I’ve never given much thought to dates. I’m not sure I even knew what they were until I was an adult. But last year on a trip to Ireland, I became obsessed with sticky toffee pudding, which of course uses dates. So how nice that a cache of dates arrived in the mail last week. These were deluxe Medjool dates from the Bard Valley, which is in the corner where Arizona, California and Mexico converge.
Originally from Morocco, Medjool dates have been dubbed the “Date of Kings,” because they were historically reserved for royalty. They are the largest, sweetest and most succulent of all dates, accounting for less than 10 percent of U.S. date production. Dates are harvested and freshest September through October, but available year-round these days as the familiar dried fruit used for cooking.
As far as desserts go, Sticky Toffee Pudding has become one of my favorites. The naturally sugary dates add richness and a depth of flavor which contrasts perfectly with the caramel sauce. Another sweet perk: the dates make the cake so moist, so sticky, and so yummy without tasting of “dried fruit”—indulgent and decadent in a way that raisins could never be. Here is a great Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe and a video of me making it, plus a yummy cookie bar that is to die for.
—By Jill Melton.