Monday, February 28, 2011

great dates

I bought some dates this weekend at the Farmer's market and have never really baked w/dates but wanted to incorporate them into a breakfast food. As of late, I've been in a baking rut, using the same tired recipes, so I wanted something unique and chocolate-less. The recipe I used was found (Walnut Date muffins)  on Regina Rae's blog to which I made no changes except I made a struesel topping, since I figured w/little sugar the recipe may lack for sweetness.
For me dates have a special meaning  because as a child and young adult at about this time every year my family would make the annual and quite lengthy trek to the Indio Date Festival. A place that was once responsible for much of the nations date crops also became home to a festival honoring and even blessing the date as part of opening ceremonies. Because of the arid climate and a little engenuity on the part of farmers, dates flourished. And even though Indio was once responsible for a larger part of the nations date crop, they've since otherwise been overcome by  large companies like Sunsweet.
The festival features various foods made with dates including and not limited to date cookies and date shakes. The festival boasts and Arabian theme and still features Arabian themed plays like tales of 1001 Arabian nights. As children our favorites were the play and the camel and ostrich races.
The dates and this little recipe took me back to those cherished days gone by spent w/family and food.

Walnut Date Muffins
Ingredients:3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (preferably dark)
heaping 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
scant 1/2 teaspoon all spice
scant 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
scant 1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk (or other alternative or milk)
1/3 cup molasses*
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 free-range eggs
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped, pitted dates
few pinches of extra all purpose flour

Streusel Topping:
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. soft butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. chopped nuts
*Cool trick for the molasses: to avoid having the molasses stick to the measuring cup, simply grease the inside of the cup with a thin layer of vegetable oil.  Then, measure desired amount of molasses into the cup.  When you pour the molasses into other liquids it will slide right out and leave little-to-no residue in the bottom of the cup.

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease preferred muffin tin.  Because I was making these muffins for dinner (as a side dish, rather than a breakfast-style main dish) I made 16 small muffins.  Alternatively, grease two 6-muffin containers, or one mongo-muffin container and vary the cooking time.
2.  Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a fork to combine.
3.  In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg.  Add soy milk and vegetable oil.  Grease the 1/3 cup with vegetable oil (see above note) and measure molasses.  Whisk with a fork and incorporate into dry ingredients.  Fold in walnuts.  Before folding in chopped dates, because they’re gooey when cut and prone to sticking together, I tumbled the chopped dates in a sprinkling of white flour and then folded them into the batter.  That way the were able to move uniformly throughout the dough and not clump together. Roll dates in flour and fold into batter.
4.  Spoon batter into muffin trays 3/4 full.  If you desire more of a muffin-top (as I did), fill 4/5ths of the way but be sure to grease the top of the pan, too, because the muffins will rise over the top.
5. Mix together struesel ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the top of each muffin.
6.  Depending on the muffin size, the baking time will vary.  For small muffins, mine were set in the middle and clean (from the “knife test”) within 18-20 minutes.  For large muffins, I imagine they’ll need to bake close to 30 minutes.
7.  Once removed from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack so they set.  To remove muffins, carefully take a dull knife and run around the edge of each container (and very carefully under the muffin top, if you filled them a bit higher) and gently pry out.

My husband thought the muffins were not sweet enough, but I found them to be just right w/ that mild sweetness of the dates and the sugary crunch on top.  I think they would probably be amazing w/a little  tangy orange marmalade. Until next time, Au Revoir!


  1. LOL! I can just see Verno taking the kids out there! Must have been fun! I've never tried a date before...they kind of scare me. :(

  2. They're like a big raisin, but more sticky and more sweet.