Make it. Eat it. Love it.
Date palms are native to the middle east and because of this, dates are everywhere in Israel. Literally everywhere. Just on my street alone date palms produce a bounty of delicious dates that I can just pick on my way home. Grocery stores are always stocked and the shuk has piles of them at every vendor. My favorite are the dried dates that you can buy by the box in the local super or in bulk at the spice store or shuk. They are so sweet and taste like candy.
It is said that consuming one date a day is essential to for a balanced and healthy diet? Who knew?! Dates are packed with vitamins and minerals and the health benefits are uncountable.
Dates are widely used in middle eastern cooking and baking. I have cooked with them a lot in chickens, couscous and rices but have yet to bake with them, until today. My mom sent me a cookbook called The Recipe Scrapbook and thumbing through it I saw this date caramel shortbread and got excited. It uses pretty basic ingredients that I normally have in the house and lucky for me I had just bought a box of dried dates. The recipe is pretty simple and the outcome, amazing. Perfect spring dessert, little bite for breakfast or with afternoon coffee.
4 1/2 Ounces Butter, Softened, Plus 1/4 Ounce Extra
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
2 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Cup Chopped Seeded Dates (about 8 large dates)
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
2 Teaspoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
Lightly grease a shallow baking dish (mine was around 18X27 cm) and line with parchment paper, leaving it hanging over the two long sides of the dish.
Sift together flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
Beat butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy and beat in egg.
Using a wooden spoon, slowly fold in the sifted four/baking powder.
Divide the dough in half. Press half the dough into the prepared baking dish and form the other half into a ball, cover and refrigerate for 30 min.
Preheat oven to 350F
Place date, brown sugar, cocoa, the extra butter, and 1 cup of water in a saucepan.
Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until dates are soft and liquid is absorbed, stirring often.
Spread mixture onto a plate and refrigerate to cool. (about 5-7 min)
Spread date filling over dough base.
Grate or crumble the remaining dough over the top.
Bake for 35 minutes or until light brown and crisp.
Let cool in baking dish for 10 minutes and then lift onto wire rack Cut into squares before serving.