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Muffin types generally are named after one key ingredient. Date muffins, then, are any type of muffin that centers on the date fruit. These fruits offer a variety of health benefits. Many muffins that use dates also include other healthy ingredients, such as grains or other fruits. Aside from health food ingredients, date muffins often contain spices or other ingredients that are meant to complement the taste of the dates.
In culinary terms, the word "date" refers to the fruit of the date palm tree. Dates are dark brown in color, and most varieties have a red tint. Regardless of the specific hue, a good date that is suitable for human consumption should have an even color throughout. These small oval-shaped fruits have waxy, slightly wrinkled skins but should not be purchased or used in recipes if these skins are split. When eaten, they have a chewy texture and mildly sweet taste.
Dates also provide several health benefits. The fruit is rich in fiber and has high levels of potassium and manganese. Other minerals, including calcium, iron, copper, zinc and magnesium, also show up in the date fruit in smaller percentages. Another benefit is the presence of antioxidants called polyphenols, which help promote a healthy heart. Moreover, dates have very few unhealthy attributes, because they are free of fat, sodium and cholesterol.
In muffins, fresh dates are pitted and chopped into fine pieces before being added to the muffin batter. As a naturally dehydrated fruit, dates are often added just as raisins or prunes might be added into a baked good. Muffin recipes rarely, if at all, call for dried dates, which have a hard, crunchy texture.
Dates are considered by many people to be a health food, so they frequently are paired with other healthy ingredients in recipes. Date muffins often contain at least one whole grain, if not more. The most commonly used grains include oats and whole wheat. Occasionally, date muffin recipes might instead make use of mixed-grain cereals ground into fine pieces. Some recipes use standard all-purpose flour, however, rather than whole grain flour.
In addition to health food ingredients, date muffins usually contain several ingredients that are meant to expand upon and complement the natural flavor of dates. Many recipes use brown sugar, rather than white granulated sugar, because brown sugar has a deeper, richer taste that adds dimension to the overall flavor of the muffin. Some bakers prefer to use vanilla extract in their recipes. Other people, however, enrich the taste by using a combination of spices that are suitable for baked goods, such as cinnamon, ginger or even pumpkin pie spice.
Some variations on date muffins use a second key ingredient and rename the muffin accordingly. For example, a date muffin containing pumpkin might be called a pumpkin-date muffin but would not likely be called simply a date muffin because it features more than just dates. Secondary key ingredients, when added to date muffins, usually include some type of fruit flavor, such as orange or banana, or some type of nuts, such as walnuts or pecans.