Some of the oldest cookbooks in the world are from the fertile crescent region. This recipe for Babylonian Dried Fruit Bread is based on recipes from ancient Sumerian and Babylonian texts. A fun way to explore history is through pairing books with foods. There is a gorgeously illustrated Epic of Gilgamesh trilogy which can be read while enjoying this recipe. Or you could enjoy this bread while reading Lugalbanda, the oldest known story in the world!
This bread is deliciously moist and lightly spiced with nutmeg and cardamom. It is sweetened with only dried fruit, and does not contain any added sweeteners! We enjoy this bread for breakfast or a snack. It is yummy plain, or buttered and topped with cream cheese or goat cheese.
I've chosen to use Einkorn wheat flour in this recipe. Einkorn is an ancient variety of wheat that has never been hybridized; as such it is naturally lower in gluten and higher in protein than modern wheat. Some people who have sensitivities to gluten in modern wheat can actually consume Einkorn with no problems. Einkorn also has a superior nutrient profile compared to modern white flour, even though it does not have added vitamins like conventional flour does.
Babylonian Dried Fruit Bread
Makes one loaf
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Bake Time: 63-68 minutes
Total Time: about 1 hour and 20 minutes
2 cups Einkorn all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp fine-ground Celtic sea salt
1 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup unsulphured dried apricots
1/2 cup prunes
1 cup milk kefir (or substitute plain whole-milk yogurt)
2 sticks butter, softened, plus additional butter for greasing the pan (preferably nutrient-dense butter)
2 large eggs, preferably from pastured hens
3/4 cup full-fat cottage cheese
Combine the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine.
Generously butter the sides and bottom of a loaf pan. (I use a 9.5X4.5 glass pan.) Line the baking pan with parchment paper to make it very easy for the bread to be removed from the pan. The butter makes a nice "glue" that allows the parchment paper to stick to the inside of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Roughly chop the dates, apricots, and prunes. Place the dried fruit into a food processor and process until the fruit is finely chopped. Add the milk kefir and pulse to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Put the softened butter in a large bowl. Use a hand mixer to beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs one at a time, and then mix in the cottage cheese. It is okay if the butter mixture looks curdled during this step.
Mix the dried fruit/kefir mixture into the butter mixture.
Mix in the flour mixture just until well-mixed. Do not overmix. The bread batter will be quite thick.
Pour the bread batter into the prepared loaf pan. Smooth out the top of the batter with the back of a spoon or spatula.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 63-68 minutes, until the loaf is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow the bread to cool in the loaf pan. Remove the bread from the pan when it is mostly cool.
Slice the bread, and serve! A Rada bread knife works superbly for slicing this type of bread. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. If you're freezing it, place parchment paper between the slices so they will be easy to separate later on. We like to re-warm this bread in the toaster oven and serve it with a smear of butter and perhaps some cream cheese or goat cheese.
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