Usually these lovely treats are something I indulge in at coffee shops and small bakeries. However, they are surprisingly easy to make. What makes things even better was the fact that dates and whole rolled oats were on sale at Bulk Barn. Dates and oats came to around $3.00. The recipe I followed comes from the Joy of Baking website.
I made these date squares at my fiancé’s apartment in Waterloo, Ontario, where I do not have a food processor, but the blender worked well to purée the dates. The power also went out for about 30 minutes due to snow and rain. Thankfully the date squares were not yet in the oven, I had to wait a few minutes then was able to return to my baking.
Now, I was curious about the name ‘matrimonial bars’ and a quick search of Google led me to a simple and convincing answer. The explanation was that they are representative of marriage in that there are smooth and rough parts. In the date squares the purréed dates are smooth in texture in contrast to the rough crumble topping.
Turn on the element to low heat, add the dates and water in a saucepan, stir until the dates are soft and have absorbed most of the water (approximately 5 – 10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature and then purée in your food processor or blender until smooth (a few lumps give the date squares texture).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Grease the pan with margarine or a cooking spray. Use a 9 inch (23 cm) square baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment or wax paper. (Or grease the pan well so the squares do not stick to the pan.)
In a bowl combine the oats, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon. Pulse to combine with the food processor. Or stir if you are doing it the old fashion way. Then add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly and just begins to come together. If you do not have a food processor cut the butter with two knives into pea sized pieces with the flour and oat mixture. Put about 2/3 of the mixture onto the base of the prepared pan.
Spread the date puree over the oatmeal crust with a spatula. Sprinkle remaining dough over the top of the dates, and press down gently to compact. Bake for about 30 – 40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on the counter top and once cooled completely, place in the refrigerator so the squares can be sliced easily.
3 cups pitted dried dates
1 cup water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes