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.
I have wanted to bake the Date-Nut Bread from the Ranch House Restaurant in Ojai, CA ever since I first tasted it. At the time I didn’t even like dates, but this quick bread was pretty decadent. Sweet, moist, and great slathered in butter. The cookbook from that restaurant has been collecting dust on my shelf for many years, so it was finally time to conquer it.
The original recipe is neither vegan nor high-altitude and has a few quirky directions. It took me several tries to come up with a bread that not only tasted (and smelled) fantastic but also had the right texture. I did a few basic veganisms – oil for butter and tofu for egg. I added in some whole wheat flour to make it more healthy, while adapting for altitude by using regular baking powder instead of double-acting.
There is one step I didn’t change. It says to line the bread pan with brown paper. Just do it. I was using a non-stick pan so I thought I only needed a light oiling of the pan – it was a bad idea. The bread cooked perfectly except around the outside where it remained gooey and refused to release from the pan. I got smart on the third attempt and used lightly greased parchment paper. Some directions were written to be followed exactly.
Date Nut Bread adapted from Vegetarian Gourmet Cookery by Alan Hooker
5 ounces chopped pitted dates
3/4 cup boiling water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup blended silken tofu
1 1/4 cups vegan sugar
2 1/2 TBS vegetable oil
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare a mini loaf pan by cutting parchment paper to fit three of the four sections. Lightly brush the pieces of paper with shortening and insert the paper into each of the three sections. The fourth section will not be used.
Put dates in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Combine the tofu and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the dates with their water, oil, milk and vanilla and beat again. Blend in the flour mixture in two batches. Add in the walnuts and mix well.
Divide the batter between the three prepared sections of the loaf pan. Bake for 33-35 minutes, or until the tops rise up and crack a little. Remove loaves from pan and place on a rack to cool.