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Monday, 30 July 2012

Dates 3 ways: Stuffed, Chocolate Dipped & Rolled

Dates can be rolled in any topping, there is no limit to what you can choose.
From Nuts, to sprinkles, to chocolate shavings... anything goes, so be creative :)

"Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle."  - Plato

From the Saharas of the Middle East, the lands where the most vital nourishment - water - is very scarce. Despite the heat and the harsh conditions, and from the quiet of the desert, a sweet and nurturing life springs. One that is only made to give, one that hardly depletes the almost non-existent resources. One form of life, that centuries ago gave hope to the merchants who, underestimated the desert, found themselves lost in the middle of nowhere. The Date Palms, offered a beam of hope that these doomed lost travelers might still make it. That they will find food, water and shelter in an otherwise vast, orange, hot and lonely place! 
If the nutritious dates can come out of such deprived environment, from such harsh conditions, and turn out so sweet, then there is hope for everyone.

It is the tradition to break fast with dates. Dates are believed to be very healthy (in moderation, not to exceed 3 pieces a day), supplementing your body with all the nutrients lost during fasting. Dates also have a slow sugar release property that helps your body regain energy, without the harsh crash caused by fast sugar releasing foods. Besides the useful chemical composition of dates, they are extremely delicious. They chew, melting slowly as you chew, releasing sugar, oozing of sweetness, somewhere between a soft gummy and a soft fruit texture. The flavour is deep, touching on caramel and at times like toffee, with a distinct flavour utterly sweet, you hardly want to let go. Dates are delicious, and can be used in many different ways in the making of food and desserts. For instance, you can add dates to the Tagine of lamb and Prunes. You can also use dates in the making of some rice dishes, just like we use raisins. You can even, chop dates very finely, and use them to garnish large rice platters, such as Kapseh, Freekeh, Hashwet Kharoof...etc.

In today's post, dates are the stars

But today, instead of using dates to compliment a recipe, I am celebrating Dates! In today's post, Dates are the stars. I am showing you how to create mouthwatering, beautiful, gem-like date desserts that will please every single person to walk through your doors. In many Arab homes you will find these gems in arrangements on the table. Most of the time purchased from stores. Some of which are decadent, and some of which unfortunately not so much. The dates vary in quality, and therefore in price. The chocolates used also have different qualities and different flavours. The freshness of the ingredients, such as the nuts and fruits. The older these ingredients, the staler and less flavoursome they are. Therefore when purchasing these dates from the stores, make sure to ask about the quality. Don't be shy to ask for a taster. Taste, if they don't taste good, don't buy them. If they taste good, look good and fresh, then you are in for a real Sahara Treat :)

There is nothing like making foods at home! I know, I always say that. But I cannot emphesise it enough! Trust me, there is a whole different flavour to foods made at home. The same recipe to the exact measurement carried out at home, and that made in a store come out completely different. At stores there is the issue of cost and profit, which eventually determines the quality of the product. At home, you buy the best quality products and you carry out the recipe (when it is a proper recipe) and you find the flavour, texture and whole experience to be amplified in goodness. If this thought appeals to you, then you are going to love these home-made goodness fortified Stuffed, Chocolate Dipped & Rolled Dates. Not only for just the outcome; but the process of making these - very similar to making Shishbaraks - very mechanical, very therapeutic. Listen to some gorge tunes to keep you company, or better still, gather up your besties and make these together.

A Delicious Assortment of Dates

This recipe can result in 3 different types of dates.

Plain Stuffed Dates  Where the dates are pitted and dried fruits, nuts, chocolate pieces...etc are placed in the place of the pit. Then the dates are served.

Chocolate Dipped Dates   Where the stuffed dates are dipped in tempered chocolate, left to set (with or without topping), and then served.

Rolled Stuffed Dates   Where the chocolate dipped dates are immediately rolled after dipping in any desired topping like: crushed nuts (any nuts or mixture of them), sprinkles (chocolate or edible mini rice wafer stars), Chocolate shavings or crushed cocoa nibs...etc.

When I make these I usually make a selection from all three types, each type with a selection of toppings and end up with a fabulous platter of date that can appeal to all palates. There are the basic steps that you need to follow. Otherwise, it is all up to you what topping, what combinations to go for. So be creative, and the sky is not even the limit, it is just a horizon!

Tip  You can make nice assorted platters from these, and give them to friends or visitors as Gifts from the Kitchen :) back in the day when I was catering, these platters used to sell like hot bread! So if you own a food store or even a small home-based food service, then you can add these to the menu of offerings ;)

Yalla people, let's do this....

Ramadan Recipe 10
Stuffed, Chocolate Dipped & Rolled Dates
You can make any quantity you like in any variation you like. This is a basic quantity recipe, but feel free to double, triple or even quadruple the quantity! They are very good and will be consumed.

You Need
1Kg good quality Royal Dates
1Kg good quality dark chocolate (60-85%), do not use baking chocolate or commercial grade eating chocolate, go for good quality chocolate
A few dried apricots, cut into strips, the size of the date pit

Filling Options
whole raisins
whole pistachios, toasted
whole blanched almonds, toasted 
halved walnuts or whole pecans, toasted
cashews, toasted
Dried cherries or cranberries ...etc

Topping options for rolling
Crushed toasted Almonds
Crushed, toasted pistachios
crushed, toasted walnuts
Desiccated coconuts
Assorted Chocolate shavings
Chocolate Sprinkles
Colourful Sprinkles for kids
Crushed Mistka
A mixture of crushed mistka and cardamom powder ...etc

For Plain Stuffed Dates, cut a slit at the side of the date, remove the seed and place your choice of filling in the place of the seed. Press the sides together to seal. Place on serving platter and serve.

For the Chocolate Dipped Stuffed or plain dates, carry out the step above. you can either fill the date with a filling or you can keep it plain but seed removed. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Cut the chocolate into 1 inch square pieces. Place 850g of the chocolate pieces in a large heat proof bowl. Keep 150g for seeding. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.

Tip never allow the water in the bottom pot of the double boiler to touch the bottom of the bowl holding the chocolate. The water should be just 1/4 of the bottom pot, and only the steam will get in contact with the bottom of the bowl containing the chocolate. Also never allow water to get in contact with the chocolate, be organised and neat as you work, or you will have to discard the batch and start new.

Once all the chocolate has melted - do not over heat the chocolate or you scorch it - remove the bowl from the simmering water pot, place on a kitchen towel atop the work surface. Gradually add the remaining 150g of chocolate pieces. Mix well after each addition. Stop adding the pieces when the pieces added (the seeds) stop melting and the chocolate appears shiny and smooth. Your chocolate is now in temper and ready for dipping.

Individually dip each date into the tempered chocolate, roll to coat, then lift using a fork. Tap the fork gently at the side of the bowl to remove excess chocolate. Place the chocolate dipped date on the lined baking sheet. Repeat until all quantity is finished. You can top with slithered nuts or sprinkle with a crushed topping or you can leave it plain with only the chocolate coating. You can also drizzle melted chocolate in a contrasting colour over the top. Unleash that creativity :)
Leave the dipped dates to set overnight in a cool dry place.

For the Rolled Dates, Follow the two previous steps. right after dipping the dates in chocolate and removing excess chocolate, place the dipped date in a bowl full of crushed nuts - or desired topping - and roll them to coat. Place on the lined sheets, and leave to set overnight in a cool dry place.

Rolled Dates

Give a gift from your kitchen to your friends
It is a beautiful gesture
The next day, you will find trays upon trays of tempting assortments of dates. Don't eat them! Ok then, have only one! Place them on nice looking platters in the arrangement that you like and cover with plastic wrap until you are ready to serve. You can use wooden trays, silver trays, cake stands, tiered platters...etc any nice looking platter would do. I personally like to shop at Tavola for cool serving platters, and have for years been an avid shopper there, you can see from photos on this blog lol. And I am not just saying this because they are sponsoring giveaways to this blog's readers. Visit their shop, you will understand why. They have a really cool and very stylish selections of serving platters and trays that you will love :)

Gift from the Kitchen  Wrap your assorted platter with cling film. Place a little card with a message and gift to your friends, neighbours, visitors... As good as store bought. Actually, even better!

Hope you liked today's post and these little jewels of goodness. I have posted so many savoury recipes this Ramadan it is only time to go for something sweet, and only fitting to start with dates. Do let me know what you think, and leave me a comment before you go. Please sign your comment with your name and let me know the country to determine giveaway. Don't forget to take photos of the recipes you carry out from this blog and share them with me for a chance to win cool giveaways. Follow this link for details on how to enter for winning giveaways :)

Be Kind to others this Ramadan, it only brings Kindness back to your life
Ramadan Kareem