Our neighbour two doors down is currently working in Qatar and the last time he came home he knocked on our door and handed over a huge box of dates.
I’ll be honest, it’s sat in my pantry staring at me accusingly for months.
Then last week I decided it was time to put them to good use.
Dates are one of those ingredients I would just never buy myself. The problem is they look pretty disgusting. My overriding memory of them is that they always seemed to hang around at Christmas time in a strange looking box and not a single sole would venture anywhere near the box, let alone open it.
They’re a bit of an outsider truth be told.
And if you haven’t ventured near, let me tell you, they’re super sweet, sticky, rich and really chewy – they really don’t have much going for them unless you have the sweetest tooth in the world!
HOWEVER, they are perfect for baking with. The natural sugar means you don’t have to pile in loads of other sugars and they give a gloriously rich flavour.
So, here’s the recipe for the Sticky Toffee traybake I made with them. You can eat the squares as a slice of cake or you can heat it back up in the microwave, add a dollop of ice cream or custard for a pudding you’d be happy to pay a fiver for in any restaurant!
85g softened butter
175g pitted dates, chopped
175ml boiling water
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
140g caster sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
half tsp vanilla extract
175g self-raising flour
85g soft light brown sugar
2tbsp single cream or milk
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C/ Gas mark 4.
Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.
2. Put the dates in a small saucepan with the bicarb and boiling water. Heat gently for 5 minutes until the dates are soft. Don’t let it boil.
NOTE: Make sure you fully de-pit all the dates; those stones are as hard as rock!
3. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy.
4. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract and date mixture. The mixture right now will be really runny and look like the most unappetising bowl of gunk you’ve ever seen!
5. Add the flour and fold it into the mixture.
6. Tip the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until it’s firm to the touch and starting to shrink from the sides of the tin. Leave to cool slightly.
7. To make the toffee sauce, put the brown sugar, butter and cream/milk into a saucepan and heat gently until dissolved then simmer gently for 2 minutes.
8. Prick the cake all over with a fork or skewer and pour the hot sauce evenly over the top. Leave it to cool in the tin then cut into squares.