A Date with Destiny

I hope I’m not dating myself here, but I still think dates are one of nature’s candy. Especially when you get a perfectly plump fruit, thick and juicy, bearing the tiniest pit and a very thin skin, nothing compares to that pure sweet taste. It’s rich and voluptuous but never cloying, never overtly sugary. Worlds of flavor beyond that pure fructose hit bolster the experience with notes of molasses, brown sugar, caramel, butterscotch, toffee, and sometimes even cinnamon and chocolate. Nothing added, nothing removed, a single date can be far more satisfying than the most elaborate pastries.

It’s shocking to me that dates aren’t more popular for exactly this reason. Even if you think they’re too sticky or messy to eat solo, they’re such promising ingredients to use in other applications, especially with a little additional finesse. For example, date syrup is one of my favorite sweeteners du jour. Also known as date honey, date nectar, or date molasses, this thick treacle has been a prime ingredient in Middle Eastern households for millennia, but is slow to take root overseas in the US. This alone is utterly baffling. For a society generally fixated on healthier options, bearing so many food allergies and intolerance in mind, it should be flying off the shelves.

Being unrefined is a good thing in this case. In contrast to highly processed white sugar, date syrup still has all of its beneficial nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants intact. It’s even been shown to have antibacterial properties, much like conventional bee’s honey. As with whole dates, it has a much lower glycemic index than typical sweeteners, making it a better choice for those who need to watch their blood sugar.

Even if date syrup remains elusive in local markets, it’s a snap to make your own from scratch. To make date syrup, simply pour boiling water over pitted dates to cover. Let soak for about 2 hours, drain, and transfer to your food processor. Thoroughly puree until completely smooth, adding a tiny amount of water, as needed, for it to continue blending. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, or keep the pulp to retain more fiber. Store in a glass bottle in the fridge or a cool, dark place for up to a year.

Once you have the raw materials, you’re ready to create riches beyond your sweetest dreams. Leaning into warm spices to complement the deep, robust, and subtly earthy taste of the date syrup, gingerbread is always top of mind. Sweetened solely by the power of this supple fruit, buttery scones take shape with ease. Falling somewhere between flaky biscuits and fluffy cake, you genuinely feel like you’re eating a dessert for breakfast, without any sugar rush or crash to worry about mid-morning.

Date-nut gingerbread scones will delight those with serious sweet teeth all year round, not just during the holiday season. Best of all, you won’t wreck your New Year’s resolutions when you indulge, even if you go back for seconds.

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