Dates. Yes, I featured them recently: here I go again. Dates are just the tastiest, loveliest, most delicous non-dairy fudge out there, and they’re fruits.
The other week, in a moment of weakness, I picked up a raw, all-natural energy bar from the snack counter in my super-market. The packaging was red and had the word bakewell tart on it; I was bored and hungry. The ingredients were interesting: dates, cashews, raisins and natural almond flavour. Nice and simple. The bar was really good and made me wonder how difficult it would be to make your own snack bar?
Note: our American readers will find links to some of the ingredients below on Nuts.com. European shoppers will find the same ingredients in health-f00d shops – or even their local super-market – or in specialist shops indicated.
I’ve made date truffles before, so it wasn’t that difficult to turn date gooeyness (and goodness) into a snack bar. However, while experimenting, I learned that there were a few things to consider.
- Dates are sticky: the inspirational bar I bought was dry on the outside whereas the ones I made at home were sticky. I think the bought bar had been dehydrated. I don’t have a dehydrator nor the patience to slowly dry bars in the oven to prove my thesis. Instead, I covered my bars in a thin covering of powder (cocoa or corn starch), or seaweed. Put a bit of powder in a sandwich bag, chuck in the bars and shake gently to cover. (Don’t cover them in licorice powder: that will only make them stickier. And too strong for most palates.)
- Texture: some dates are softer than others. My favourite dates are very soft – read moist – compared to the standard chopped dates. As a result, the mixture needs a higher percentage of nuts to become manageable. To 200 grams of dates, I added up to 80 grams of cashews and could probably have gone even higher to make a firmer paste. You can use other nuts: I chose cashews because they are fairly flavour neutral.
- Flavour options: I made three batches:
- Pine nuts, seaweed and chipotle. C. described this as ‘interesting’. I sandwiched the date paste between nori sheets and cut into squares. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but in the end, ate all the squares. The chipotle gives a slow heat, pine nuts and seaweed add savoury notes to the otherwise very sweet date and nut mix. (40 grams pine nuts, 2 teaspoons chipotle, 4 teaspoons Mara Seaweed dulse.)
- Almonds and licorice. This was my favourite, so it’s what I’m putting in the recipe below. Licorice powder isn’t a super-market ingredient, but it’s fairly easy to get hold of these days. You can buy it online, or find bags of it in Tiger. (40 grams almonds, 4 teaspoons licorice powder.)
- Cocoa, matcha and pistachios. The flavours work well together, and I love the bright green pop of pistachios even if their flavour was overpowered by the matcha. (40 grams pistachio nuts, 4 teaspoons cocoa, 4 teaspoons matcha.)
The bars keep in a cool dry place for at least two weeks and firm up a little over time. They’re great in a lunch box and make a good substitute for after-dinner chocolates. As ‘healthy snacks‘ go, date and nut bars are great: they give you a hit of sugar but also vitamins and minerals. However healthy, they, like everything else, should be consumed in moderation.
- 200 grams dates
- 60-80 grams cashews
- 40 grams almonds
- 4 teaspoons licorice powder
- Corn starch (optional)
- Put the ingredients in a blender and mix until it forms a ball. Start with the lower amount of cashews and build up until you have almost the texture you desire.
- Add the almonds and mix. (You can chose to keep them coarse or blend until the paste is quite smooth.)
- Shape into balls, fingers or any shape you want.
- Turn in cornstarch to stop from sticking together.
- Store in an air-tight box for up to two weeks.
They are easy to make, fun to play with and good to eat, too.