If you have been around me for more than five minutes, you have probably either heard me talk about or seen me eat dates. I seriously adore them. My loved ones also know I am a bit of a sugar fiend. Though, as I am well aware, processed sugar is unfortunately not a healthy fuel source, so naturally sweet fruits can be a much better option to satisfy my sweet tooth. A plump Medjool date stuffed with a little bit of nut butter is a staple in my diet.
Along with using as a sweet treat, dates are also great fast fuel for exercise. They have a high natural sugar content, so having one or two right before a workout can be a quick way to boost your energy. I also take a few with me when I start to train for long races. I would much rather fuel with a whole food energy source than choke down a sticky sweet energy gel! Dates also contain fiber, B vitamins, potassium, manganese and magnesium–all nutrients that the body needs to function optimally.
Because dates are sweet but actually have nutritional value (as opposed to white sugar), they make a great substitute for sweetener in dessert recipes. I have used them chopped up in bars and energy balls, but for some strange reason (kicking myself now) I missed the date “caramel” train. Not surprising given how much I love them, they are delicious blended up into a gooey vegan version of caramel.
Since I had gotten some lovely apples from the market last weekend, I thought I would try using the date caramel in an apple crumble recipe. Dinner with my family is always a great time to try out a new recipe since it gives me multiple opinions on my concoction! I think I may adjust a few things next time I make this, but I got enough good feedback to share my first attempt. I used all of my date caramel in the actual crumble, but I highly suggest (as I have written in to the recipe) saving a little bit out to drizzle on at the end.
- 10-12 large Medjool dates
- Enough hot water to cover (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
Split the dates in half and take out the pits (if not already pitted). Place the dates in a bowl and pour enough hot water over the dates to completely cover them. Set aside and let soak for about an hour. Once softened, place the dates and soaking water into a food processor or high speed blender. Add the vanilla extract and salt, if using, and blend until smooth.
Apple Crumble with Date Caramel
- 1 batch date caramel
- 8 small or 5-6 large apples, approximately 1 1/2-2 pounds (I used crimson gala), cored and chopped*
- 1 + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make your date caramel first. Set aside about half a cup of the caramel for use in the topping and for serving. Next, chop up your apples and place in a bowl. Mix with the remaining date caramel and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Pour the apple mixture into a lightly greased baking dish. I used a 10-inch square casserole dish.
Measure out your oats, pecans, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 cup of the caramel mixture in a bowl. Mix together and then spread out evenly on top of the apples in the baking dish. Place uncovered into the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the apples have softened and topping is crisp and starting to brown.
Use the remaining caramel to drizzle on top of the entire dish or let your guests choose how much they want. If you want an extra indulgence, of course a little vegan vanilla ice cream on top is a rich final addition. 😉
* I did not peel my apples, but if you prefer you can peel before you chop yours up.
Let me know if you try it by leaving a comment! Or follow me on Instagram (@plantstoplanks) and tag me in a picture of your final product.