For centuries, dates have been a prized fruit in many different cultures and cuisines, thanks to their amazing flavour and nutrition. Providing a great energy source and packed with fibre, antioxidants, potassium and loads of other essential nutrients including calcium and iron, we should all be eating these little beauties more often. Yes, despite dates being nutritional powerhouses, it seems that, in North America at least, many people sometimes find it hard to look beyond date squares for ways to incorporate this fantastic fruit. I admit that I am a big fan of date squares myself, but wanted to come up with a less-sweet treat. Behold: the date square muffin was born – a healthy muffin studded with chopped dates and finished with the familiar date square crumble topping. Plumping the dates in hot water before folding into the batter ensures they stay tender when baked. To speed up the process for fresh, hot muffins at breakfast time, try measuring out the dry ingredients and making the crumble topping the night before as well as soaking the dates overnight in cool water in the refrigerator. Date square muffins are best on the first or second day after baking but freeze extremely well for later consumption.
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup quick oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup salted butter, melted
10 -12 large Medjool dates (to yield 5 ounces / 142 grams of pitted fruit)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1/4 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup canola (or vegetable) oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Slice dates open lengthwise and remove pits. Chop each date into eighths. Put dates in a heatproof bowl and cover with very hot water. Let cool until at room temperature.
- Line one 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners (use parchment liners if you can find them – they’re amazing!)
- In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for the crumble topping and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the white and whole wheat flours, salt, baking soda and sugar.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg then stir in oil, buttermilk and honey.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir briskly with a spoon until just combined.
- Drain liquid off the dates and add to batter. Fold in gently until evenly distributed.
- Fill each muffin cup three-quarters full with the batter.
- Top each muffin with 1 heaping tablespoon of the crumble topping. Press down gently on the topping with the back of the spoon or your fingers to be sure it’s settled well on top of the batter.
- Bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.
- Cool 5 minutes in pan before removing.
Makes 12 large muffins.