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Author Notes: I caramelized some brown sugar, butter, and dates this week to make a family cookie recipe. I was kind of infatuated with the date caramel that resulted, and wanted to see if it would work as a simple pie filling. It's everything I hoped it would be, like a slice of soft, nuanced caramel. In fact, if you didn't know if was made with dates, you might not guess it. My 16-year old thought it was a slice of caramel pie after school today. The crust doesn't serve up neatly, but if you don't mind a homespun looking dessert, the almonds give it a deeply toasted flavor. If you don't have Celtic salt, add just a pinch of conventional salt to the pie. —ALittleZaftig
Serves 12 modest pieces
For the Crust
- 1 cup whole almonds
- 1 3/4 cups very finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
For the Date Caramel
- 2 pounds whole dates
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons Celtic salt
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place the almonds on a sheet pan and bake them for 10 minutes, giving them a shake halfway through the baking time. When they have cooled a bit, grind them finely using a food processor.
- Lower the oven heat to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine the ground almonds, graham cracker crumbs, and melted butter, stirring them with a fork to combine. Press the mixture firmly into a pie plate with your fingertips until it reaches up the sides and is uniform. Bake the crust for ten minutes and set it aside.
- Meanwhile, slice the dates in half and remove their pits. In a large pan over low heat, melt the butter, brown sugar, and dates, stirring periodically. The dates will melt down into the brown sugar and butter and caramelize. This takes a bit of time, just pop in on it every few minutes to give it a stir. Towards the end of the process, stir more frequently so that the mixture does not burn. It should smell caramelized when it is ready.
- Pour the date caramel into the crust and spread it with a spatula. It will set at room temperature.