Date syrup or honey, called dibs in the UAE, is ubiquitous in the Middle East and north Africa, the land of dates. Date syrup makes a great addition to baked sweet treats, adding a depth of flavor reminiscent of molasses. It is made from the actual dates. The sap that is tapped from certain date palms becomes palm sugar from a completely different process.
We first arrived in the UAE in the fall of 1987. Abu Dhabi was a small city with green esplanades and manicured gardens, and a beautiful seaside promenade called the Corniche, surrounded by sandy desert inland as far as the eye could see. The road between Abu Dhabi and Dubai was a small highway with roundabouts and wild camels that regularly ambled across, so caution was essential. We would drive into the bigger, flashier city of Dubai for occasional shopping trips, passing by the newly emerging Emirates Golf Club right out in the middle of the desert. The only green visible were the greens themselves, with their brave little flags marking the holes. The fairways and bunkers were still all sand. I can’t even imagine how challenging that course was to play!
Now verdant Emirates Golf Club is in the middle of the city, with Dubai grown out all around it and the highway between the cities boasts four lanes on each side and fences to restrain the camels. Abu Dhabi too has grown and the Corniche of old has been relocated onto reclaimed land, extending Abu Dhabi island farther into the sea. When we moved back here again last year, 23 years after we moved away, it was like straining to see through a very foggy window to a place where things looked familiar and yet, so very different. New buildings, new roads, new beaches, all mixed up with sites that jog my memory. I’ve spent the last year getting so very lost, even in old Dubai. Every time I venture beyond my neighborhood it's an adventure! But, fortunately, I like adventure.
Today the UAE celebrates its 42nd National Day and all weekend long there have been parties, decorated car parades and fireworks. We are also celebrating the recent announcement that Expo 2020 will be held in Dubai, a real coup for the city and all of the Emirates. So, for this Muffin Monday, I’ve baked a muffin with a bit of a local flavor, using date syrup, cardamom and raisins.
Happy birthday, UAE!Ingredients
1/2 cup or 110g sugar
2 cups or 250g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup or 120ml date syrup (molasses can be substituted)
1/2 cup or 120ml milk
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup or 120g butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup or 70g raisins
Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C. Put liners in muffin cups or grease well with butter or non-stick spray. Don’t you love my UAE liners? I was so pleased to find them at a nearby store.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom and salt.
|I used fresh cardamom, cracking the little pods and then grinding the tiny seeds. |
The scent is fabulous. Doesn't it look like pepper?!
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together your date syrup, melted butter, milk, and eggs.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold to combine.
Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups.
Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove and cool further on a wire rack.
If you are fortunate enough to be in the UAE today, here's a link to a great article outlining the celebrations, where to go and what to do. From The Gulf News.