Friday, February 11, 2011

Operator error

Earlier this week, I once again found myself lacking anything to put in my lunchbox for mid-morning sustenance. Time to do some more baking! I decided to choose from the 'slices and squares' chapter this time. There were several recipes I had all the ingredients for, but in the end I chose caramel date fingers(p61).

There's quite a lot of date-based baking in the Edmonds book - which suits me fine, of course, since I'm very partial to dates. Caramel date fingers have a date filling sandwiched between two layers of spongy cake. Sounds exactly like my cup of tea!

I began by cutting up a cup of dates, and putting them in a pan over a low heat with some water, brown sugar and cocoa. Oddly, since these were supposed to be caramel date fingers, there was actually twice as much cocoa as brown sugar.

While the filling was reducing down to a paste on the stove, I prepared the base. It's a familiar process: cream butter and sugar, beat in egg and add dry ingredients. I then split the dough in half and pressed one half into the bottom of a 20cm square cake tin. As usual, it didn't look like it would spread enough at first, but eventually, with use of wet hands and teaspoon, I had the whole base of the tin covered evenly.

The instructions for the second half of the mixture were to roll or flatten it into roughly a 20cm square shape on a piece of baking paper. This was a bit tricky - the dough was quite sticky and was more inclined to stick to my hands than the paper, until I tried flattening it between two sheets of baking paper, which was more successful.

By the time I'd finished with that, the filling had become a thick brown paste. I poured it on top of the base and tried to spread it evenly over. Then came the tricky bit: I had to transfer my baking paper-pressed dough onto the top of the filling. I managed to peel the top sheet of baking paper off ok, but when I tried to transfer the dough to the tin, the paper didn't want to come off.

With very careful easing I managed to peel the paper away. Since my shaping of the dough had been approximate, there were still edges where the filling wasn't covered. Attempting to spread the dough across to fill these areas gave me a very clear understanding of why the top layer of dough is pre-rolled/flattened instead of just being spread over the top. It was difficult to spread the dough without smearing the filling or making holes in other places.

A little perseverance eventually produced the desired result - that is, if the desired result is to have smears of filling all through the top layer of the dough - and the slice went into the oven for half an hour.

When the slice had cooled a little, I cut it into fingers and tried one. The filling was lovely and moist, and went well with the cakey layers. I didn't think it merited the description 'caramel' though - the filling tasted quite chocolaty, which was weird in combination with the dates.

I've been eating this slice ever since, thinking how the odd chocolate/date combination really ruins a slice that would otherwise be very nice. It wasn't until I sat down to write this that I took another look and realised that there's nothing wrong with this recipe after all. There's only supposed to be two teaspoons of cocoa in it. I put in two tablespoons. No wonder it tasted so chocolaty!

Yet more evidence that I need to read recipes more carefully - clearly I haven't learnt my lesson yet. I think I feel a 'take 2' coming on!


  1. I've JUST got round to making these today. I was also surprised at the addition of cocoa. Granted, I added the 2 teaspoons of cocoa it stated (perhaps thanks to reading your blog first) it still seemed like an unnecessary addition to a "caramel" filling. I had a bit of trouble putting the top layer of dough on, since it was so hot in the kitchen the dough was steadily getting softer and softer. In the end, I ended up with a "rustic" looking topping, but it's just come out of the oven and smells awesome. Fingers crossed the taste matches the smell.

  2. PS. It tastes friggin amazing!! I'll definitely be making this one again, especially since dates literally fall from the trees here.

  3. Awesome - glad yours came out better than mine! Mmmm dates...

  4. Instead of rolling the layer on top I added a quarter of a cup of sugar to the remaining mix and sprinkled it on top like a crumble. So yummy and so much easier


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