Meet your new favorite treat – the chocolate covered date. The ingenious of chocolate covered dates is that once the pit is removed, there is a perfect place for a yummy filling. Dip the date in chocolate and just like that, you have a fancy looking candy with minimal effort. There’s no confectionary madness here!
I first tried a chocolate covered date from a local chocolate shop called Jinji Chocolate – they make their own chocolate and their shop is in Belevedere Square in Baltimore. Their chocolate covered dates were revelatory and I realized I had been missing out! So I decided to make my own.
What type of dates to use?
The most common types of dates I see at the store are medjool and deglet. The medjool variety are larger and very sweet. They are more sticky and soft and also very filling. The deglet variety are smaller, a little bit more firm and not quite as sticky-sweet at the medjool. I think both work well. In this recipe, I’m using medjool, but feel free to use whatever kind you prefer! You may also purchase dates with or without pits – that just depends on what your store has available.
The Easy Way to Temper Chocolate
I first tried tempering my own chocolate when I was in dental school for a fundraiser of chocolate tooth-shaped pops. To save money, I started with semisweet baking chips and tried to temper the chocolate myself. It *almost* worked, but I still ended up with that dreaded chocolate bloom and learned that it’s not that easy.
Chocolate bloom is when chocolate has a hazy white appearance. This occurs either from fat or sugar escaping the chocolate and laying on the surface. It doesn’t affect the flavor, but it doesn’t look as nice. The sign of tempered chocolate is a smooth, shiny surface. And that takes thermometers and techniques to get the chocolate to form the right kind of crystal structure. So yeah, tempering chocolate is pretty technical and not at all easy. BUT there is a trick, which I learned from Cooks Illustrated.
I recommend watching the Cooks Illustrated video at the bottom of the post to familiarize with the technique. It’s also critical that you use already tempered chocolate – so this would be a pre-made candy bar, not baking chips. You also will need a microwave for this technique. Trust me, this makes it so easy!
Making Stuffed Dates with Homemade Almond Paste
I also wanted to make my own almond paste because the types sold at the store are made with glucose syrup and we can’t have that! You can start with blanched almonds and grind them in the food processor, or you can do what I do and use superfine almond meal. Either way would work!
In this recipe, I do use honey and I know that honey is not vegan. Therefore these dates are not technically vegan, but you could easily sub agave nectar or maple syrup and then they would be. At this time, I still use honey, but I know there is much debate on how honey harvesting practices may actually be harming bees. I really do not know the answer on this topic as I have not read enough about it. With that being said, if you would like to share information with me on this topic, I would be interesting in learning more about it.
Back to the dates – I like to fill mine with a sprinkle of cacao nibs along with the almond paste. Then, pinch the sides of the dates together so they seal up (it’s like magic how they seal up like nothing happened!). Roll them around in a nice chocolate bath and place on parchment paper. Immediately sprinkle your decorations on the date before the chocolate starts to set. When they are all set, store your chocolate covered dates in an airtight container. I don’t really know how long they will last, probably about a week, but they never make it that long at my house! You can store them in a cool dry place or if it’s summer, I would put them in the fridge.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you make them, please let me know! They also make great gifts or special treats for the holidays!
Cooks Illustrated Microwave Tempered Chocolate
Chocolate Covered Almond-Stuffed Dates
Healthier sweet treats filled with homemade almond paste and cocoa nibs, then dipped in chocolate! These are so delicious and a favorite of mine when I want something sweet without any refined sugar. One bar of chocolate will cover about 8-10 large dates and the almond paste will fill about 20. Any extra almond paste will keep in the fridge for a few weeks if kept in an airtight container with as little airspace as possible (it will dry out).
Makes: as many as you would like, but the almond paste will fill about 20 dates (see notes at end of recipe)
Author: Leah Romay
- Medjool dates, pits removed
- 1 batch almond paste
- Cocoa nibs
- 1-2 bars of Lilly’s dark chocolate, or chocolate of your choice*, chopped into small pieces
- Dried rose petals or other garnishes such as cocoa nibs, pistachios or other nuts, flaky sea salt
- 72 g (about 3/4 cup) superfine almond flour
- 2 T honey or liquid sweetener (agave, maple)
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- pinch of salt
- Make the almond paste by placing almond meal, almond extract, and a pinch of salt in food processor. With the blade running, slowly pour in the honey or sweetener. Process until all is combined. Place aside.
- Remove pits from however many dates you want to make.
- Sprinkle a few cocoa nibs inside of the dates. Spread about 1/4 tsp of almond paste inside of each date, then add a few more cocoa nibs.
- Pinch the cut sides of the date together to seal the date closed.
- To melt the chocolate, place about 3/4 of all the chocolate in a microwave safe glass bowl. Heat the chocolate at 50% power for for 10 seconds only. Remove and stir. Heat for another 10 seconds. Remove and stir. Repeat this process until the chocolate is nearly completely melted. At this point, add the remaining 1/4 of the chocolate and stir, stir, stir, until it is melted. If needed, heat for another 5 seconds, then stir. *See video above*
- Dip each date one at a time in the chocolate and coat. Use two forks to turn the date in the chocolate and lift it out, then tap gently to shake off some excess chocolate from the bottom of the date. Immediately sprinkle any toppings on top of the date. Then repeat
– Lilly’s dark chocolate is vegan and sweetened only with stevia without any refined sugar added, which is why I am using it in particular.
– If you only want to make a few dates, such as 8-10, then you could halve the almond paste recipe and make it a mini food processor.
– Do not use rose petals from a bouquet you buy at the store as such flowers are likely treated with many chemicals. Purchase dried rose buds or petals for consumption.
– Melting chocolate and tempering chocolate can be very tricky, which is why I recommend starting with an already tempered chocolate bar and following the above steps, which I learned about from Cooks Illustrated. Tempering is what gives chocolate that glossy coating. If you find that your dates develop a white hazy coating after sitting for a day, do not worry, this is just bloom which is totally normal. It just means that it didn’t temper perfectly, but has no effect on the taste.