined. Repeat with the remaining egg.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the bowl, and pour the egg mixture into the well. Whisk the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and continue whisking until there are no visible flecks of flour. Then fold in the dates and walnuts.

Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Arrange the walnuts halves in a straight line down the center of the loaf. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until firm to the touch in the center and a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, and run a knife around the inside of the pan to release the cake. Remove from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Add the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil to the small bowl containing the reserved tamarind. Sift in the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until completely smooth. Pour the glaze over the cooled loaf and let it sit for 1 hour to set before serving.

The Approach

A high-speed blender is a marvelous tool to use for olive oil cakes because it can quickly whip air and emulsify the liquids in the batter to create a delicate cake crumb. This cake is first spiced with ginger and black pepper and sweetened with jaggery, adding contrast to the tamarind and dates in the batter, and then finally drizzled with a tamarind glaze to add a pop of fruitiness. I prefer to use the sour tamarind found in the Asian grocery stores rather than the sweeter Mexican variety because its stronger flavor comes through better in baking.

Reprinted from Season by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018

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Comments

  • I am so excited about this cookbook and can’t wait to add it to my collection!! I go through phases with ingredients and lately have been on a heeeavy salsa kick. Add some to your tomato pasta sauce, it’s the perfect potato topping, soup is better with it, it’s a go-to for braising greens, use it as the primary sauce for shakshuka, or use it as a spread on sandwiches. I haven’t found a sweet application yet, but I won’t stop trying! hahah

  • I’m obsessed with soy sauce! I eat it in almost everything. On popcorn, in salads, on pasta (with some apple cider vinegar + olive oil). I love it!

  • Rhubarb, lemon and umebashi vinegar, all have both sweet and sour notes and can be used in a myriad of ways.

  • I put ginger in as many foods as I can get away with. I love that it’s warming and earthy–it makes otherwise bland food come alive without the burn of something like hot peppers.

  • I’m obsessed with sour cherries. I love to use them in baking especially, and in making Hungarian sour cherry soup!

  • I have a few: fennel powder, which adds a richness to anything and everything, szechuan peppercorns which I love to use in unexpected ways (a favorite: add them to slow cooker pork carnitas and your mind will be BLOWN), chili crisp, finger limes (on the rare occasion I can get them) and doenjang, korean soybean paste, which adds salty umami funk with a surprisingly low sodium content. I feel like I discovered the majority of these by wandering the aisles of H mart and chinese supermarkets in Flushing, NY, and grabbing whatever seemed interesting! It’s a strategy I would recommend highly.

  • I’ve started to love cooking with paprika. I never used it much before but then I discovered smoked paprika, perfect for all the soups, chilis, and grilling projects this summer. Now I’m hoping to begin to learn to use it the way my grandmother does – aka the Hungarian & Polish ways!

  • I love vanilla. I first had it as a kid. It was and is in most dessert items. Nothing but real will do. There is a popular ice cream bar that had fake vanilla in it. I not only can taste it I can smell it too. I’ve tried to eat it many times but can’t get passed the fake vanilla.

  • I have had a long standing love affair with cardamom since I was a little girl. My grandmother was a scratch baker and was known for her dinner rolls. Something about them was different than any other roll I had eaten. They had a fragrant, warm and exotic quality. Much later I learned her secret: cardamom. When I asked her why she put cardamom in her baked goods, she couldn’t tell me the reason, it was just something she had always done. Now, I am learning to cook Persian food and find cardamom is used often in both sweet and savory dishes. Every time I take my jar of cardamom out to cook with, I think of my grandma and her delicious dinner rolls.

  • I love cumin and the wonderful flavor it brings! I had no idea it would pack that chili powder flavor the first time I made it so I left it out of my white chicken chili since I didnt have any the first few times. Waa totally blown away when i finally bought some!

  • I am a little obsessed with giardianara right now. My friend from Chicago introduced me on it. Omg it’s good on everything

  • I love tamarind and can’t wait to try this loaf! I have all the ingredients :-) Currently I’m loving tahini paste. My husband introduced me to it. It’s surprisingly versatile; I love it thinned out and drizzled onto steamed veggies.

    • You could inquire with:
      For they are products they had. The one is titled: Art in The Forest Steer Pitcher
      The other is:
      Rachel Kozlowski Fireside Animals Raccon Cake Stand
      Hope this helps!!!^_^

  • So many ingredients on the top of my list. Sour cherries, Haralson apples, cardamom, tahini, ricotta. 💙

  • I love making sweet bread loaves. Such a great way to make the house smell great and no required decorating!

  • As summer winds down, I’m using the last of the garden’s fresh herbs in everything – basil, mint, thyme. They perk up salads, sandwiches, hummus, soup…..

  • I’m tahini obsessed these days. My mom was really into macrobiotics when I was a kid so I ate it a lot growing up (and she’s Greek, double sesame whammy). I love to drizzle it on roast sweet potato!

  • I love Nik’s photos! And his recipes. Cranberries are my favorite!! I know they see a little love at holiday time, but I keep them around all year. Fresh, dried, a homemade sauce spread on a sandwich. Mmmmm tart goodness.

  • Oh my goodness. The photographs are gorgeous and I was sold with dates and cardamom. Plus, autumn to me is sweet bread time.

  • The ingredient I’m obsessed with is thyme. First off, I love them name:) My aunt has huge bushes of it that grow way up over the top of her porch railings. I love the fragrance of it on my hands. I use it a lot in my household because we eat a lot of fish.

  • Cardemon is the obvious, as I read here :)
    Love that you can use it in every kind of dish; sweet, savory, summery, winter dishes.

    But lately I discovered fresh dragon <3
    My love for dragon has started because of the great cookbook: Veggiestan (). Really everything I made from this book is a winner!
    I have to admit I mostly used dried dragon…and now I am a fresh dragon converted. Holymoly that stuff is so awesome…I am thinking of everything where I can put it in ever since my husband put it in his already amazing risotto. Dragon just taste like 4 mixed spices together.

    okay, what am I making tonight…

  • I’m obsessed with Black Pepper!!!^_^ Did not like it when I was a kid but grew fond of it in middle school!!!^_^

  • I’m obsessed with vanilla bean paste lately. I bought my first bottle last year. Kept hearing about it and so glad I did. I love it anything I need to really bring out the flavor of vanilla. My favorite thing to use it in is my brown butter chocolate chunk cookies. The combination of the paste and brown butter is the best!
    I also love the flavor of tamarind and must try this recipe. This book looks great!

  • Currently obsessed with cloves. The smell is soothing to me and says warmth to me when the weather is turning chilly. I love a good spicy chocolate cookie with cinnamon, allspice, pepper, ginger, & cloves!

  • I currently can’t stop adding turmeric to everything I eat and drink, even if it dyes my entire kitchen a nice mustardy yellow.

  • I’m not very fancy so I just discovered maldon salt! It’s changed my grilled vegetable, chocolate glaze and stew life.
    I discovered it an cool feature article about the Maldon company and ran off to my local Cookbook Market (the real name in LA) for nice ingredients.

  • If there was ever an ingredient that hasn’t slipped off my top 5 list it would be Sriracha the hot sauce. I use it on everything and even a hint on it in deserts can do wonders. By the way amazing stuff on the book Nik! Congrats and all the best.

  • For me it is ghee and a tymeric infused one that I discovered at a Trader Joe’s. Garlic infused olive oil is my best friend right now too. I use it in place of salad dressing and it’s delicioues over fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, & avocados. Delicious!

  • Maldon Sea Salt Flakes! I first grabbed a box a few years ago at Sur la Table, and I put it on everything — especially baked goods! Congrats on the book, Nik!

  • I share many of your ingredient obsessions! Turmeric, cardamom, black pepper, tahini… But Dana wins the prize with her brief list which includes the Haralson Apple! Thank you all for participating! -Kristina

  • This recipe made my house smell amazing! What a delicious combination, not a typical loaf I’d usually bake and that’s exactly what drew me to this recipe. I love the light sweetness of the dates in the spiced loaf, and the glaze is a definite must. Although, for the glaze, I found using 1 tsp of olive oil not enough so I used at least 1/2 cup which worked out fine. Thank you for sharing!

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