These aren’t your grandma’s date nut balls

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I have had a hankering for truffles lately, but I just have not been able to find the time (or the energy, really) to make any.  Then I started thinking about dates…Linda always has them at her house, I assume she keeps for that time when you need something sweet.  Admittedly, dates are pretty high in sugar (16g for 1) but compared to a chocolate chip cookie made of white granulated sugar, sneaking one of these for that sweet tooth is not so bad.  So I had these dates in my cupboard…then I saw the unsweetened coconut chips sitting next to them and I got to work.  These date nut balls are a snap.  They go together quickly and there’s no need to heat up your oven or turn on your stove during this blistering July, which is definitely a perk.  I started combining these in my food processor while Zoe was going down for a nap (perfect timing, I know) but they were finished just as she was drifting off about 25 minutes later.

Chocolate Date Nut Balls

6oz pitted medjool dates
1/2 c unsweetened coconut shredded or flaked
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c dried cherries sweet or sour (optional)
1/4 c strongly brewed coffee
1/4 c+an additional 1/4 c for rolling unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process or natural)
2 c walnuts, finely diced

In the bowl of your food processor, place the dates, coconut, vanilla, salt, cherries, and 1/4 c cocoa powder.  Pulse for 30 seconds.  Add the coffee and pulse until combined.   Place the date mixture into a medium mixing bowl and add the walnuts, incorporating them thoroughly (at this point it is probably best to  mix with your hands…don’t worry, you will get even stickier later.)

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Place the remaining 1/4 c of cocoa powder in a small bowl or on a salad plate.  Scoop up a tablespoon of the mixture using a small ice cream scoop (or just a spoon).

Roll the date nut ball between your hands to form a nice, even shape.  Then, roll it in the cocoa powder, shaking off the excess.

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Repeat until you have a nice full plate of chocolaty date nut balls like this:

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These are very rich and I definitely feel satisfied eating just one.  I love that bitter chocolate taste! If you do not share my opinion, however, feel free to go without rolling them in the cocoa powder.

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Ginger cake…the ungingerbread

So, the other day, I was poking around Pinterest and was struck with the urgent need to bake.  Muffins, I was thinking…something different-which for me probably means something without chocolate for once.  I stumbled across this recipe for Ginger Spice Cake with Dried Cherries which I saw on  My Madeline.  My husband loves ginger, but oddly enough he does not care for gingerbread or spice cookies (which I love).  But I was not thinking of Woody when I saw this recipe…I was thinking of dried cherries, coffee, and GINGER, lots of ginger!  This recipe calls for dried, fresh, and crystallized ginger.  I know not everyone likes food with lots of spices, but I do and this cake was calling my name.  So here it is, a very gingery cake:

Ginger!

Ginger Spice Cake with Dried Cherries

(originally from Canal House, although I used the recipe from this page and made a few minor changes)

3/4 cup dried, tart cherries
1/4 cup currents (the original recipe called for 1 cup of cherries…alas
I used the majority of my stock for some delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I made, hence the currants)
½ cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled ginger
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup hot, strong coffee  (Molly from My Madeline suggested using a French press, which I thought was a grand idea…and what do you know, my mother-in-law had just given me one for mom’s day on Sunday!)
2 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose)
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup xylitol*
3 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 6 – 8 cup Bundt pan. Dust the pans with flour and tap out the excess.

In a medium bowl, combine the cherries, crystallized ginger, fresh ginger, and Dijon mustard. Pour the hot coffee over the mixture and set the bowl aside.In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking soda, salt, allspice, cinnamon, and pepper.

Using your electric mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy, on medium speed for a couple of minutes. Add the xylitol and beat for a couple of minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between. Then beat in the molasses.

Return to the cherry mixture and strain it into a small bowl, reserving the soaking liquid. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the soaking liquid, blending in between. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the cherry solids. Scrape the batter evenly into a bundt pan.

Bake the loaf pans for about 30 – 40 minutes (for loaf pans), checking carefully. The bundt pan should bake for about an hour. The top of the cake will spring back lightly when pressed in the middle. If you insert a toothpick into the cake’s center and it comes out clean, the cake should be done.

Let the cake cool in its pan on a wire rack. This cake is great by itself or maybe with a sweet glaze drizzled on top.

My very tired helper

I thought this cake turned out a little bit dry…next time I might add a little bit of yogurt.  In my case, I think the dryness is probably because of the xylitol which tends to suck the moisture out of things.  I served this with a dollop of lemon flavored whipped cream, which in retrospect may not have been the best choice. I think what it needed was a hefty handful of chocolate chunks…or maybe bourbon, as we were sampling some last night.

*I bake mostly sugar free these days for a lot of reasons. If you are not so inclined, you would use 1/2 cup dark brown sugar instead of the xylitol and increase the molasses to 1 cup.