Check out these delicious little geodes.
Caramel is made by cooking sugar with water until it thickens, browns and, well, caramelizes. So when I tell you I've got a recipe for caramel that requires no cooking and is made without added sugar that tastes pretty much just like chewy caramel candy, you might think I've lost it. I mean, that was my reaction when I stumbled on this caramel recipe from The Kitchn. But I was curious, and had the ingredients on hand, so I gave it a go.
Holy moly y'all. It really tastes so much like caramel! It’s slightly less sweet, and doesn’t get stuck in your teeth quite as much (two good things), but otherwise, it’s basically caramel.
So, what's the secret to this faux-caramel? Just two ingredients - dates and tahini.
I know I may have lost a few of you there, but I hope you’ll stick with me on this one. Let’s talk about the dates first. Naturally sugar rich dates have a caramel flavor, and with it’s sticky texture, it really is reminiscent of caramel candy. I’ve been using them for years to sweeten everything from smoothies to energy bars to desserts to oatmeal. The dates are also rich in fiber, which is helpful for blood sugar control. They’re also a rich source of potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Sweetness-wise, 1 small date is equal to about 1 teaspoon of sugar, although it doesn’t have the same properties in baking, so you might want to be careful adapting recipes. Try making a quick date paste, which is a fun sweetener to have on hand for cooking and baking. According to a quick search I did, 2/3 cup is considered equivalent to 1 cup of sugar, just make sure you adjust your ratio of wet/dry ingredients to compensate.
Now, on to the surprise ingredient - tahini. Made from ground sesame seeds, tahini is normally used in savory applications. But when you think about it, tahini is basically peanut butter made from sesame seeds, so sweet applications make total sense. In this raw caramel, it adds a little more nutty flavor.
By itself, the raw caramel was pretty amazing. But we’re extra here, so I stuffed the date caramel into dark chocolate dipped figs and sprinkled them with sea salt. They’re SO good - the chewy figs and date caramel coated in a layer of crunchy dark chocolate, with that sprinkle of flakey sea salt to bring out all the flavors.
These date caramel stuffed dark chocolate figs are actually really fun to make too. There’s something almost meditative about making a recipe that calls for an assembly line. If you’ve got kids, this is a great recipe for getting them into the kitchen! After making the date caramel, just cut a little sliver into each fig, and use your finger to create a well for stuffing. Then you simply dip the figs into melted dark chocolate and sprinkle with a bit of salt.
I love to enjoy these figs as a sweet snack or for dessert. They’ll keep at least a couple of weeks in the fridge, or longer in the freezer.
Raw Caramel Stuffed Dark Chocolate Figs
Makes 30 figs, with a little extra caramel
1 cup dates, chopped
1/3 cup tahini
About 30 dried figs
1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
Flaky sea salt for garnish
Place dates, tahini, and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Blend until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed.
Using a small paring knife, cut a slit into the center of each fig. Stick your finger into the slit and wiggle it around to form a small well. Stuff it with as much caramel as will fit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave until melted, stopping every 15 seconds to stir with a fork. Dip each fig into the chocolate, using a toothpick or fork to make sure it’s covered, then place on the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt as soon as it comes out of the chocolate so it sticks.
Refrigerate at least 5 minutes to harden the chocolate, or until ready to eat.
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