The reason for the molasses sugar is that – to me, at least – date purée isn’t all that sweet, despite the fact that eating dates can be like munching on sugar. And, of course, it adds flavour. As will a hit of cinnamon (or whatever spice you prefer).
For the purée, roughly chop about 2 dozen pitted dates, put into a small pan with half a cup – about 150ml – of water, bring to the boil, put on a lid, remove from the heat and leave until soft.
Put a large sieve over a basin or another pan, tip in the dates and their liquid, and push through the sieve with the back of a tablespoon or, as I do, with the bottom of a smooth-based tumbler, until all you have left is the skin and fibrous parts of the dates, which can be discarded. During the process, scrape the underside of the sieve clean several times, especially at the end. While still warm, stir in a scant tablespoon of molasses sugar and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon (or to taste in both cases – just don’t swamp the apple’s taste).
Dehydrating fruit is a basically simple process. The apples are first cored then, using a mandoline to ensure consistent thickness, they’re sliced thinly across the vertical axis – i.e. with a hole in the middle – which will help them to dry out evenly. Then they’re dunked in a solution of citric acid ( ½ teaspoon in 1.25litres of cold water), for 10 minutes, drained, dried off, and sandwiched together with a layer of flavoured, spiced, date purée.
They’re then placed in the dehydrator at 60 C for about 10 hours (or longer if needed). Note that with the date purée they’ll take somewhat longer than normal to thoroughly dry out, the thicker the layer of purée the longer they’ll take, so don’t overdo it.
Tip: Process no more than 2 apples at a time, so you don’t wind up with a full dehydrator and lots of left-over apple slices.
To speed up the process, rotate the trays every 90 minutes or so, moving the bottom tray to the top, the top to the bottom, and shuffling those in between to ensure that the same tray doesn’t remain stuck in the middle. And with large items, like apple slices, it won’t hurt to turn each one over once or twice.
And if this is your first attempt, or an early one, at least, as it is with me, keep notes. As in all things culinary, a workbook is invaluable for getting repeatable results, or for identifying where it all went pear-shaped and getting it right next time.