With a scorcher of a weekend imminent, it’s time to turn off the oven (no baking??) and bring out the blender. Thoughts of blended beverages has my imagination conjuring up frosty glasses filled with cool drinks. But then, an old memory surfaces.
When I was a child my family visited Hadley Fruit Orchards in California. I remember ogling seemingly endless displays of dried fruit and fresh nuts. And beyond these tempting shelves was a cafe where they scooped up their (in)famous date shake.
Fortunately Hadley’s website has a post for this date-sweetened concoction so I don’t have to leave the recipe up to my sketchy memory (I did say it was when I was young). The recipe is good, but to make it my own I veganize it with non-dairy versions of milk and ice cream, and I add espresso. I’m glad for this addition because now I know that espresso and dates are a delectable combination.
The first time I made date paste I found the results to be less than desirable. I had followed the directions, as minimal as they were, but it looked more like I was making a smoothie. Paste wouldn’t describe what was in my blender. Later, after poring over many recipes, I discovered that the key was the water. Too much made a runny mess, while too little seemed to tax the blender. It was like the fairy tale in which the middle was “just right.”
The success of the paste starts with the dates. The moisture content in them varies greatly depending on how old they are and how they are stored. My guess was that my dates were very old so I added lots of extra water at the start. But the trick is to add water a little at a time; this helps to create the perfect consistency. Another trick is to use the soaking water as it has a hint of date flavor. These tips will help you create the perfect date paste to add to baked goods, such as Baked Oatmeal with Peaches.
Date Paste adapted from Fruit Paste from Rouxbe Culinary School’s Essential Vegan Desserts
1/2 cup pitted dates
1 cup water (or as needed)
Soak the dates for 1 to 2 hours or until quite soft. Strain in a colander set over a bowl in order to save the soaking water. Transfer the dates to a high-speed blender with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the soaking water. Process until smooth. Add more water as needed to create the desired consistency. If using the paste in baked recipes, use as little water as possible. The paste will keep for over a week in a jar in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for several months.