Dates can be enjoyed on their own, or sneaked into cakes, pastries and bonbons.
TAMARIND DATE CAKE
Makes 1 large loaf
150g seedless dates
150g unsalted butter, softened
100g seedless tamarind paste
75g dark brown sugar
2 medium eggs
275g all-purpose flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g icing sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
115g brown sugar
For the cake
Line the base and sides of a 22x8cm loaf tin with non-stick baking paper; grease the paper. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Bring the water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Take the pan off the heat and add the dates, stirring until blended. Stir in the butter until melted.
Add the tamarind paste and brown sugar; stir well then beat in the eggs until smooth. Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda. You will notice that the mixture will puff up and lighten in colour – that’s the soda working.
Spoon into the tin and bake for 45-60 minutes, turning the tin around halfway through, or until a skewer poked in comes out clean. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Remove from tin and ice it, if desired, or cover with foil and store in the refrigerator overnight.
The cake can also be steamed – this produces a more tender crumb than when baked. Brush a large sheet of foil with oil and pleat along the centre. Spoon cake batter into a well greased souffle dish or pudding basin (or use 4 large ramekins) and cover with the foil, oil side down. Secure foil around the rim of the container. Place in a steamer and cook for 2-2½ hours, or until a skewer comes out clean.
To make the icing
Mix the icing sugar and juice to a thick smooth icing and spoon this over the cake so it dribbles down the sides.
To make the butterscotch sauce
Place the butter and sugar in a pan. Stir over low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Gradually stir in the cream. – Jane F. Ragavan
DATE AND SESAME CHEESE CRESCENTS
Cream cheese pastry
125g all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
125g cream cheese, softened but still cool
125g unsalted butter, softened but still cool
Filling (mix well)
3/4 cup finely chopped dates
125g cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 egg, beaten
For the pastry
Sift flour and salt together. Place cream cheese and butter in a food processor or large mixing bowl. Process or beat together briefly to combine. Add flour mixture and mix to combine. Do not over-process or knead or the cookies will be tough. Bring dough together into a ball and wrap tightly in cling film; chill for 30 minutes.
Remove from refrigerator and divide dough into two. Roll out each portion into a rough rectangle about 2cm thick and fold the top third down to the centre and then the bottom third up like an envelope. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 6 hours or overnight before using. Or put into a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator.
Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. Keep one portion of the dough in the refrigerator while you work with the other half.
Roll out the dough into a 27cm circle. Spread with half the filling up to 2cm from the edge. Cut the dough into quarters and each quarter into three triangles.
Starting from the wide edge, roll each triangle up like a croissant and curl the tips towards each other to form a crescent. Place on the baking trays. Brush with egg.
Preheat the oven at 190°C. Place trays in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until top is golden.
Cool before eating. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. – JR
Makes 5-6 balls
200g pitted dates, preferrably the soft and moist kind like Medjool, Mozafati or Bam
3 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
1 tbsp melted butter or cream
good quality cocoa powder
smoked paprika powder (La Chinata)
chopped toasted hazelnuts or pistachios
organic dried rose petals
chia, poppy or pumpkin seeds
cinnamon and cocoa powder mix
green tea powder
sea salt flakes, etc
Place the dates, cocoa powder and butter or cream in a blender and pulse to a paste. If you like it silky fine, pass it through a sieve to remove the skins.
Shape into balls and roll in the coating of your choice. Use a plastic bag or wear rubber gloves to help you shape if the paste is too sticky.
Chilling the paste in the fridge or freezer helps to firm it up and makes shaping easier. Store and serve chilled. – Julie Wong