Showing posts with label dates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dates. Show all posts

Oct 11, 2016

Classic American Oatmeal Cookies (Eggless)

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Fill your cookie jar with this eggless version of the classic American oatmeal cookie. Buttery, sweet, with a hint of spice and a texture that's a delectable combination of crispy edges with delightfully chewy centers. Embellish them with raisins, walnuts, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, dried cherries, or chopped dates as you choose. This tasty recipe can easily be made vegan too. Great as a snack, tea time treat, gracing any holiday platter, or even breakfast! 

Oatmeal Cookies Eggless, veg, vegan, vegetarian, oatmeal, honey, golden syrup, recipe, cookie, biscuit, drop, raisin, dates, walnuts, egg free, eggless, spice, american, baked, oatmeal, oats, healthy, honey, quick cooking, holiday, snack

In looking to make an eggless version of classic American oatmeal cookies I first tried this highly lauded recipe on Food.com. It used a quarter cup of boiling water mixed with baking soda and resulted in a rather bland cake-like textured cookie that I really didn't care for. (Even the neighbor's buffalo gave me the side eye when I fed them to her.) So I substituted room temperature honey for the boiling water, baking powder for the baking soda, added an extra quarter cup of oats, and a touch of spice. The result was the best oatmeal cookie I've ever eaten! The honey really gave them the absolute perfect texture of crispy edges with a tender chewy center as well as a boost of flavor. I've also made them vegan using vegetable margarine and golden syrup in place of the butter and honey and they taste just as delicious. The optional dash of nutmeg and cinnamon was just enough spice to add a bit of pizazz. Baking the cookies at the recommended 350F/175 tended to give a cookie with a crispy bottom but raw top so I amended that by reducing the heat and lengthening the baking time a bit.

The dark and sweet raisins traditionally used in American oatmeal cookies are not usually available here in Nepal. The raisins we get are mostly sultanas or a type of golden raisin which I find tend to scorch or be too sour for this cookie. But we do have are these incredible dates from Iran! Can you believe this? A full kilo of hand packed dates with the most lovely caramel-like flavor and texture for a mere three dollars! Roughly chopped these dates perfectly compliment this oatmeal cookie. Of course, to please the Kashmiri contingency here I also use the deservedly famed Kashmiri walnuts too. But feel free to add in whatever you prefer in the way of dried fruit, nuts, or chocolate chips. 

Ingredients:
1 C butter, softened to room temperature (or margarine if you wish to make these vegan)
3/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp nutmeg or allspice (optional)
1/4 C honey (or golden syrup if you wish to make these vegan)
1 tsp baking powder
1&1/2 C flour/maida
2&1/4 C quick cooking oats
1/2 C chopped dates (or raisins, chocolate chips, dried cherries)
1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional) 

Here's what to do:                                 
1) In a large mixing bowl beat butter or margarine, sugars, vanilla, salt, spices, and honey together until smooth and creamy. Scrape down sides of bowl if necessary.

2) Add in flour and oats, mix well. Add dates or raisins and nuts if using. Mix until dough pulls away from the bowl and sticks to itself. Cover dough with cling film and chill for at least 3 hours. I usually put the dough in the freezer overnight.


3) When ready to bake heat oven to 325F/170C. Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment or silicone mats. Flatten scoops of dough to about a half inch thick with the bottom of a glass wrapped in cling film or the heel of your hand. Be sure to leave about an inch and a half between cookies so they bake evenly. 

Flatten the scoops of dough slightly as seen on the right.

4) Bake in preheated oven for for 18 to 20 minutes or until bottoms of cookies are slightly browned.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from baking sheet with spatula. Makes 3 dozen. Keep stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.








Jun 12, 2016

Ingredient of Week: Dates, Khajur, Khajoor


The familiar fruit known as dates are called "khajoor" or khajur" in Hindi and Urdu. Dates have been a staple food cultivated in the Indus Valley as well as the Middle East for thousands of years. Dates have deep significance in many cultures as they are mentioned over fifty times in the Christian Bible and twenty times in the Holy Koran. Fossil records show that the date palm has existed for at least 50 million years.


The date palm is also known as Phoenix dactylifera and is a flowering plant species in the palm family, Arecaceae. Reaching a height of seventy to seventy five feet date palms grow singly or form a clump with several stems from a single root system. The date palm is dioecious, having separate male and female plants and is naturally wind pollinated. In traditional oasis horticulture and in modern commercial orchards date palm are all pollinated manually. Manual pollination is done by skilled laborers on ladders or by use of a wind machine.


The English word "date" derives from the ancient Greek word "dáktulos" meaning "finger." Dates ripen in four stages, which are known by their Arabic names kimri (unripe), khlal (full-size, crunchy), rutab (ripe, soft), and tamr (ripe, sun-dried). 


Agricultural experts estimate that there are more than 3,000 varieties of dates worldwide. In the southwestern United States only two varieties are predominantly grown: "Deglet Noor" a small, drier date primarily used in baking and the Moroccan "Medjool" which is prized for eating out of hand because of it's large size, succulence, and rich caramel flavor.


The date you'll most commonly see served at festivals and holidays in South Asia is called the "chuara" or "chohara." This type of date is grown primarily in the Sindh province of Pakistan.

Chuara or chohara dried dates
Chuara dates are picked when not quite fully ripe then boiled with a yellow dye. After being boiled, the dates are spread over straw mats and left to dry under the sun for at least for six days. The result is a rock hard and rather flavorless but sweet date. They are very inexpensive and seem to keep indefinitely.


We also have many premium quality dates available here in South Asia that I'd never seen in the United States. These "Dabbas" dates are from the Emirates, they are small but very soft, flavorful, and sweet. That box is a full kilogram (or about 2 lbs) of premium dates for $7USD - can you believe that price?


These are "Barari" dates from Tunisia. They're still on the stem in the box and a bit drier, larger, and less sweet than the Emirati dates.  My personal favorite is a hand packed variety called "Miriam" from Iran that tastes just like caramel.


 "Wet pack" dates of unspecified varieties are always available at a modest price too. The bag on the left is 500 grams or about a pound for $2USD. These wet pack dates are great for cooking and baking. Date syrup as you can see on the right usually shows up in the markets around Ramadan here too. I like date syrup over vanilla ice cream.


In South Asia dates are often made into laddoos, halwas, and kheer for holidays and festivals like Diwali, Ramadan, Eid-al-Fitr, as well as weddings. One of the chutneys frequently served with chat and samosas is made from dates, tamarind, and dry ginger/soonth.

The brown chutney is made with dates and red is tomato.
Most often dates are eaten alone as a simple snack or sweet in South Asia. In fact, a certain someone in our household likes to eat dates on the front porch and toss the pits in between the flower pots which has resulted in this:


Our own baby date palm!

Jun 10, 2016

Date and Crispy Rice Laddoos

dates puffed rice cereal sweet dessert ramadan easy laddoo balls recipe

"Laddoos" or "laddus" are ball shaped sweets popular in South Asia. Easy, eggless, and no bake these laddoos are a quick and delicious treat to make! Dates are simmered into a rich caramel then combined with crunchy puffed rice for a delicately crisp and divinely sweet indulgence. Perfect for Ramadan or any other holiday featuring lots of decadent goodies.


Here I've taken an old fashioned American recipe and "Desi-fied" it a little with cardamom and ghee. Variously called "humdingers" or simply "date balls" these tasty treats graced many a Thanksgiving and Christmas platter in my home when I was growing up in the US. For some reason we Americans love breakfast cereal in our sweets. Dates and rice are familiar favorites to the Desi palate so these are sure to please all around. 


Truly a crowd pleaser, this recipe was originally from my 1970's 4H cookbook. However, I've been making this for so long I know it by heart. From what I understand this recipe has been around with minor variations since the 1920's in the US. In the US you can buy 8oz bags of pitted dates that measure to about a cup which is what this recipe was written for. Pitted dates are not available in South Asia so I'd recommend using "wet pack" dates as shown in the above photo. They are fairly inexpensive and are very good quality for use in baking and cooking. I do have to pit them myself which is a bit of a sticky chore. The bag you see in the photo is the standard 500g package available here which yields about 2 cups of chopped and pitted dates. When using the 500g bag as shown in the photo I simply double the ingredients in the recipe below. If you wish to make these vegan just substitute coconut oil or a good quality vegetable margarine for the butter or ghee. These are so yummy and in less than an hour you can easily whip up about 48 to 50 laddoos for any special occasion or just an after school treat!

Ingredients:
1/2 C butter, ghee, or coconut oil
3/4 C sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
7 - 10 green cardamoms/elaichi, seeds removed & coarsely ground (optional)
1 C dates, chopped & pitted
3 C rice crispy cereal
1 C desiccated coconut or 1/2 C powdered sugar

Here's what to do:
1) In a large heat safe mixing bowl measure out rice crispy cereal.


2) In a heavy bottomed saucepan combine sugar, dates, salt, vanilla, cardamom, and butter or ghee.


3) Over medium heat bring to simmer while stirring constantly. Allow to simmer for 3 minutes,  keep stirring constantly so the mixture does not scorch.


4) Remove cooked date mixture from heat, immediately pour over pre measured rice crispy cereal in heat proof bowl. Mix well with wooden or silicone spoon. Allow mixture to cool for about 10 minutes.

5) When mixture has cooled roll by tablespoonful into walnut sized balls. I use a tablespoon sized cookie scoop to get uniform amounts.


5) Roll the balls in desiccated coconut or powdered sugar as desired. A round cake tin or shallow bowl works well for this. Keeps well in a sealed airtight for up to two weeks. (But they only last about two days around our house because everyone eats them.)

Helpful hints:
If you wish to make these vegan just substitute coconut oil or a good quality vegetable margarine for the butter or ghee.

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