I’d been looking at these lovely, large boxes of dried Medjool dates in Costco for a while, but never got around to actually picking one up. Then, friends served us some lovely dates that had been stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon before being popped in the oven – NICE! – AND I caught an episode where the barefoot contessa made this incredible looking sticky toffee date cake.
Next Costco visit – that lovely, large box came home with us.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any folk coming over to offer little bacon-wrapped-blue-cheese-stuffed savories, and the contessa’s recipe makes two cakes – a bit much for just the two of us.
Enter the humble date and nut bar – a tasty mélange of dates and sugar and stuff (more about ‘stuff’ later), sandwiched between layers of an oatmeal, butter, flour and sugar crust, then baked until lightly browned, kinda crispy, nicely crumbly, and, I believe, pretty darned good for you (BONUS!). I’ve made a few, small changes to a recipe by Beth Setrakian I found on da Google – the zest is, I think, a critical need here.
Date and Nut Filling:
•3 cups dates, coarsely chopped
•1/4 cup sugar
•1-1/2 cup water
•The zest of 3 Mandarins or 1 regular orange
•1 cup chopped nuts
•3/4 cup (1-1/2 stick) butter, softened
•1 cup light brown sugar
•1-3/4 cup flour
•1/2 tsp baking soda
•1 tsp salt
•1-1/2 cup rolled oats
Make the filling by combining the dates, sugar, water, and zest together in a pot over low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens, remove from heat, and stir in the nuts, I used some sliced almonds, but chopped walnuts or pecans would work, too.
Heat the oven to 400º and make the crust by creaming the softened butter and the brown sugar together in a large mixing bowl.
Whisk the flour together with the baking soda, salt, and oats and stir in to the butter and sugar mixture until well mixed.
Pat half of the flour mixture firmly into the bottom of a 13×9 glass baking pan. Top with the dates, and then the remaining half of the flour and oat mixture.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.
Cool, then cut into bars. Mmmmm.
OPTIONS ‘n STUFF: these look and taste a LOT like one of my favorite childhood supermarket treats from New England – except those were filled with a figs in place of the dates. I’ll have to see where Costco stands on lovely boxes of dried figs.
Another option, to add a little holiday sumpin’ sumpin’ to these tasty little bars o’ goodness: swap 1/2 cup of the water in the date mixture for bourbon or brandy. I haven’t tried this yet, but can’t see how it could NOT be a good thing.
Lastly, I have about half a pound of dates leftover from that lovely, large box – not enough for another batch of bars – but just about the PERFECT amount for a half recipe of that sticky toffee date cake from the contessa…