I guess you could say it was one of those a-ha moments, though not quite. In my attempt to bake A a (refined sugar-free) smash cake for her birthday, I had three choices of sweeteners, based on what I had in the pantry. The easiest alternative was to use 100% pure maple syrup;- I had never tried it in my baking, and A had never tried eating it, so it was out, since the last thing I would want is for her to have to suffer from any averse reaction after a
day weekend of tralala fun. The next choice was simply to use raisins interspersed in the batter;- A has had her fair share of raisins (and boy, does she love them!), but I wanted something to flavour the whole cake, not tiny bursts of glucose excitement amidst nondescript crumbs. The final vote was casted on a box of unopened dates sitting by the pantry shelf, waiting for Ramadhan to arrive;- at that point in time, dates had a certain je ne sais quoi to A (she did not love it, nor did she hate it), and I decided to take the plunge simply because erm they were fatter than them puny raisins (I hate raisins, if you can’t already tell).
Baking with dates, I recalled one of my favourite, albeit not baked enough, desserts; sticky date pudding. Using a similar approach, I simply simmered a handful of pitted dates in enough water to soak them in, and waited till they broke down, leaving a handful of what I call date mush. I scooped up the date mush, i.e. whatever that couldn’t dissolve, and used the liquid that was left in place of the sugar called for in the recipe. Did it work? Yes. Did A like it. Owhhh yes.
Several months had passed since that a-ha moment, and I’ve found myself clamouring for something sweet to top A’s favourite pancakes with, something thick to spread on her morning toasts, and something still healthy, but pushes the envelope on naughty. And that’s when date syrup re-entered our lives, and by our lives, myself included, because this syrup really packs a punch for those treading the line between sweet and healthy. Oh, and that aforementioned date mush? I’ve learnt that it can simply be blitzed again to prevent any wastage, especially if you prefer a thicker caramel-like texture of pure yumness. My A totally got it right the first time round; date syrup, just like dates, has a certain je ne sais quoi about them. I don’t know what it is, but consider me hooked.
1 – 1/4 cup water (more water for a more liquid texture)
1/2 cup pitted dates (about 10 large dates)
Combine the pitted dates and water in a saucepan over medium heat.
Stir it occasionally until the dates break down and turn to mush.
Once the liquid has reduced by half, turn off the flame, and transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor.
Blitz the date mixture, then store in the fridge for up to one week.
Combine the pitted dates and water in a small bowl, and leave it overnight.
The next day, transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor then blitz till fine.
Store in the fridge for up to one week.