(vegan baking + other minor obsessions)
Date Paste as its name suggests, is simply dates processed into a paste. The idea is to use as little water as necessary to work the dates into a paste, and this is more crucial to some recipes than it is to others; recipes where excess moisture would be undesirable or where you need a predictable water content make it worthwhile for you to measure precisely. This is the ratio that works for me:
400g/14oz/2½ cups chopped pitted dry dates
100ml/3½fl oz/generous ⅓ cup water
Process everything into a purée in a food processor or blender. If you use a food processor you won’t be able to get it completely smooth, but try to avoid leaving it overly chunky. Practice will tell you what works best with your equipment.
This makes more date paste than most recipes will call for, but I find that if I use smaller quantities, my food processor can’t process it effectively. But this stuff keeps forever in the fridge, and it’s great to have some ready when a recipe calls for it. If you think you won’t use it in a while and it freaks you out to leave something in the fridge indefinitely, you can freeze it instead. Date paste naturally turns darker in colour in the first day or so after it’s processed, but this doesn’t affect its quality in any way.
Sourdough Starter does not need to be daunting. What you can’t do is rush it – sourdough does things in its own time. There are lots of recipes out there, but this is a simple one that works for me (almost) every time. Use fresh organic rye flour, which is more likely to carry live yeasts. On day 1, mix 40g/⅓ cup rye flour with 40g/3 tbsp water in an airtight container, cover and leave it to rest at room temperature. The following day, take 40g/¼ cup of the sourdough mixture, transfer it to another container and discard the rest. Mix in 40g/⅓ cup rye flour and 40g/3 tbsp water. Repeat this once a day for 1 week to 10 days, when your sourdough should have developed and smell pleasantly of yeast/beer/vinegar. You can use it to make bread straight away, or refrigerate it and use it/feed it (same method) once a week. If anywhere along the process the starter develops off smells, weird textures or psychedelic colours, discard it and start over. Follow your instincts – if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.