Date squares are a simple starter recipe which require little knowledge, few tools, few and cheap ingredients and very little bravery.
The payoff is big! This makes a great, sweet, dessert.
Although this is quite thorough, there are subtleties you will need to discover for yourself. I will not be sharing my secrets!
Allergy warning ∞
Always read all ingredients. For example, my dates may contain nuts.
- Medium-sized sauce pan
- Oven that can reach 350°F (175C)
- Large mixing bowl
- You can probably use a wooden spoon.
- You can probably use an everyday spoon, but be careful not to scratch your pan and tray!
- 1/4 cup measuring cup
- 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon
Small/medium-sized baking pan
- I use an 8 x 8 x 2 inch Wilton Perfect Results Cake Pan
- An electric hand-mixer.
TODO - more carefully note what measuring things I use, and what gets wet/etc.
(for all steps)
1/2 lb (250g) dates
- The ones I get come in 500g-blocks, so this is easy.
3/4 cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
1 and 3/4 cups rolled oats
- I used 3-5 minute oats.
1 and 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
- Add the dates into your sauce pan.
- Add water to cover the dates.
- Add 1/2 cup of the brown sugar. Stir a little, but don't worry about dissolving it.
Put the pot on the stove, bring it to a boil and then lower it to a simmer. Stir occasionally.
- You could speed up the process by keeping it at a harder boil, but it will spatter.
Keep the pot cooking until the water has mostly evaporated and you're satisfied with the mushiness of the dates. This is not exact.
Turn the heat off and set the pan aside, on a cool part of the stove, to let the filling cool in that same pan.
Top and bottom crusts:
Cream the butter ∞
- Little by little, add your butter to your large mixing bowl.
- As you add more, use your mixer at a low setting to blend it until it's smooth.
You will notice its consistency change to be more "fluffy". Once all butter has been added, add your sugar and mix it well.
The rest ∞
In your large mixing bowl (what you just creamed your butter in):
- Add 1 and 3/4 cups rolled oats
- Add 1 and 1/2 cups flour
Add 1/2 cup of brown sugar
In your 1/4 cup measuring cup:
- Add 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Add 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Add 2 tablespoons of hot water
Stir a little with the 1/4 teaspoon to try to dissolve it a bit. Add it to the mixing bowl.
Mix it all together.
TODO - describe the art of dropping crumbles and patting them down. Thickness as determines by it sticking to the back of your knuckles and coming up off of a non-stick pan.
- Sprinkle roughly half of the crust mixture onto the bottom of the baking pan.
Place the date filling, given below, on top of this
- This is a bit of a trick! First you should use a spoon and roughly dollop a bunch of mounds throughout the top surface. Then you need to mash them down a bit to widen each dollop. Then you need to smooth them out. There's no real way to know how thick you're spreading things, so you just have to have a bit of a feel for things. You don't need to be exact, but it's best to take your time with this step.
- You must be absolutely certain none of the filling touches the sides of the pan! Any filling will harden and stick to the side, making cutting or flipping it out a completely disaster.
Spread the remaining half of the crust mixture on the filling.
- I dissolved a tablespoon of corn starch in 1/2 a cup of water and sprinkled it over the top to help harden the top layer. I think I'd use a spray bottle to do this next time. I think it really did help. I'd like to do this to the bottom layer as well somehow, or just add corn starch into the filling mix directly. I'm not sure..
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175C).
Bake at 350°F (175C) for about minutes or until the the top gets browner.
- You can check to see if you're overcooking by taking it out and then looking at the sides. If there is a part where there is some filling touching the sides of your pan, you can see how dried out that part gets. If it hardens and sticks to the sides then you're overcooking.
- I've had good success with browning it at the end, by putting my oven on broil for a minute. Be careful not to burn it!
Remove it from the oven and let it cool before you cut it.
- It can be cut while cool, but cutting it while hot is unreasonable. If the filling is warm it'll fall apart easily.
- I've omitted the salt and it's turned out well.
- I've omitted the baking soda and it's turned out well.
- When creating the bottom layer, make a "wall" along the sides of your pan. You're essentially surrounding your filling on all sides, making a pseudo-pie. Since the filling is much stickier, this also helps removing the finished product from its pan.
- I used to cut the dates apart before cooking them, but I found that I didn't need to. I just added a little bit more water. Cutting may save cooking time (and energy), but I'm not convinced of that.
A toaster oven works
- But you'd probably have to bake the squares in smaller batches for smaller containers.
- Temperature is usually a big problem in toaster ovens. For my testing, I've had to turn up the temperature quite a lot.
Using a non-stick baking pan was a miraculous change from baking in glass pans.
- Non-stick let me turn the cooled product over and completely remove it with only a little buttery residue. Glass was a nightmare.
- It also really helps to make sure that the filling doesn't touch the sides of the pan.
I've made more date paste, and that is a bad idea.
- It will act like a sandwich with too much slippery filling, and the top/bottom crusts will slip. The experience of eating these is that they will break apart or otherwise squish the filling out while eating.
My process ∞
- Assemble all tools
- Assemble all ingredients
- Begin two batches of filling in two different pans
- Make my first batch of crust
- Crudely separate the crust into two halves.
- Spread the two halves into the two baking trays
- Put both baking trays in the fridge.
- Finish cooking the filling.
- Remove the filling from heat.
- Preheat the oven.
- Make my second batch of crust
- Crudely separate the crust into two halves.
- Remove the baking trays from the fridge.
- Spread the filling into the two baking trays
- Spread the top layer (which has not been refrigerated)
- Wait for the oven to be pre-heated
- Cook the date squares, setting a 33 minute timer.
- Return when the timer goes off, and check occasionally until I'm satisfied.
Implement proprietary finishing touches.
- My date squares are especially awesome, because magic.