Jan 25, 2018

It’s a Date

Date honey or date syrup also knows as silan, is a thick dark sweetener extracted from dates. It is commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. In Israel, it is used as a dip for bread, in pastries, even in chicken dishes.  The “dvash tmarim” noted in the shivas haminim is actually date honey, not the bee honey we use today.

Date syrup is rich in glucose and fructose, and has a lower glycemic index than processed sugar.  So while it is still a sweetener, it is moderately better for you than sugar or even honey.  When substituting silan for sugar in baking use a ratio of 2/3 cup date syrup for every 1 cup of sugar and use a little less liquid in the recipe.

You can use store-bought silan, which is now available in many groceries or make your own at home. There are 2 ways to prepare your own—raw or cooked and extracted. The raw version provides all the fiber and nutrients found in dates while the cooked is thinner and more similar to honey.

Raw Date Honey
8-9 medjool dates
1 1/4 cups water, plus more for soaking dates
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

Place the dates in a small bowl; cover with warm water and let sit for 30 minutes. Once the dates have soaked, drain the water then add the dates, 1 ¼ cups water, and lemon juice to the container of a high speed blender, such as a Vitamix. Blend until smooth. Transfer to an air tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

2 lbs. pitted dates

8 1/2 cups hot water or more if needed

Place dates and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer and cook for 2 hours or until dates are very soft and starting to dissolve. If mixture begins to look dry, add a little more hot water; dates should be mostly covered by liquid throughout the process. By the end of cooking the liquid should be thick and brown.

Place the dates and liquid in a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Press a much liquid out of the dates as you can. Date honey will continue to thicken as it cools. Once it reaches room temperature, it should be similar to the consistency of honey. If the mixture isn't thick enough for you, feel free to warm it up again. Store syrup in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.  Makes about 1 ½ cups syrup.

Now you can go ahead and try one of our tasty recipes!

This recipe is a great way to try silan if you are hesitant about trying new ingredients. It is not very overwhelming but gives the chicken depth of flavor

½ cup silan

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 teaspoons lemon juice

4 chicken legs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the silan, soy sauce, garlic and lemon juice. Place the chicken thighs in a pan and pour the silan mixture evenly over the chicken. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the skin is crispy and juices run clear when the chicken is pricked with a fork.

To keep this dessert healthier, use coconut cream instead of topping

1 cup silan

1 cup plain tahini

16 ounces whipped topping, defrosted

Halva, crumbled for garnish

¼ cup silan for drizzling

Mix the Silan with raw tahini. Add a 3 tablespoons topping and stir. Whip the rest of the cream in a mixer until smooth and stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the silan mixture.

Pipe into serving cups using a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Drizzle with a little date syrup and sprinkle with halva crumbs.  Freeze until needed, but let it defrost a bit before serving.


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