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The ultimate guide to date caramel

May 23, 2018

Jug of almond milk and bowl of date caramel

She’s got a nerve hasn’t she. If you are raising an eyebrow at this headline after the reference to hyperbole in my last post, I don’t blame you.

It’s surprising how many reams of text, plaudit and variations, that a simple date puree (because that is what this is) can elicit. While my desk might be a terrible mess, my collation of every inch of information is spruce so I hope you find it useful.

This sauce/spread/frosting is worth having in your fridge as it’s incredibly useful and more delicious than its meagre combination of ingredients would appear.  It’s also very virtuous and ticks all the vegan, fat-free, processed-sugar-free, dairy-free boxes and also ‘time-consuming-to-make’ free.

Which dates to use

Use the juiciest, stickiest, soft dates you can get your hands on. Medjool would be great. Rutab dates would be amazing. If in any doubt, pour boiling water over to cover and leave them for to soak for a few hours or overnight.

Blender or food processor?

There is different advice about which machine to use. Some advocate using a food processor which I did for this batch. I found that, however much I whizzed the mixture, I couldn’t eradicate some of the tiny pieces of date peel. It still made a nice fudgy, reasonably smooth texture. The other way is in a blender (such as a Vitamix) but this will require adding more liquid so you’ll get a runnier outcome. If you are making a runny sauce with very soft dates (pitted and soaked) you can get away with lots of liquid and an immersion blender. If too liquid, this firms up well in the fridge but will start to ‘melt’ as it comes to room temperature.

What’s the difference between date caramel, date icing (frosting) and date sauce?

Just the amount of liquid you put in. Less for date (icing) frosting, more for date caramel and even more for date sauce. For date fudge or truffles there is no added liquid (except for things like vanilla extract).

Slices of apple, dates and date caramel

Variations of date caramel

  • At it’s simplest, date sauce can just be dates and water blended until smooth.
  • Add different milks to taste. Unsweetened nut milks work well and will keep your caramel vegan, but you can use dairy milk or even cream.
  • Vanilla extract (not essence which has a synthetic taste) or the scraped out seeds from a vanilla pod, adds another layer of subtle, caramel-like flavour.
  • Chocolate date caramel frosting – add 65g cocoa powder and some vanilla extract after the first blend and whizz until smooth.
  • Add coconut – add 15g of dessicated coconut and use coconut milk. This makes a great frosting for cakes.
  • Salted caramel – use 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt (instead of just a pinch) and some vanilla extract. Plus you could add…
  • Nut butter – for a creamier, more substantial frosting add 60g of nut butter such as cashew or almond. Tahini adds texture and a different flavour too.
  • Salted caramel and peanut butter – add a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter plus a bit of extra salt.
  • Boozy date caramel – substitute some or all of the liquid with rum, bourbon, whisky, brandy or even something like Frangelico or Bailey’s.
  • Raw caramel fudge – equal parts of stoned dates and macadamia nuts, blended until smooth, pressed into a baking tray, frozen for 4-6 hours and then cut into squares.

Bowl of date caramel with a slice of apple

Uses of date caramel

  • Drizzled over popcorn
  • A dipping sauce – for fresh apple slices, celery stalks, bananas, soft fruit like strawberries or something sweeter like marshmallows
  • Icing (frosting) for a cake (or as a filling) or doughnuts
  • As a sweetener for hot chocolate
  • Sandwiched between biscuits (cookies)
  • Baked date caramel pudding (Google for recipe) – vegan or made with butter
  • Stirred into overnight oats, Bircher muesli, chia pudding or any other breakfast bowl.
  • A natural sweetener for porridge
  • As a delicious spread on hot, buttered toast
  • Drizzle over pancakes or waffles
  • As a topping for ice cream (vanilla works so well)
  • Layer your date caramel with chocolate nut topping to make fudge cups
  • Healthy toffee apples
  • Over profiteroles (there are vegan recipes online too if you want dairy-free)
  • Stirred into Greek yoghurt
  • Spooned over goat’s curd or paired with tangy goat’s cheese
  • Natural sweetener for smoothies, lassi or milkshakes
  • Salted caramel truffles – or any kind of date balls. This is a particularly good one. Soak dates and roasted, unsalted cashews (3/4 dates to 1 amount of cashews) in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and add to a food processor pulsing until a paste is formed (doesn’t have to be totally smooth). Add a couple of tablespoons of sugar or to taste (coconut or other kind of brown sugar),  a good splash of vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Whizz shortly to combine then roll the dough into small balls. If too soft to roll, refrigerate for 10 minutes and after rolling put them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and pop back in the fridge for another 10 minutes. Barely melt some chocolate in a double boiler (you can add a very little coconut oil to it for a glossier finish) and dunk the truffles to cover – or just drizzle some over each one. You can sprinkle immediately with a little more sea salt too. There are various different recipes for these, some with less ingredients, some with more such as tahini. You could also roll the balls in cocoa powder.

Date caramel

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A simple to make, unprocessed sugar free, vegan caramel which is adaptable and versatile.


See list above for all sorts of variations and adaptations.

Ingredients

  • 240g dates – approx 20, unless using Medjool which will be 10 or less
  • 8-10 tablespoons almond milk (or other milk of your choice)
  • pinch sea salt

Directions

Unless at rutab stage of ripeness or very soft, pour boiling water over the dates and leave to steep for an hour or longer.

  1. Remove the stones and any stalks from the dates.
  2. Place the dates into a food processor or blender (see above) and whizz briefly. Add the rest of the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, blending in between each addition and using a spatula to scrape down the sides, until you reach the consistency of soft caramel. Add more liquid for pouring, less for spreading, even less or none for frosting. Firm up in the fridge or use immediately.
  3. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

date caramel and apple on a board Since discovering this simple sweetener, it’s going to be a staple in my fridge. Have you tried it or were you oblivious like me? Let me know (tag me on Instagram if you share a picture of it).

 

15 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2018 9:22 am

    Good lord, this wouldn’t last a day in my house full of sweet toothed people! I love this challenge Sally, and you’ve chosen the perfect dates (pun intended) to feature this powerhouse, local ingredient.

  2. May 24, 2018 9:22 am

    What a great guide on date caramel! I love using Medjool dates to make energy balls, but now I need to make date caramel with it. So many wonderful uses!

  3. May 24, 2018 9:27 am

    Love the ‘time-consuming-to-make’ free, this is for me. I never had Date caramel but sounds like a great idea and I am going to try it

  4. May 24, 2018 10:14 am

    That sounds delicious, I cooked with dates a lot over winter and early spring… This is a new idea to me and it sounds fantastic.

  5. May 24, 2018 10:19 am

    wow! I have to accept I was oblivious to this one! I have lived in Abu Dhabi for a year but never came across a date caramel! I love how you have listed so many possible variations and uses of it. Sounds like a staple to always keep in the fridge!
    Thanks for sharing

  6. May 24, 2018 11:02 am

    So many variations! I do use date in my smoothie and the blender I use does work well. I love the thought of bailey’s date caramel.

  7. May 24, 2018 11:19 am

    I’ve been dying to make this for so long, thanks so much for all the tips!

  8. May 24, 2018 12:48 pm

    I make versions of this (different every time) and it is SOO useful. Gorgeous post and love love love all of the ways you’ve listed to make and use it. 🙂

  9. May 24, 2018 12:55 pm

    I love this, very informative, I think you have earned the right to call it the “ultimate” guide! Love love love the flavour of dates.

  10. May 25, 2018 4:27 pm

    Heavens, that looks extraordinary! I’ve never tried date caramel before, but now I know I need it in my life!

  11. May 25, 2018 6:46 pm

    Wow! We eat a lot of dates, but I’ve never, ever thought of making date caramel! So many gorgeous variations too! 🙂

  12. May 31, 2018 7:48 pm

    Thank you for this!! I love how I have to use a dictionary for your blog, in a fun way. 💖

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