Friday, October 15, 2010

Dulcia Domesica

For my latest effort at Apicius' recipes, I thought I'd go for a dessert. After browsing the various sweets in the cookbooks, I chose Dulcia Domesica, Household Sweets, which are dates stuffed with walnuts, fried in honey.

Homemade sweets. Take palms or dates, with the stones removed, and stuff them with nuts or nut kernels and ground pepper. Salt the dates on top and bottom and fry in cooked honey, and serve. (Apicius, Book Seven, XI-I)

I have never really eaten dates before, (Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter!) so this was a new experience to me. I couldn't find dates in the produce section of HEB, so I had to settle for a package of them I found with the dried goods. I found walnuts already shelled, sliced, and diced into tiny pieces, which really helped with the recipe. I cut the dates open longitudinally, and found that they have a perfect cavity to shove nuts in. I was able to cram an impressive amount of walnuts in each date, and held them shut with a toothpick.

Next, I sprinkled the dates with a small amount of salt, as per the directions. The recipe called for frying the dates in honey. Now, I had previously only fried things in oil or grease, so this was new to me. I had to look at a few other versions of the recipe in order to confirm that the recipe didn't mean for me to fry in oil, and add some honey, or something of that nature. Indeed, I was correct, I was really supposed to fry in pure honey, no grease. I poured about 1.5 cups of honey into my cast iron skillet, and heated it up until the honey started to simmer. I dropped in the dates, and spread them around so they would be evenly coated with honey. The honey boiled and simmered, and nearly boiled over a few times, but I got the hang of it quickly once I turned the heat down to medium. The honey grew thicker the more I simmered it, and once I saw that it was thickening and crystallizing on the dates after about seven minutes of simmering, I pulled them out to cool, and dusted them with freshly ground black pepper.

They were a sticky mess. I laid them out on wax paper to prevent them from sticking to everything that they touch. I served them at the Classics Club meeting to thunderous applause. Everyone seemed to enjoy them, even though they were a bit sticky and messy. But overall, they were enjoyed! The dates and honey were a great mix of flavors, and the walnuts added a crunchy texture that was a great contrast to the sticky, sogginess of the dates.

It was quite an ordeal to clean up after this, as I had caramelized honey on my skillet, which took some real elbow grease to get off. I ended up wasting a good deal of honey on this, which wasn't cheap. I had no immediate use for the caramelized honey, so I threw it out. The boiled down honey with pieces of date and chunks of walnuts would have made an excellent sauce for the topping on a cake or other desert of some sort, but I had nothing else to put it on, so it went in the composting bin. In retrospect, I could have saved it for another day.

In all, the Apician dessert was a success. People seemed to enjoy it. I took the dates to my accounting class after the meeting, and my classmates enjoyed it. I told them that it was an Ancient Roman dessert, and they ate it mainly out of curiosity, instead of hunger.

1 comment:

  1. This recipe looks fantastic! The pictures are so helpful and make my mouth water. Thank you for posting this recipe! We have tweeted it from @WalnutLovers on Twitter. We love walnuts and are trying to find all of the walnut recipes and lovers across the web and bring them into one place. You can follow us on Twitter, checkin on #MealMonday for great walnut recipes, and #WalnutWednesday for a look at the biggest walnut lovers. Or you can see where walnuts are being mentioned anywhere in the world, on the web at Thanks for the love!