04 December 2006
This recipe tastes like home. I don’t care if you grew up on a desert island eating coconuts and spearing lizards, or if you've never had a date before, this is simple comfort food in the way that only warm spices can be. I didn’t grow up with date bars, but I love them with the fervor of any good born-again convert.
First of all, you get to crumble together butter and flour with your fingers, and there’s nothing quite as calming as rubbing butter. Then, there’s the smell of cinnamon and oats coming from your oven, wafting through your house with the potency of a Martha Stewart nerve gas. The bars themselves, the dates melting into the oats, soft thick middles with a little bit of crispness on top, are the kind of thing a housewife would pack into a tin and take to her new neighbors, back in the days when neighbors still talked to each other.
These are simple to make, and that’s exactly what you should do. And then go make friends with your neighbors. Or, if you live in a very tiny New York apartment, your neighbors may come knocking on your door, drawn by the smell, and looking for home.
You may want to double this if you have a lot of neighbors or friends.
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups dates, pitted and chopped*
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup oats (not instant)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (4 oz) butter, room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F, grease an 8x8 baking tin.
2. In a small saucepan combine the dates and water and bring to a boil. Simmer until the dates are very soft and thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and set aside.
3. Combine the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into bits and add to the flour mixture, rub the butter in with your fingertips. Press half the oat mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the date mixture over the oats, then top with the remaining oat mixture, pressing down gently. Bake for about 40 minutes, until set in the middle and the top is golden brown. Let cool, then cut into bars.
*Please buy whole dates and chop them yourself with a greased kitchen knife.