Our grandma’s were really on to something when it came to baking. As recently as two years ago I considered date squares to be “grandma food”. I was right, to an extent. I mean, growing up you never asked for date squares in your school lunch box. You asked for rice crispy squares or Duncan Hines cupcakes. You had date squares when you were visiting your grandma (or other women of equal age and stature) for tea.
You can add date squares to the list of foods I used to hate as a kid. To me, they weren’t an indulgent treat. They had fruit in them. They had oats. They were not covered in milk chocolate. I didn’t spare them a second glance.
Like most things I under-appreciated growing up, I randomly started missing those tea times with grandma when I was living in Toronto and stressed to the max from working in a busy kitchen. I missed simple flavours and treats where you could taste the butter and brown sugar that went into them. So, among other things, I started making these date squares.
Other folk must be as nostalgic as me, because the date squares quickly became my most “in demand” product. Patrick’s coworkers would regularly ask for them and when I had a stall at the farmer’s market they would sell by the dozen. I realized that a square I originally considered too “healthy” was considered by most others a homey and indulgent treat.
And these squares are anything but healthy. Who was I kidding? Yes, there are dates and oats in there, but the date filling is brought together with brown sugar to a toffee-like consistency and the oat base and topping is as comprised of sugar and butter as it is of oats. So you can make yourself feel better by believing these are healthier treats, but that isn’t the reality of the situation.
For the filling:
Two packages of dates, pitted
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup brewed tea
1 tsp good quality vanilla
For the base/topping:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 cup cold butter, cubed
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius, no fan). Line an 11 x 7 rectangular pan with parchment and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, bring the dates, sugar, brewed tea and vanilla to a boil. Cook this mixture until it’s thickened, about 5 minutes of boiling. Remember to stir often as the mixture could burn.
- 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.
- Divide the oat mixture in half. Add one half to the bottom of the pan and press firmly until the base is evenly covered.
- When the date filling has thickened, use a spatula to pour the contents over the first oat layer. Spread the filling evenly over the oat base.
- 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.
- 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.