Earlier this month, I was at the Healdsburg Museum looking through old editions of The Healdsburg Tribune to familiarize myself with Healdsburg’s Prune Blossom Tour, the subject of my latest feature article, and I came across a selection of recipes — prune nut squares, prune apricot pot roast and prune honey bread.
Since I was going to be writing about the history of the tour, I thought it would be fun to try to make one of the prune-related recipes. Since the pot roast and the prune nut squares didn’t sound too appealing to me, I decided to try my hand at baking the prune bread.
Right off the bat I should say that I’m not a big prune or raisin fan, however, the other ingredients in the bread did sound appealing — sugar, walnuts, honey, vanilla extract — so I decided to roll up my sleeves and get to work.
The first order of business was chopping a cup and a half worth of prunes and let me tell you, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The prunes were sticking to the knife and my fingers and once in a while I came across a pit, but I eventually got them all finely chopped. I also didn’t have quite a cup and a half but I figured that the amount I had would do.
Next, I had to boil a cup of water to add to the prune mixture. I’ve never had to do this when making a loaf bread, such as banana bread, so I’m curious to know if anyone has any idea what the benefit of adding boiling water is.
As I combined the beaten egg, the prune mixture, the cup of chopped walnuts, water, vanilla extract and baking soda, I had hopes that the bread would turn out good.
After I mixed those ingredients I had to let the mixture sit covered for 20 minutes. While I waited, I sifted the flour and sugar and measured out the cup of honey.
When the 20 minutes was up, I combined the prune mixture and the honey with the sugar and flour and got out my electric mixture, which I am so thankful for because this was a thick batter and hand mixing it would’ve required a lot of muscle.
I mixed the batter for about three to five minutes on the low setting and then on the medium setting as “low” wasn’t cutting it.
It seemed that the recipe yielded a lot of batter and I wasn’t sure if it was going to all fit in my loaf pan, but nevertheless, I greased and floured my pan and prepared to fill it, which was also a more difficult task than expected.
Normally, I can bake without the help of others, but this batter was very viscous and it was pouring out into the pan at a snail’s pace and my arm was growing tired of holding the heavy bowl aloft, so, I recruited my husband to help me. He held the bowl for me while I scooped the rest of the batter into the pan.
At this point I took a whiff of the batter and it didn’t smell all that appetizing. Regardless, I put it into the oven.
As the loaf baked, it did start to smell quite good, like a warm and sweet raisin bread. When my timer was up, I pulled the loaf out to check on it. It was a lovely golden brown color and it hadn’t quite risen all the way. I poked a toothpick through the middle to see if it was done, however, the toothpick didn’t come out clean so I put the bread back in for eight minutes.
This was where it all went wrong. Perhaps I should’ve put it back in for only three minutes, or, I could’ve just listened to the recipe and taken it out at the hour mark. The bread smelled good so I thought it would taste good, but the consistency was off, it looked like a giant brick, and the taste was like, well, prunes. A lot of prunes.
The bread definitely tasted healthy and I did like the walnuts, but I think I’ll stick with banana bread. In all honesty, it probably would’ve tasted better if I hadn’t overbaked it, but as my mom says, you can only learn from your mistakes.
Prune honey bread recipe from the Tribune archives:
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 ½ cup chopped prunes
1 cup boiling water
½ cup liquid honey
2 ¼ cup sifted all-purpose flour
⅔ cup sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
Combine egg, vanilla, baking soda, prunes and boiling water. Cover. Let sit for 20 minutes, add honey. Sift together flour and sugar; add prune mixture and walnuts; mix well. Pour into greased floured loaf pan. Bake in the oven at 325 for one hour or until done. Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool thoroughly.