Date Loaf Candy — A Forgotten Favorite
My grandmother introduced me to these delights, which are something of a fudge base with crisp pecan bits and the overall delicious taste of dates, a particular favorite fruit of mine. While there are a few versions of this candy out there, this recipe of mine is the original. It was passed down three generations to me and an almost identical recipe appeared in The Complete Confectioner published in 1864 by J.B. Lippincott & Co. of Philadelphia…and I am proud to have a tattered, but intact copy. The candy is delicious and always a welcomed addition to the Christmas repertoire…always bringing back memories of childhoods past.
The following is a modernized version of the original family recipe, tried and true many, many times.
Date Loaf Candy
1 cup milk
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups chopped, pitted dates
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
On a low humidity day (no greater than 50%), and with a calibrated candy thermometer…
In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, cook milk, sugar and butter over medium heat, stirring constantly at first to dissolve sugar, then often (to prevent scorching), until the mixture reaches 234 degrees (F).
Remove the pan from heat and add the dates, nuts and vanilla extract. Stir briskly with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes until the mixture is thick and creamy and beginning to crystallize, but not yet stiff. Allow the candy to cool down for about ten minutes undisturbed in the pan.
Without scraping the sides of the pan, lift the candy by large spoonfuls into a rough log shape on a clean, slightly damp flour sack towel and roll the candy inside the towel to make a long log no greater than 2 inches in diameter. Roll the date loaf log completely in the damp towel and then wrap the towel well in waxed paper. Place the log into the refrigerator overnight, or at least 8 hours to completely chill. When completely chilled, cut into thin ¼-inch rounds, using a sharp knife that is frequently rinsed clean under hot water.
Store pieces without touching between waxed paper sheets in an airtight container. The candy may be stored at room temperature for two months.