On my recent trip to the desert, I neglected to come home with one very important thing: Dates! As in the wrinkly little fruits which are power-packed with heaps of vitamins, nutrients and fiber and are super low on the GI scale, making them an ideal sweet-treat that’s naturally healthy for you. Dates, which come from the Date Palm, can be found here in the U.S. in the arid region of Coachella Valley, near Indio, California. They’re actually native to the Persian Gulf where they’ve been cultivated for at least 6,000 years, but they were first brought to Southern California’s desert back in the 1890s. The minimal rainfall in the winter and low humidity/high temperatures in the summer makes them an ideal crop for this environment. If you’re ever near Palm Springs, Indio, or Thermal, do be sure to check out the various date growers and shops where you can sample all the varieties growing in the region such as Deglet Noor, Barhi, Zahidi and my personal favorite, the Medjool.
So, back to this sticky and delicious Date Crumble and Rhubarb Slice. Even though it’s a bit messy when you slice into it (hence “crumble” and “slice” (defined here)), I promise you, the rich shortbread-base layered with the slightly tart stewed rhubarb is an excellent partner for the subtle sweetness from the date and oat topping. This combination of fruits came about as I need to make some more of my Rhubarb Simple Syrup (a staple in my cocktail arsenal; recipe coming to the blog soon!) and after having strained off all the beautiful pink liquid for the syrup, I was left with a wonderfully thick rhubarb confit. I just simply couldn’t throw it out, and I always have dates in my fridge, so I decided to pair up these two flavors for an homage to the perfect desert-inspired dessert. Enjoy!
Rhubarb Confit | yields 1 1/2 cups
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
20-25 stalks of rhubarb (fresh or frozen) chopped, approx 2- 2 1/2 cups (liquid measure)
Combine sugar and water in a medium pot and bring to a gentle boil. Add in rhubarb pieces and simmer until they are fully-cooked and it becomes a thick puree, approximately 15-20 minutes. Press confit through a fine strainer three times to ensure all liquid is removed. *Save liquid for use in drinks and cocktails. Set mixture aside to cool.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour pan; set aside. Sift flour and salt into a bowl of a food processor. Add in sugar and butter. Pulse just until a loose dough forms. Press into pan until it reaches half way up the sides. Depending on the size of pan you use, there may be some dough left over. Bake at 350F for 25-35 minutes or until top is light golden brown and based is fully baked through. Set aside to cool.
Date Crumble Topping
1 cup quick rolled oats
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
12 large dates, pitted and finely chopped, approx. 1 cup (dry measure)
Combine oats, flour, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. Mix in the butter with your fingers until there are no large pieces remaining. Add in dates and mix to combine. Crumble will look like large granola clusters.
Preheat oven to 350F. Spread cooled Rhubarb Confit over the cooled Shortbread Base, leaving a 1/4 inch border around all sides. Top with Date Crumble to cover the entire pan. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes, checking at 30 minutes to ensure it is not over-browning. Cool for at least 20 minutes. To serve, use a serrated knife to cut into 2-inch slices. Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.