This paste makes for a great alternative to sugar. Dates, along with other dried fruits are packed with an impressive list of vitamins and minerals.
If necessary, pit the fruit. Place the fruit in a small bowl and cover with the water. Transfer to the refrigerator for about 4 hours or until the fruit is completely rehydrated. Once reconstituted, the fruit can be used to sweeten recipes like smoothies, dressings, etc.
To make a more “paste-like” mix, soak the dried fruit for 1 to 2 hours or until quite soft. Transfer to a high-speed blender and process until smooth. If adding the vanilla bean, remove the seeds from the bean and add it to the blender as well. Also note that vanilla extract could also be used but the vanilla bean not only adds beautiful flavor, it also adds nice flecks of vanilla.
If needed, add water a bit of water to create the consistency you need. If using the paste in baked recipes, use as little water as possible. If the paste is runny, it will add additional moisture to the recipe and impact negatively on the finished product.
This mixture will keep for over a week, covered, and refrigerated. Alternatively, it can be frozen for several months. It will not freeze solid which facilitates scooping out exact amounts.
Note: For a different flavor note, add a pinch of ground spice, such as cinnamon or nutmeg, or sea salt along with a bit of fresh lemon juice.