Nik Sharma, author and photographer behind the blog A Brown Table, 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, Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food. This could finally be the fruit cake that people look forward to receiving for the holidays! Try it out and let us know! —Kristina
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 A Brown Table, 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, A Brown Kitchen, 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 @abrowntable 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 Nik Sharma
Image Above: Nik Sharma
Image above: The loaf before glaze
Image above: Nik pours glaze on the loaf
- 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, plus 6 walnut halves
- ¾ cup [180 ml] plus 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
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.
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