Sweet Life with Date Jam
Good cooks have been using dates to sweeten dishes since ancient times, and today the search for an alternative to sugar has brought date paste back into vogue. Fortunately for us, we have an advantage over the ancients who had to grind dates using mortars and pestles. We have food processors.
You can Buy Dates Jam with ease and ease, and you will know exactly what goes into it. No added glucose, no preservatives. Just sweet dates with juicy caramel and vanilla. All you need to do is soak the dates until soft, peel them, and use a food processor to make a thick, creamy, deliciously sweet paste that can be used in many different ways.
Choose dark, moist, fluffy dates. The Medjool variety is best known for its rich flavor and texture, but if you don’t have Medjool, try other varieties. If you want to play around with the date paste, you can add a little vanilla or cinnamon extract for a few seconds or add some dried figs or prunes. Just soak all the added dried fruit together with the dates and remove the pips.
Soak the dates for at least 1-2 hours or overnight
Another delicious way to vary the date puree is to soak the fruit in hot tea. I can imagine a date puree flavored with Earl Grey or, if you are brave, with Lapsang Soochong. Or try adding a teaspoon of lemon zest or orange peel to dates in a food processor.
How to cook with date paste? First of all, it doesn’t need to be boiled. It can be spread on toast instead of jam, mixed with porridge, or blended in a blender with your favorite smoothie ingredients. For lunch, a cracker topped with a slice of sharp cheese and some date paste is something delicious. Finally, ice cream sweetened with date paste. Almost guilt-free and so delicious.
I like to add some to stews with long cooking times, like lamb tagine. People are experimenting with date paste as a sugar substitute in cakes, cookies and pastries. My next experiment will be homemade bread baked with date paste beaten with butter and eggs instead of sugar.
The most important factor when making date paste is that the dates must be soft enough to handle. To do this, you need to soak them, and the soaking time depends on how dry or moist the dates were when you bought them. For very soft dates, a 15-minute soak is sufficient; drier dates may require an hour or more. When the dates are as pliable as a wet plum and the skins have peeled off, they are ready.