Chocolate Date Thick Shake
Not far from the magnificent Joshua Tree National Park where I hiked with my children, California dates reign supreme, and the Date Shake at the amazing Hadley’s Fruit Orchard is said to be the best in the world. Expect long lines if you want one of those ultra-popular date shakes—especially the chocolate ones. I guess I can be grateful in one regard: Since ice cream is the base of Hadley’s creamy shakes and I am a vegan, there would be no waiting in line for me. But I did get to watch as pitted Deglet Noor dates were blended into vanilla ice cream and milk and served up to throngs of people.
Years later, inspiration came from my desserts demonstration at the New York Veg Food Fest and my brand- new high-speed Vitamix blender. As I was figuring out how to make a thick and creamy, no-apologies vegan version, I enjoyed every sip along the way. In this recipe, the dates serve as more than a sweetener so their taste should be evident. If using a high-speed blender, the shake will be thick and creamy in a flash. If using a standard blender, process the nuts, dates, and ice in batches.
Note: It is essential to check every single pitted date for a stray pit or, as I found one morning, a moldy one. Dried dates are sticky, so be sure to rinse them before soaking. If raw does not matter to you and you want to save time, the cashews and the dates can be soaked in boiling water for 2 to 3 hours. But no matter what method you choose, do not discard the soaking water! It is sweet,luscious liquid gold. I often peel soaked dates (I am not in the majority here), but this is a date shake and pieces of skin are just fine.
Makes 1 Large Luscious Serving
- 3/4 cup / 110 grams whole raw cashews
- 1/2 cup packed / 115 grams any pitted dried dates
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from half a vanilla bean
- 3 to 4 tablespoons / 45 to 60 ml All-Purpose Chocolate Syrup (recipe follows)
- 1 1/2 cups / 210 grams ice cubes
- Rinse the cashews in a strainer, then put in a container and add enough water to cover the cashews by 2 to 3 inches. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
- Rinse the dates in a strainer. Put the dates into a container. Add enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Soak the dates for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or refrigerate them for up to 2 days (or cover the dates with boiling water and they will be ready to use in about 1 hour).
- Drain and rinse the cashews. Put them in a blender and add 3/4 cup / 180 ml water, which will barely cover the nuts. Start the blender on low and increase to high speed. Blend until the cashew cream is perfectly smooth. This will happen quickly in a high-speed blender but can be done in a standard blender in two batches and with longer blending.
- Drain the dates in a strainer set over a measuring cup, saving the liquid. Add the dates, 3/4 cup of the soaking liquid, and the vanilla to the cashew cream and blend until completely smooth.
- Add 2 tablespoons / 30 ml of the chocolate sauce and the ice and blend until frothy. Taste and add more sauce or ice to taste.
- Pour into a tall glass and serve immediately.
All-Purpose Chocolate Syrup
Makes 1 Cup / 240 Ml
- 3/4 cup / 84 grams Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons / 270 ml boiling water, divided
- Pinch sea salt
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon / 124 grams organic granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon / 15 ml pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
- 3/4 teaspoon / 3.75 ml pure vanilla extract
- Sift the cocoa powder into a medium saucepan. Pour 3/4cup / 180 ml of the boiling water over the cocoa. Stir with a silicone spatula to moisten the cocoa. (The paste need not be smooth.) Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes while the cocoa blooms.
- Whisk the remaining 6 tablespoons / 90 ml of very hot water into the cocoa paste and add a pinch of salt. Cook over low heat, stirring with the silicone spatula for 2 minutes, making sure to reach the bottom and sides of the saucepan.
- Add the sugar and maple syrup, and continue to cook over lowest heat for another minute. Taste the syrup carefully: it will be hot. If you want sweeter syrup, add another tablespoon each of sugar and water. When small bubbles start to form around the sides, it is time to turn off the heat. Stir the vanilla into the syrup.
- Cool the syrup to room temperature in the saucepan, stirring once or twice while the syrup cools.
Store the syrup in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Add a little very hot water to adjust the consistency, if needed.
From Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, © 2013 by Fran Costigan. Photo © Kate Lewis 2013