This recipe came from my Yiayia’s leftover date/nut baklava filling to which she added a spoon or two of carob powder for us kids as we hovered over her mixing bowl. Don’t laugh but I was eating a Kit Organics bar one day when in a rush to eat something not totally terrible for me and had the most wild tastebuds-deja vu that I had eaten this before. The taste memory was foggy at first and then it came flooding back over me – individual spoons of that incredible date nut baklava filling. Well, ladies and gents, here it is for you all in bite form – addictively positively wonderful in every way.
I use a food processor to chop the dates though you can certainly unplug and chop by hand. Full disclosure, this can turn out to be a bit of a sticky rather messy undertaking but very rewarding in it’s own way too!
Two authentic ingredients that I highly recommend you use, though you can substitute for if need be, are carob powder and date sugar. Carob powder (I use Bob’s Red Mill Carob Powder) or ‘Greek chocolate’ as it’s sometimes known – is a significant source of many nutrients with a ‘chocolate’, just slightly sweet taste. Date sugar because, well, the recipe’s main ingredient is dates and it blends in so perfectly with the flavors of this treat – and it’s a much more authentic sweetener than white sugar in Greek recipes, oh and it’s really good too! You can substitute cocoa powder for carob 1:1 and you can use white sugar, honey or agave nectar in place of the date sugar in equal amounts.
Do make sure that the almond meal you use is natural and not blanched. You can easily tell the difference as the unblanched (or natural) almond meal is flecked with pieces of dark brown almond nut skins. The perfectly light yellow almond meal is not what we’re looking for here, it’s too fine and not substantial enough for our purposes. If you’ve none on hand, it’s super quick and easy to toss in the 2 cups of raw almonds and process into meal – you’ve got the food processor out anyway so go for it!
Once the dates are mashed/processed, I mix in the remaining ingredients by hand. Don’t be tempted to throw everything in the food processor all together. It just becomes too mushy and just not not good either in texture or flavor for that matter. It takes no time at all to mix everything together and [BONUS] you can taste-test as you go.
Whenever possible, soak your dates in half orange juice half water using just enough liquid to cover them. This will plump the dates up a bit and help to make a smoother paste. Speaking of smooth, remember, if you’re using dates with pits – REMOVE THE PITS!!! I say this with emphasis because there has been a time or two, when in a hurry, I’ve thrown my dates in without pitting first – almost destroyed my food processor blades and woke the whole house (I cook a lot at night) grinding up the pits…… Learn from my hasty mistakes, simply give each date a quick slice and the pit pops right out. For the 50 or so dates in this recipes, it won’t even take 2 minutes OR just buy pitted dates 🙂
- 2 cups dates / approx 45-50 dates /about 1 cup mashed dates
a 16 oz bag will leave you with a few extra dates to munch on!
- 1 cup natural almond meal (see above)
- 4 tbsp carob powder (sift before adding)
- 2 tbsp sugar (preferably date sugar or honey – subs above)
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp orange zest (1 medium orange)
- 1 1/2 tsp orange juice
- 1 cup chopped pistachios
Soak dates in enough orange juice and water to just cover dates for approx 1 hour. You can skip this step if pressed for time.
Pit dates (or use pitted dates) and process in food processor just until mashed – a few pulses should do the trick. DO NOT over process so far that you get date puree!
Add mashed dates to bowl with all remaining ingredients and mix well to combine completely.
Pinch off pieces of date mixture and roll into bite size balls. Roll half or all of all in chopped pistachios. Leave out and uncovered for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. After that, store covered in the fridge. These can be made up to a week ahead of time.