Dates are naturally moist and sticky with hints of carmel, brown sugar and often vanilla flavor. These qualities make dates an excellent alternative to processed sugar in smoothies baked goods, such as breads, cookies and bars or as a spread.
Adding sweetness with dates means adding nutrition without refined sugar’s roller coaster ride. The natural sugar in dates, invert sugar, is easily absorbed and assimilated by the body.
Yet, their high fiber content makes them a low-glycemic index food. So, dates or date paste, not only support healthy blood sugar levels and elimination, but also helps you stay full longer.
Dates are also high in iron, calcium, are even richer in potassium than bananas. Dates are also a rich source of minerals, such as chlorine, copper, magnesium, sulphur and phosphorus.
Clearly, dates and date paste knock out refined sugar in the nutrition contest. But, how do they compare to sugar when baking? Actually, pretty well, thanks to the unique chemistry of date sugars.
According to a recent publication by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, “In most varieties the sugar content of the date fruit is almost entirely of the inverted form.” Medjool dates are particularly high in invert sugars at about 70-78% of the sugar content.
A sugar is ‘invert’ when the sucrose is divided into its components, glucose and fructose. This occurs naturally with dates, or with the addition of a fruit acid, as is done when making jam. Because this creates very fine sugar crystals, invert sugar is used in making candies and fondant which require a smoother product, making it a favorite of bakers.
Invert sugar is also recognized by bakers for its hygroscopic properties, meaning it attracts moisture, increasing tenderness while extending shelf-life. Invert sugar also contributes to the Maillard reaction (caramelizing), aiding in the browning process.
So, satisfy your sweet tooth and baking needs with dates! Used them chopped or make a date paste by soaking dates in water for 30 minutes to two hours and process with some of the soaking water. Keep it plain, or flavor with cinnamon, vanilla or other flavors of your choosing. Refrigerated, date paste will keep for at least a week. Easy.
Date Paste Recipe
Yield: Just under one cup of date paste
Total time: 1 hour 10 mins (1 hour soak time and 10 minutes preparation)
- 12 Medjool dates (about 1 1/2 cup )
- Filtered water, enough to cover the dates
- Remove the stems and seeds from the dates and place in a bowl. Cover the dates with enough water to just cover the dates and let soak for about an hour.
- After an hour, drain the dates and reserve the soaking liquid.
- Place the dates in a blender, preferably a smaller blender jar for this amount. Process the dates, adding the soaking liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is smooth, but still thick. This will require 1/4 to 1/2 cup of soaking liquid depending on the type of dates, freshness of the dates and the length of time they soaked.