I've written about Fran Gage before. I love her little books. I've enjoyed the recipes I've cooked from them, and get sentimental reading the stories she shares about her life in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I've had my eye on her simple chocolate-filled date recipe. I managed to bring home two delicious bars of Maglio pure origin dark chocolate last week - so all I needed was the right dates and a splash of whipping cream.
I like dates. A lot. I mindlessly pop them in my mouth whenever they are around. That being said, I am by no means a date connoisseur. I have trouble pronouncing the names. I can tell some are much sweeter than others, some are dry-ish, some are moist and chewy throughout - but my date knowledge in general is limited at best. In a game of "name that type of date".....I'm probably going to lose.
So I went to the guy with the dozen or so boxes of different dates at the Alemany Farmer's Market in South San Francisco this weekend and told him what I was after. I knew I wanted a date that wasn't too sweet, because I thought that a super sweet date stuffed with chocolate might be completely over the top. I asked Mr. Date for a recommendation. He wanted to know what I was going to do with them. I told him I was going to stuff them with a chocolate cream --I knew immediately I was in for a lecture.
Before I could get another word out, he was wagging his finger at me and telling me it was a bad idea. Dates have too much sugar in them naturally - they don't pair well with chocolate. I conceded and then proceeded to sample my way through his delicious selection of dates.
He had me taste a wild-grown organic golden Golden Zahidi date dunked generously in a wide-mouthed jar of natural almond butter. It was on the small size in comparison to some of his other dates. Golden, delicate looking, and delicious. Now, I know Zahidi dates are normally thought of as sweet, but these weren't overly sweet at all - I wouldn't call them savory - but they tasted honey-kissed as opposed to sugar-soaked. Despite the aforementioned protest, I bought a bag of the golden Zahidi (and at $1.50/lb, what a steal!).....and retained my belief that with a bitter/dark enough chocolate, and these dates --this could be a perfect little dessert.
I whipped up the chocolate cream, easy as could be. I pitted the dates while chatting on the phone. And to stuff the dates I snipped off the tiniest corner of a plastic bag and used that to fill them. It really couldn't have been easier. The stuffed dates are rich, indulgent, and delicious. I strongly suggest trying this recipe the next time you are looking for a nice, simple dessert to top off a nicer than average meal. I mean, don't pig out on them - that might certainly be too much, but one or two of them would be a nice satisfying alternative to a heavy cake or cream based dessert.
Dates filled with Chocolate Cream and Almonds
48 (10 ounces) pitted dates
1/4 cup (2 ounces) heavy whipping cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
48 (2 ounces) whole blanched almonds
Cut one side of the dates from top to bottom to expose the space that housed the pit.
Bring the whipping cream to a boil in a small pan. Remove it from the heat. Add the chopped chocolate, and let it sit for 5 minutes. Whish the chocolate into the cream until it is smooth. Let it sit at room temperature until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
If you are adept at piping with a paper cone, use one to fill the pit spaces in the dates with chocolate cream, or fill them with a teaspoon. Nestle and almond, flat side down, on top of the chocolate.
Refrigerate the dates, but bring them to room temperature before serving before serving to heighten the taste of the chocolate.
From: A Sweet Quartet (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003)