I made this recipe back in January for a Middle Eastern-inspired potluck and then again for TuB'Shvat. They are very simple to make and I'm told that even non-date eaters like these dates.
The first batch consisted of organic Deglet Noor Dates and the second batch consisted of organic Golden Zahidi Dates and Deglet Noor Dates. I got both types on sale at the local grocery store after Christmas when they were discounting all the dried and candied fruits normally used for fruit cake. Each pound only cost me $1. Of course, you're welcome to use any dates that you prefer or are easily obtainable.
The candied almonds come about in the recipe as a way to use up leftover honey and they are quite delicious too.
& Candied Almonds
1 pound whole dates
Whole almonds [the amount will vary]
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup almond meal
gluten-free cooking spray
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper then lightly spray the wax paper with the cooking spray. Set aside. Using a paring knife make an incision on one of the long sides of the date. Gently open the date and remove the pit. If some of the inner skin comes out as well, that's fine. If all the inner skin is loose, remove it. If the inner skin has orange discoloration on it, discard the date because it won't taste right*. If the interior has a gritty substance suspended in a string-like formation, discard the date because something was living in it. Once the pit removed, insert a single whole almond and close up the date. Repeat until all the dates are done.
Place the honey in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. The honey will boil up and create a foam. if there are particles on the foam, scrape them off the top and discard. Stir the honey frequently. Once to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add in the vanilla extract then remove the honey from the heat. Place 3 to 4 of the dates into the honey mixture using a slotted spoon. Swirl the dates gently in the honey to coat all sides. Remove the dates one at a time with the slotted spoon, drain off excess honey into the saucepan then place the dates on the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat until all the dates have been coated in honey. There may be leftover honey and to use it up, I like to dip whole almonds into the honey - one at a time - then place them on the prepared cookie sheet to make candied almonds.
Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours so the honey can set. The dates will still be extremely sticky to the touch. Once the refrigeration is complete, sprinkle half of the almond meal onto a serving tray or plate. Remove the dates from the cookie sheet gently as to not break them apart and place them on the serving tray. [For the candied almonds, I like to dip the almonds in finely shredded unsweetened coconut before placing them on the serving tray.] Once all the dates are on the serving tray, sprinkle the remaining almond meal over them. [The almond meal helps keep the dates from sticking to the tray, etc. along with adding additional texture and flavor.]
Serve or wrap the tray in plastic wrap to store. They are fine at room temperature for up to two days. After that, they will need to be refrigerated.
*When I was living overseas in the Middle East, I encountered several dates that had orange discoloration on the inner skin. I was told that the dates caught a cold during the growing process. When a date catches a cold, the way it grows and the flavor it should develop changes. How the flavor changes varies depending on the type of date but typically dates that catch colds are not eaten. I rarely see dates grown in the USA with this "condition" but it is quite common in dates that are grown in the Middle East.
All of the dates I used with this recipe [so far] were cold-free but several had things living in them at one point. Out of a whole pound [about 30 to 35 dates], I discarded 5 or 6 dates because of grit and strings.
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