Dates Squares: Recipe Re-Think

Photographs by Kim Dirko.

I call them date squares even though in this instance the only pan we had was round.

Date Squares are big here in Toronto and on my first day walking about with my brother David he mentioned how much he really liked them. I hadn’t thought about date squares in ages and realized that I also love them, but thought that the version I kept seeing here was a little dry and pale. So I put my thinking cap on and did some research and here is what I came up with. My caveat is that I have only tested these once but I think it’s kind of hard to go wrong with so much sugar and butter!

Dates Squares: Recipe Re-Think

Preheat the oven to 350 F

In a sauce pan add: 3 cups pitted dates (whole), 1 1/2 cups water bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Add: 2 teaspoon lemon juice , 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir frequently using a wooden spoon to help break down the dates. This should take about 10 minutes, add more water if they have not broken down enough and you feel the mixture is too dry. It should look like a thick fruit pie filling. I like the filling to be mushy with chunks of dates. A lot of recipes call for baking soda I use lemon juice instead to help break down the dates and to give the mixture a citrus note so it’s not overwhelmingly sweet.

Take off the burner and set aside to cool, taste and adjust with sugar or more lemon juice to your taste.

In a bowl combine: 1 cup ground walnuts or pecans (lightly toasted), 1 cup rolled oats (not instant!), 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 6 T brown sugar, 2 T white sugar, 12 T unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt using your hands (or a wooden spoon) mix together until incorporated.

It should be quite moist and hold together.

Pat a little more than half the mixture into the bottom of a 9″ square pan.

Spoon in the date filling and top with the remaining crumble.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until the top has turned golden brown.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack to room temperature. These are great served slightly warm or chilled with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note:
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