Posted by Stephanie Simpson on
Last week, I got this email from my sister:
holy catfish do you know how tasty medjool dates are????
Now, this may seem unremarkable to you. But in all our years of life together, I can recall my sister only once before showing any enthusiasm for dried fruit, and that one time doesn’t really count (who wouldn’t accept dried strawberries if they were accessorized with equal parts cheese, I ask). So what that silly email should signal to you is that you, dried fruit hater or not, should get yourself some medjools, and fast. Because guys, life is short, and anyway, she and I are probably going to buy up all of the medjool dates in the city if you don’t do it first.
Medjools are no ordinary dates; in fact, they’re unlike anything else I’ve tried. Sure, they are dried fruit, and have the shrivelled look to prove it, but the texture of their flesh falls in a magical zone between fresh and dried. So they’ve got the intense sweetness that you’d expect from dried fruit, but retain a soft, buttery texture that my sister aptly described in a subsequent email (our exchange about medjools went on for a while) as “luscious”. These things are dessert in their own right.
But trust my sister — creative mind behind speedy, healthful FoodHappy favourites like egg on rice — to track down a recipe to turn medjool dates into a dessert-worthy creation that requires virtually no added refined sugars or fats. The idea is simple: chopped nuts and dried fruit get smushed, either with a potato masher or a sturdy food processor, with medjool dates, cocoa powder and a splash of vanilla. You then pat the squishy mixture into a thin square, let it chill and cut it into poppable little squares that are rich and fudgy, with a distinct chocolatey flavour and little bits of crunchy almond and sweet fruit.
We made two varieties this past weekend, throwing dried strawberries (no cheese this time) into one batch, and shredded coconut and chopped dark chocolate into the other. I would happily make either again, but you can experiment as you see fit, adding in different nuts, fruits and flavourings. Perfect for busting out as an after-dinner treat with a cup of tea, or for toting along when you’re away from home and in need of an emergency burst of energy. Or, you know, when you’re writing a blog post. In my sister’s words: “stupid easy and silly tasty”.
Chocolatey Medjool Date Squares
Adapted from Pardon Me for Living
Makes lots (an 8x8-inch pan’s worth, cut into little squares)
Note: I’ve given you the potato masher instructions below, but if you want to make these guys in a food processor, simply throw the almonds (unchopped) into a food processor and whiz for a minute until roughly chopped. Add all of the remaining ingredients (again, unchopped) and whiz for another 2-3 minutes or until everything’s combined but bits of the almond and fruit are clearly visible. Proceed with Step 3-5 as instructed.
15 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 cup of raw almonds, finely chopped
1/2 cup of dried fruit or other tasty additions, finely chopped
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.
2. Use a potato masher to smush everything together, until the dates have broken down and are no longer in visible chunks and all of the other ingredients are evenly distributed through the date-y paste (don’t be afraid to use your hands to knead everything together).
3. Line a 8x8 inch dish with parchment paper and press the date mixture evenly over the parchment using moist hands, just until the mixture meets the sides of the dish.* Cover the dish and refrigerate until the squares have firmed up a bit, 30 minutes or so.
4. Place the mixture, parchment paper included, on a cutting board and trim the edges with a sharp knife.
5. Cut date mixture into 1x1 inch squares. Keep squares in an airtight container in the fridge.
*If you’re having trouble getting the dough to spread evenly, cover it with a piece of parchment or wax paper and use a rolling pin to flatten it, pinching pieces off and relocating them as necessary to form a nice square.