So. Date caramel. Is it truly a worthy caramel substitute, as all the hipster foodies claim it to be, or is it just glorified baby food? Time to find out!
I did it. I made date caramel. I had been wanting to make it ever since I first saw this amazing photo by Ellie Bullen on Instagram. Up until then, I had never even heard of it because I am not a hipster foodie but a foodie who lives under a rock snuggled up with a rebel, a baby, and a dog with fluffy ears.
But. When the promising term ‘date caramel’ finally reached me, I was intrigued. I mean, it’s made with dates. Just dates. Right. And they call it caramel. That could only be because it tastes like caramel, right? All those hipster foodies use it like ordinary caramel, too. They use it as a filling in caramel slices, or use it to make chocolate truffles. So it MUST be like caramel, right?
I finally put it to the test!
It was time. I had been plagued by dreams about date caramel for too long. Also, I’m planning an important birthday cake. Baby Boy turns 1 in just a few weeks!
Wait, what? I can’t believe that he’s turning 1 already! One moment you’re wearing a newborn in a sling, the next you’re playing tag with an almost-toddler!
But back to the whole cake planning thing, I want to bake him a smash cake, which is a small cake for the baby to smash. But because I don’t want to feed him sugar, sugar and more sugar yet, I was thinking about healthier options. Enter date caramel.
Also, I just got myself a mini food processor. Like I said, it was TIME!
So, what did I think?
First of all, making the date caramel was actually harder than making regular caramel. Making regular caramel takes about 10 minutes, during which you’re mostly doing nothing but staring at a pan of sugar.
Making date caramel takes work! First of all, you need to pit the dates. You then need to chop the dates. At least, you do if you want your food processor to live another day. Next, you need to make sure the dates are soft enough to process. If the dates you bought are not soft enough, you need to soak them in hot water, after which you obviously need to drain them. Then you throw them in a food processor, at which point the hard work BEGINS.
See, dates are sticky. Especially when they’ve been soaked in hot water. Especially when they are mushy from processing. This means that, when the dates are processing, they tend to stick to the sides of the food processor, out of reach of the blades. Ugh, I think I spent a good 10 minutes scraping mushy dates from the sides of the bowl of the food processor, processing for 3 seconds, scraping again, adding hot water, processing again, until the dates were somewhat pureed enough for me to blitz to a smooth puree with my old, trusty stick blender (and um, yes, I plopped the finished date caramel back into the food processor to photograph).
Of course, some food processors are better than others, so you may not have this problem.
So, the process is finicky, but what about the taste? Does date caramel REALLY taste like caramel?
The answer: NO. Unfortunately not. I was SO disappointed when I first tasted this stuff. I was really hoping it would taste exactly like caramel, which would mean I could finally eat caramel to my heart’s content without having to feel guilty because refined sugar-free and all, but sadly, this date caramel tastes like pureed dates. Surprise, surprise…
But while it isn’t as delicious as caramel, this pureed date stuff is still pretty good. It’s sweet and sticky and great on toast, or stirred into oatmeal. And I bet those date caramel slices and date caramel truffles taste pretty awesome, too. But, dear hipster foodies, can’t we just agree not to call something caramel when it’s actually pureed dates? Because when compared to caramel, pureed dates can only disappoint. You should call this stuff ‘awesome date filling’ or something, so that when people make it, they are impressed with it, rather than disappointed that they didn’t use those 10 minutes to make this instead 😉
That’s it, guys. The truth about date caramel. Um, I mean, awesome date filling. If you want to pin this recipe, scroll down for a nice pin. And click here if you want to subscribe to my maling list. You’ll get a free cookbook, too, featuring my five favorite frosting recipes, including my recipe for the Ultimate Nutella frosting. Yum to the max!
- 200g medjool dates (about 10 large dates)
- hot water
- Using a sharp knife, pit the dates and roughly chop them to make life easier for your food processor. Place the pitted, chopped dates in a heatproof bowl, add hot water until the dates are completely submerged, and leave them to soak for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, drain off the water, but reserve it in a measuring cup. Add the drained dates to the bowl of a mini food processor and process in short bursts to chop the dates into tiny bits. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula every now and then, because the dates tend to stick to it.
- Process the dates until a paste forms. You will probably need to help it along by adding a few tablespoons of the reserved date water. Top tip, if you have a stick blender, you can transfer the date puree to the bowl of your stick blender and blend the puree that way until it's completely smooth. The stick blender allows you to push the date puree down, making it a lot easier.
- Date 'caramel' will keep for 1-2 weeks, stored in an airtight container in the fridge.