Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gluten-Free Date and Nut Tassies

Featured Ingredient: Dates

Dates are the fruit of the date palm, a tree that prefers to live in desert-like conditions. The two varieties most often available in stores is the semi-soft Deglet Noor and the softer, plumper (and more expensive) Medjool. For baking and the sake of my budget, I stick with the later but for an out-of-hand snack almost nothing beats a tender Medjool. It’s is very difficult to come across fresh dates as the type most often available in stores are partially dried, pitted ones.

Dates are a wonderful source of hunger-quelling dietary fiber as well as magnesium, a mineral shown to help reduce diabetes risk. Plus, you get a healthy dose of potassium which helps control blood pressure.

It’s important to seek out dates that are soft and chewy and not overly dry like you’ll find in the bins of some bulk stores. For this recipe, I used the dried Deglet Noor dates from Sun-Maid. I continue to be happy with the quality of the dried fruits they sell.  

Because dates are among the sweetest fruits around, they work very well in baking and let you cut back on how much sugar is needed.  

Tassies are sort of like mini pies. In fact, these little treats taste like mini pecan pies, but I reckon the calorie and fat-damage is much less than the typical slice of pecan pie. Hazelnuts would rock in the recipe as well. If you don’t want to make them gluten-free, simply use regular all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour. Apricots would probably make a great alternative to dates. I used palm sugar and actually found them a tad sweet, so I might cut back just a bit on the sugar next time. These would photograph better if there was more of a color disparity between the crust and topping but I'll leave that to the food stylists out there.

Gluten-free Nut and Date Tassies

Adapted from Eating Well magazine

1/4 cup all-purpose gluten free flour or other gluten-free flour of choice
1/4 cup palm sugar or brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
4 ounces pitted dried dates (about 3/4 cup), chopped
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup palm sugar or brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or more if you like stronger vanilla flavor
1/2 cup pecans or almonds, coarsely chopped
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F. To prepare the curst, pulse flour, sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, cornstarch, butter and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Divide the crust mixture among 12 lightly greased or paper lined muffin cups (about 1 tablespoon per cup) and press evenly into the bottoms.

To prepare filling, combine dates, water, sugar and butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until most (but not all) of the liquid has cooked away, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then process the date mixture in a food processor until a paste forms. Add cream cheese and vanilla; process to combine. Stir in pecans oralmonds. Divide the date-nut filling among muffin cups, gently pressing the filling down and smoothing the tops.

Bake until the filling is lightly cooked, 15 to 17 minutes. Let cool before unmolding. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving, if desired.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this recipe! My kitchen is newly Gluten free...whole foods and I have been stumped on how to get my delicious desserts showcased again. Your muffin tin idea is so incredibly brilliant. Crummy gluten grains can't scatter. They must stay in their little paper cup! BRILLIANT, oh I already said that. I had no cream cheese but following every thing else...it ended up tasting like Baklava! And nothing crummy about that! It was held together and really a great surprise! Tonight I swapped out your suggested dates for pineapple. Again no c cheese in my kitchen-just omitted that filling and well, it is spooky good! I topped the muffin with coconut crystal sugar (imitates brown sugar) and coconut lubed it with coconut oil then finished with a Macadamia nut in the center. Tropical Ambrosia Nirvana in a little cup! Thanks again for the brilliant cooking method. I NEVER NEVER would have come up with it on my own! I think I have MUFFIN TIN MANIA! and I love it! Thanks again! Bunnie Girl


I love hearing from fellow muffin tin fans, so let me know what is on your mind.