These date squares might sound healthy, but they're anything but. Imagine your favourite crumble combined with sticky toffee pudding; then you'd be on the right track in terms of the flavour (and sugar content) of these delicious morsels.
Date squares are an old Canadian favourite and I always thought they're too old fashioned to be popular with younger crowds.
I started making them regularly when I was doing a farmers market in Toronto. I was homesick for my home province, so I'd make nostalgic, old fashioned bakes. I didn't have high hopes for the date squares, but they quickly became my best seller. My husband brought some in to his office and, not only were they quickly devoured, I was soon inundated with requests for more. I guess the sweet, wholesome flavour and crunch still holds appeal!
You can use any dates for this recipe. This time around, I used a mix of pitted baking dates and super-sweet, sticky medjool dates which were originally purchased for Christmas cheeseboards. Just in case the dates aren't sweet enough, you cook them down into a paste-like consistency with dark brown sugar, strongly brewed tea and a dash of vanilla.
This lockdown feels a bit harder for me than the others we've had, but the buttery richness of these squares is bringing me plenty of comfort. You should give them a try! They're great with an afternoon cup of tea.
Makes 16 large portions
For the filling:
400g dates, pitted and roughly chopped
200g dark brown sugar
300ml strong brewed tea
1 tsp good quality vanilla
Pinch of salt
For the base/topping:
200g plain flour
250g cold butter, cubed
1 tsp baking soda
250g light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Line a rectangular traybake tin with parchment and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, bring the dates, sugar, brewed tea, pinch of salt and vanilla to a boil. Cook this mixture until it’s thickened, about 5-10 minutes of boiling. Remember to stir often as the mixture could burn. I like to break down the larger chunks with a wooden spoon as they soften.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the cold, cubed butter and rub the butter into the dry mixture until you’ve achieved a crumble texture.
4. Divide the oat mixture in half. Add one half to the bottom of the lined traybake tin and press firmly until the base is evenly covered.
5. Use a spatula to spread the thickened date mixture over the top. Spread the filling evenly over the oat base.
6. Top the filling with the other half of the oat base and press it lightly until the filling is completely covered by the oat topping.
7. Bake for 30 minutes. The top and bottom should be evenly baked and light brown in colour. Allow to cool completely before dividing into square portions (it will fall apart if you try to portion while warm).
8. These squares will keep in an airtight container for up to a week (but they probably won't last that long).