“ Brand: Humdinger / Type: Other Fruits „
Now that I'm getting a little older, I've developed a keen interest in cooking and baking alike, and like to experiment a bit in the kitchen. One of my specialties is sticky toffee pudding for dessert which certainly does go down a treat. Part of my recipe for sticky toffee pudding requires me to use stone out chopped dates which is a traditional ingredient for sticky toffee pudding and one I use all the time. The very first time I made this I was browsing around Tesco and to be honest, I found it very difficult to even find dates in amongst all of the other bags on the shelves and then a white bag with pictures of dates all over it caught my eye....the range I was looking at was humdinger - I know what you're thinking - what an unusual name right which actually means a remarkable or outstanding person or thing of its kind - what a bold name to choose for your products.....I'd certainly never heard of this company before but their range included traditional stone out dates and traditional chopped dates. Reading the back of the packet I found that the chopped dates did in fact have the stone removed so decided this would be a good option for what I needed it for.
The company humdinger has been around since 2001, when a small group of 9-5 workers decided that their day job just wasn't cutting it anymore and decided to buy a factory where they could create innovative food products that would show the world that food could have attitude, and found that the demand for these innovative products quickly exceeded their expectations. Their key motivation is to develop safe and hygienic foods that we as consumers can enjoy.
Humdinger not only creates home cooking products such as my traditional chopped dates but they also manufacture a whole host of other products including Various fruit products, non-dairy chocolate, Japanese rice crackers and much more. To find out what they do then you can hop onto their website www.humdinger-foods.co.uk
My Traditional chopped dates were presented to me in a 375g value pack (shame it isn't 400g for reasons I will explain later) which was white in colour with various pictures of dates on the front, both chopped and whole. I am told straight away that these dates are high in fibre, low in fat and have no added sugar, and the bag is resealable. On the back of the pack there is a sticky tab that you can peel off to allow you to reseal the contents of your pack should you have any dates left over from your cookery or backing session.
***So what is a date***
No a date is not something you go on with members of the opposite sex but instead is something you eat, a fruit in fact that can be found on date palm trees located traditionally in the middle east. Dates are normally hand-picked and sun dried for enhanced quality. They are a rich brown colour and the reason dates are commonly used in cooking is due to their natural sweetness and can often be a delicious addition to certain dishes containing lamb, poultry or pork....they are quite a tasty addition to a cereal that may be generally seen as plain, and due to their natural sweetness they are perfect for desserts and baked products, meaning generally you need to add less sugar in certain recipes.
***About the humdinger date***
Opening the packet with a pair of scissors as instructed I'm met with a combination of smells, of which the most enhanced smell is that of toffee. I can see why these would be used in sticky toffee pudding as the smell alone gets my mouth watering....the other quite obvious smell is that dark fruity smell you often get with raisins. These chopped dates have been lightly coated with rice flour to keep them from sticking together so you do notice that they appear to have a powdery coating on them on first appearance. Before measuring out my desired amount for my dessert I like to enjoy the aroma for a second and just take a small piece to nibble on to satisfy my taste buds. These dates are very rich in flavour and taste just like a piece of toffee although you don't have to chew on these for any length of time. Although dry on the outside, the inside of the date is moist, and they are very soft and easy to eat. The great thing about these dates is I don't have to do anything to them. Had I not found these and opted to go for the whole pitted dates, I would have had to chop them up myself which probably would have turned out to be quite time consuming.
I measure out my required 200g of dates (see better if they came in 400g bags then you would get 2 cakes out of 1 bag) and they just fall out of the bag....there's no clumps all stuck together so it seems the flour coating has served its purpose, and proceed to soak them in 250ml of black tea to soften them and hey presto I'm ready to go - sticky toffee pudding here we come. The packet is resealed using the peel off tab located on the back of the packet and stored in the cupboard for future use.
I have on occasion added these dates to my special K at breakfast time and they just add that little extra bit of sweetness to make my cereal that little bit more enjoyable.
***Storage and longevity***
These dates should always be stored in a cool dry place - I always keep mine in the kitchen cupboard along with all my other baking ingredients - and once opened should be consumed within one month. A full unopened bag will last you around 5-6 months.
***The health benefits of dates***
Now I wouldn't for one second recommend that you indulge in sticky toffee pudding every day as it is highly calorific, but the natural fibre found in dates is incredibly good for you and it is said that eating one every day is necessary for a balanced healthy diet. Regular consumption of dates can help fend off constipation, intestinal disorders, weight gain, heart problems, sexual weakness, diarrhoea and abdominal cancer, so this little fruit is not just to be left on the shelf.
Per 100g, these dates contain 303 calories, 2.2 g of protein, 72.2g of carbohydrate of which 71.4g are sugars, 0.5g of fat of which 0.2g are saturates, 8.1g of fibre and less than 0.1g of sodium.
***where to buy***
As far as I'm aware the only stores that have this product on their shelves are Tesco, Sainsbury's and another company called booths which I don't believe we have here in Aberdeen. A 375g bag will cost you £1.99 which is quite pricey but if you make smaller cakes or indeed use the product for several different recipes then you'll get a lot of use out of 1 bag.
To be honest I don't have anything else to compare these dates to as I've used them religiously for my sticky toffee pudding every time it gets made, but I find these to be very high quality dates, packed full of delicious sweet toffee flavour. My sticky toffee pudding which serves 8 always turns out light, moist and delicious and is definitely a firm favourite amongst my family and friends.
For those of you who would like to try making sticky toffee pudding yourself I've included the recipe below. This recipe serves 8 people so if you were to half it you would get a cake that serves 4 people, and I recommend that unless you're feeding a lot of people then you should have the recipe as sticky toffee pudding always tastes better when it's freshly made.
***Ingredients and process***
200g Dried chopped dates
250ml black tea to soak the dates in
½ tsp. bicarbonate soda
Measure out your 200g of chopped dates on your kitchen scales. Prepare your black tea in a measuring jug measuring out 250ml and add the two ingredients to a small saucepan. Bring the dates and tea to the boil leaving to cook for a few minutes. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the tea and dates and remove from the heat.
85g softened, unsalted butter
175g Golden caster sugar
Beat the unsalted butter and Golden caster sugar together in a bowl until pale and creamy. Now I only have hand beaters but electric beaters would most definitely get the job done quicker.
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp. mixed spice
Stir in the eggs flour and mixed spice to the butter and caster sugar mixture and stir until evenly mixed.
Finally, fold in the date and tea mixture until evenly mixed and transfer to a suitable oven proof dish. I personally use silicone bake ware for all of my baked products but you can use a greased cake tin. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 30-35 minutes. Don't be alarmed if you think your cake looks a little burnt....the outer layer of sponge is a lot darker naturally than the inside of the cake itself which should be a nice light brown colour.
You can make the sauce in advance or you can make it after the cake is ready, it really doesn't matter...it all depends on when you're going to serve it I guess. Once the sauce is made and has cooled you can store it in a container in the fridge where it will thicken but once re-heated it becomes liquefied again, so you can simply spread over the top of cold cake and reheat in the microwave.
To make the sauce you will need 100g of light muscovado sugar, 100g unsalted butter and 142ml of double cream. Combine all of these ingredients in a small saucepan and cook on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. The sauce will turn a lovely toffee colour and you simply pour over your now ready toffee cake to make sticky toffee pudding. Serve with cream or ice cream and you have a great family dessert.