3 cups (720 ml) (400 grams) pitted dried dates
1 cup (240 ml) water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (480 ml) (200 grams) old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (130 grams) all purpose flour
3/4 cup (160 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1 cup (226 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Date Filling: Place the pitted dates and water in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the dates are soft and have absorbed most of the water (about 5 - 10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature and then puree in your food processor until fairly smooth (a few lumps are fine).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter (or use a non stick cooking spray) a 9 inch (23 cm) square baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment or wax paper.
Oatmeal Crust: In the bowl of your food processor, place the oats, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon. Pulse to combine. Then add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly and just begins to come together. Press about 2/3 of the mixture onto the base of the prepared pan.
Spread the date puree evenly over the oatmeal crust. Sprinkle the remaining dough evenly over the top of the dates, press down gently to compact. Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool. Once the squares have cooled, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator at least one hour or until firm enough to cut easily into squares.
These will keep, covered, in the refrigerator up to a week.
Makes about 20 - 2 inch squares.
Date Squares (Matrimonial Bars) have two buttery layers of oatmeal crust sandwiched together with pureed dates scented with vanilla. Growing up, Date Squares were a regular part of my mother's baking. Yet when I got married I somehow forgot all about them. It wasn't until I was browsing through Rose Carrarini's inspiring book "Breakfast Lunch Tea" that I discovered this delicious square once again. I love how this square is wonderfully sweet yet earthy tasting. Absolutely perfect with a hot cup of tea.
As their name implies, the main component of Date Squares is dates. Dates are the fruit of the palm tree, that grow in large bunches, with each date measuring up to 2 inches (5 cm) in length. They have a high sugar content and are also a good source of protein plus Vitamins A & B. For this recipe we are using dried pitted dates and I like to buy the ones that are packed in plastic tubs. You can usually find them in the produce section of your grocery store. To make the date filling, we have to first cook the dates in water to soften their tough outer skin. We then add a little vanilla extract (could also add a little orange or lemon zest) and let them cool before pureeing in our food processor until fairly smooth (a few lumps are okay). After that is done, we need to make the oatmeal crust which, again, is easily done in the food processor. This is really an oatmeal "shortbread" crust has it has a fairly high butter content and there is no egg. For this recipe I like to use old-fashioned rolled oats rather than quick-cooking as I prefer their thicker texture and flavor. Also, make sure that your butter is cold and cut it into small cubes. Pulse the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture just begins to come together. Then the layering of the ingredients begins. First, two thirds of the oatmeal crust is pressed onto the bottom of our pan. The date puree is then spread over the crust and then the rest of the dough is crumbled over the dates. Gently press down to compact the top crust. The squares are baked until golden brown. The longer they bake the more crisp and chewy they will become. To make a easier time of cutting these squares, it is best to chill them first. Date Squares will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.