Dates and more dates


Neil Conway, Wikimedia Commons

You can top sticky toffee pudding with a butterscotch sauce, or even add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 

As of this writing, I put in my annual order for all the things I need for baking my Christmas fruitcakes. I can imagine that just the word fruitcake causes many of you to cringe, bringing up memories of some awful concoction that was presented as a holiday gift.


I can understand that, because in my time, I also have tasted some not-so-good versions of fruitcake. But years ago, I made my own version of it and just about everyone in my family loves it. Some friends, too.


I have shared the recipe here before and will include it again here. So, what does that have to do with dates, you might ask? My favorite fruitcake is loaded with them, along with pineapple, cherries, citron and pecans. I know that Medjool dates are considered the king of them all, but I actually prefer the Dromedary kind, especially if they are soft and sticky and not all dried up.


One of my other favorite ways of baking with dates is to add them to another traditional treat, my pumpkin muffins. I think that adding dates to baked goods helps to get a moist product.


I hope you like dates, and even if you hate all fruitcakes, maybe you will find something you do like in this week’s recipe box. The holidays are getting closer; are you ready?


Cat’s favorite dark fruitcake


1 pound pitted dates


1/2 pound candied cherries, red and green


1/2 candied sliced pineapple, red and green, if possible


1 pound coarsely chopped pecans


1 cup sugar


1 cup flour


2 teaspoons baking powder


1/2 teaspoon nutmeg


4 eggs


1 teaspoon vanilla


1. Line an angel food tube pan with heavy brown paper. Spray with vegetable cooking spray. Note: You can also use 3 or 4 loaf pans, which is a lot easier than trying to line an angel food cake pan. Cut fruit into small pieces, mix with chopped pecans in a very large bowl.


2. Sift dry ingredients together, mix with fruit and nuts. Beat eggs and vanilla; pour over fruit mixture. Mix well; pack into pan. Bake for 2 hours at 250 degrees. Top of fruitcake may be decorated by removing cake from oven after 1 hour and garnishing with candied pineapple, halved cherries and pecans. Return to oven to complete baking time. Cool completely before removing from pan, preferably overnight. Recipe makes about 5 pounds of fruitcake, one large one or four 6-by-6-by-2-inch loaf pans.


Note: For last year’s batch, I used 1 pound red cherries, 1 pound green cherries, 3/4 pound citron, 1 1/2 pounds tri-colored pineapple and 2 pounds of dates plus about 1 cup chopped pecans. Also used 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar (or a little less), 5 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Made 1 round fruitcake and 1 loaf pan fruitcake.


Pumpkin muffins with dates


1 cup chopped dates


1/2 cup water


2 eggs


1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not the thinner pie filling)


1 1/4 cups sugar


3/4 teaspoon ground cloves


3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1/2 teaspoon salt


1/3 cup canola oil


1 3/4 cup flour


1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder


1/2 teaspoon baking soda


1. Preheat oven to 400.Soak the dates in the water for 5 minutes; do not drain. Set aside.


2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Stir in the pumpkin puree, sugar, cloves, cinnamon and salt. Add the canola oil and mix well.


3. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the dry mixture to the pumpkin mixture with half of the date-water mixture. Mix well, add remaining date mixture; stir to mix.


4. Fill greased muffin pans 2/3 full. Bake in preheated oven until the top springs back when pressed with fingers, about 25 minutes. Makes 12 to 16 muffins.


Sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce


For pudding:


1/2 cup dates, pitted and roughly chopped


3/4 cup milk


1/2 teaspoon baking soda


1/2 cup brown sugar


1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


1/4 teaspoon salt


3/4 cup flour


1/2 cup unsalted butter


For butterscotch sauce:


1 cup brown sugar


1/4 cup salted butter


1 1/4 cup cream


1 teaspoon vanilla, or butterscotch flavoring


1. In a medium saucepan, place dates and milk. Bring to a boil over high heat, then remove from heat.


2. Add baking soda and stir until the dates start to break down. Allow mixture to cool for about 20 minutes.


3. Place butter and brown sugar into a deep mixing bowl. With a whisk, cream together mixture until it is pale in color. Add the date mixture and fold in gently.


4. Sift in the flour, cinnamon and salt. Stir the mixture until everything is combined evenly.


5. Preheat oven to 350. Grease either a 9-inch round cake pan or several custard cups, if preferred. If using a cake pan, bake pudding for about 40 minutes. For custard cups or ramekins, bake for 30 minutes. Test pudding with a skewer, which should come out clean.


6. For butterscotch sauce: Heat all the ingredients in a medium heavy-based saucepan, stir over medium heat for 5 minutes or until well combined.


7. Increase heat to high and bring the sauce to a boil.


8. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring often, for 7 to 8 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.


9. Once the sticky date puddings are baked, allow to cool for 5 minutes and then turn upside-down on a serving plate. Pour the butterscotch sauce over the pudding and serve.


Date bars


From a Betty Crocker recipe.


For filling:


3 cups chopped pitted dates (1 pound)


1 1/2 cups water


1/4 cup sugar


For bars:


1 cup packed brown sugar


1 cup butter, softened


1 3/4 cup flour


1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats


1/2 teaspoon baking soda


1/2 teaspoon salt


1. In 2-quart saucepan, cook filling ingredients over low heat about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Cool 5 minutes.


2. Preheat oven to 400. Grease bottom and sides of 13-by-9-inch pan with shortening.


3. In large bowl, stir brown sugar and butter until well mixed. Stir in flour, oats, baking soda and salt until crumbly. Press half of the crumb mixture evenly in bottom of pan. Spread with filling. Top with remaining crumb mixture; press lightly.


4. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until light brown. Cool 5 minutes in pan on cooling rack. Cut into 6 rows by 6 rows while warm.

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