Chocolate date caramel cups

My go-to dessert for many years has been pie. I love pie–it is versatile and delicious, and there’s one for any occasion really. But I find myself wanting to diversify my dessert repertoire and branch out to new formats. One of my other great pleasures, beyond pie-baking, is perusing new recipes. It’s fun to think about new gastronomical possibilities to experiment with and create lists of things to try next. I ran across this recipe during one such perusal and was happy to be able to use up the remaining dates I had on hand from making sticky toffee pudding and also to try a different kind of dessert vehicle.

Recipe

from Bon Appetit

¾ cup chopped raw nuts (e.g. pecans, walnuts)
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tbsp raw sesame seeds
1 cup pitted dates (about 6½ oz)
¾ tsp salt
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp virgin coconut oil
flaky sea salt

Preheat oven to 300 F. Arrange 12 standard muffin liners on a rimmed baking sheet or in a muffin tin. Spread nuts, coconut, and sesame seeds in an even layer on a small rimmed baking sheet and toast, stirring once or twice, until nuts are darkened and fragrant and coconut is starting to brown, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place dates in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over to cover dates and let soak 10 minutes. Drain, reserving soaking liquid. Transfer dates and 2 tbsp of soaking liquid to a food processor. Add salt and pulse, scraping down bowl occasionally, until smooth and creamy (no large pieces of dates remaining). If you have difficulty getting the dates to break down, add more soaking liquid 1 tsp at a time.

Melt chocolate and oil in a heatproof bowl in the microwave in 20-second increments, stirring in between, until smooth and glossy, about 1 minute total. Pour a thin layer of melted chocolate into each liner. Top with a small scoop of nut mixture, pressing to spread out the chocolate a bit. Dollop about 1 tbsp date caramel into each cup, pressing gently to spread down and around. Top each cup with about a tsp of melted chocolate, using back of spoon to spread it around and cover as much caramel and nuts as possible. Sprinkle with remaining nut mixture and sea salt.

Chill until chocolate is firm, about 1 hour.

Musings

A few notes on preparation: I did not have coconut oil so I used virgin olive oil.

I thought that these little cups might be quite potent on their own and so decided to pair them with a scoop of ice cream. Super delicious choice! They’re a wonderful combination of flavours–nutty, coconut-y, chocolate-y–but also not too sweet, stemming from the fact that there is actually no added sugar. I was surprised how much blending dates really tastes like caramel (blind taste testing this, I would not be able to tell that it doesn’t have traditional caramel in it). Date caramel is apparently a great 1-ingredient, vegan alternative to caramel, which is usually made with copious amounts of butter, sugar, and cream. The ice cream was also a fantastic addition, as it provides a refreshing touch by cutting through the full-bodied set of flavours of the chocolate caramel cups.

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