Thursday, March 21, 2013

Honeyed Date-Nut Muffins with Orange Cinnamon Honey Butter

I love to use dates in baking.  Dates have a sticky caramel-like sweetness that adds moist flavor to baked goods, and are a natural wholesome sweetener in their own right.  Dates with walnuts, dates with honey, dates with oranges, dates with spices . . . these are all traditional Palestinian flavors that have roots in the ancient land.

On a whim, I decided to try to create a muffin (mini-cake?)  that features some of these flavors.  The recipe that I hit upon is fairly sweet to my taste, to render it more of a dessert than a breakfast item, but I think it would be especially lovely on an Easter morning with a cup of hot tea.  The crumb is tender, moist,  and cake-like, and the flavor is mild with a hint of spice.  When made with sprouted flour, this muffin is also very satisfying and filling.

While perfectly delicious  by itself or just spread with some grassfed butter, if you want to take it up a notch for a holiday, try it with a flavored butter, like the Cinnamon Orange Honey Butter described in the recipe below. 

Dates:  Small Fruit, Long History

Dates have a long history in the Holy Lands. Date pits have been found in caves near the Dead Sea, from excavations dating back as far as 3500 BC.  From the top of Mount Nebo, Moses looked into Promised Land and saw all the way to Jericho, which was described as a city full of palm trees.  (Deut. 34:3)  Moses also lists seven species of crops abundant in the Promised Land:

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land--a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills, and land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey . . .

At first glance, it would seem that only the last item on the list is not a plant, but in fact, it most likely is. According to several ancient sources, "date honey" was produced by boiling dates in water, straining them, and then cooking down the liquid into a reduced, sticky, sweet syrup that was used as a honey.  In fact, since this honey was more widely available than wild bee honey, some conjecture that when the Promised Land was described as a "land flowing with milk and honey," this was the honey that was being referred to.

Since dates were abundant, sweet and easy to preserve, they were most likely the sweet staple kept in most people's kitchens.  From biblical times, dates made for a tasty treat, and were often combined with honey, walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, and even black pepper and cardamom. 

These little cakes are my simple homage to those flavors. 




Honeyed Date-Nut Muffins

1 cup dried pitted dates, chopped
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup grass fed butter
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs, cage free or pastured
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cup sprouted wheat flour

Topping:  Chopped crispy walnuts or pecans

1.  Bring water to a boil and and drop in dates, sprinkle with baking soda.  Let sit for ten minutes while you work on the rest of the ingredients. 

2.  Beat the wet ingredients; stir in the dry ingredients. 

3.  Once your dates have broken down a little in the hot water, puree them in the water with a blender or an immersion blender.

4.  Pour date mixture into the rest of the ingredients and stir until just incorporated. 

5.  Pour into muffin tins.  Top with chopped nuts.  Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  

Yield:  12 large muffins

Orange Cinnamon Honey Butter

1/4 cup grassfed butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon raw honey
Pinch of cinnamon
1/2 tsp orange zest

In a small bowl, mash all ingredients together until mixed thoroughly.  You can also use a food processor. 

Shared at Fat Tuesday , Traditional Tuesday , Real Food Wednesday , Party Wave Wednesday , Thank Your Body Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday , Fresh Bites Friday , Tasty Traditions , Fight Back Friday .


  1. These look so delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe. I love dates!

  2. Me, too! I just love the flavor. Thanks for stopping by!


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