Lift the bread pan out of the machine and fit the blade. Put the ingredients, except the dates, in the pan, following the order specified in the manual.
Fit the pan into the machine and set to a 750 g (1½ lb) loaf size on the sweet programme (or the wholemeal programme if the machine doesn't have a sweet setting). Add the dates when the machine beeps.
Just before baking begins brush the top of the dough lightly with milk and sprinkle with barley flakes (if liked). Close the lid gently.
At the end of the programme lift the pan out of the machine and shake the bread out on to a wire rack to cool. Serve buttered with breakfast preserve or honey, if liked.