Just last week, I noticed that Paula was participating in the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats blog hop. Seeing as holiday baking is something I look forward to all year, I had to find out what this blog hop was about and, assuming it wasn't too late, join in. I might be two weeks late, but I am here now and ready to have some Christmas fun, even though it is still only October. I can't wait to see what everyone else's recipes and surely get some new ideas for my Christmas dessert trays and homemade gifts. And of course, we should all thank Brenda at Meal Planning Magic for hosting.
The second I signed up for this hop, I immediately knew which recipe I was going to post for this week. When I first met my husband in college, we spent a lot of time reading and studying at the Second Cup around the corner from campus. I was already an avid coffee drinker and so I would always order a coffee, with milk, and without sugar--some things never change. However, my husband didn't pick up the habit for another couple of years, and so, in those days he would order a date square. Although date squares are a mainstay of Canadian baking, I had never tasted one until that point. Needless to say, it was love at first bite. The sweet gooey date filling was sandwiched between a firm shortbread-like crust and a crumbly oat topping. The heartiness of the oats and the rich buttery taste complemented the sweetness of the dates perfectly and the different textures of the three layers kept each bite interesting.
Now, the sad part of the story: I have not been able to find date squares in the United States. I know, it is tragic. We have been living here for seven date-square-free years. Sure, of course I could have made them on my own, but that required a food processor and I didn't have one until a year ago. But, now that I do have one, I can make them whenever the feeling strikes. I would bet that the feeling will strike me around the holidays and maybe, just maybe, it will strike you too.
Date Squares (aka Matrimonial Bars)
Slightly adapted from Joy of Baking
* I reduced the sugar and I added more cinnamon and some cloves. Even with these
changes, this recipe yields a very rich bar cookie--so rich that I can barely finish one. The spices also
add a more nuanced flavor and complement the date and vanilla filling nicely.
3 cups pitted dates
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup all purpose flour (I have substituted up to 1/2 cup whole wheat with good results)
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
- Place dates and water in a small pot, cook over low heat until most of the water has been absorbed (5-10 minutes). Stir occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Leave dates to cool.
- Line either a 9 x 9 inch pan or an 8 x 8 inch pan with parchment paper and butter the sides of the pan. Make sure to cut enough parchment paper to leave two ends hanging over the edge of the pan so that you can use them to lift the bars out after they have had time to set in the fridge.
- Once the dates are cool, transfer them to a food processor and puree them until they are smooth. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Place dry ingredients in the food processor, add butter, and pulse until the mixture is crumbly.
- Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Spread the puree evenly over the crust. Sprinkle the rest of the mixture over the puree and press it down lightly to compact it. Bake until golden (about 30 to 40 minutes if you are using a nine inch pan and for longer if you are using an eight inch pan). It took mine 44 minutes to brown in an eight inch pan.
- Allow pan to cool on a wire rack. Once it has reached room temperature, place it in the fridge to set for an hour. Cut into 16-20 squares and store in the refrigerator.