It seems like dried fruit is always front and center this time of year. I enjoy most dried fruits but dates aren’t necessarily one of them. However, they are one of Joe’s favorites and he loves date bars so I thought I would give them a try. He described a soft chewy bar with a bottom crust and date filling, topped with a crumbly streusel. They must have turned out pretty good because he grabbed a bar every time he walked by and gave me a thumbs up with a smile!
Add 3/4 cup of water and 3 teaspoons of vanilla. Let that come just to a boil then turn the heat down to low and let simmer covered for about 15 minutes. Allow the dates to cook down, stirring the pot every few minutes. After the 15 minutes they should be soft and turn into a thick paste when stirred. Remove from heat and let cool.
The bottom and top crust are the same, just one part packed on the bottom and the top crumbled to make a streusel like topping. You’ll need flour, oats, walnuts, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and 2 sticks of butter to get started.
3 cups Pitted Dates, chopped
3/4 cup Water
3 teaspoons Vanilla
1 3/4 cup Flour
1 1/2 cups Oats
1 cup Walnuts
2/3 cups Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 cup Unsalted Butter, cold
1/3 cup Agave Nectar
3/4 cup Rice Cereal
To make the date paste: Chop the dates and add to a 3 quart saucepan. Over medium high heat, add the water and vanilla and bring just to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover with a lid and let simmer for 15 minutes. The dates, when stirred should look like a thick paste. Remove from heat and let cool.
To make the top and bottom crust: Combine flour, oats, walnuts, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse several times until evenly combined. Add the softened butter and pulse until the mixture becomes crumbly with the butter pieces no large than pea size. Transfer mixtue to a large bowl and drizzle agave nectar over top. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to work the mixture together, then gently fold in the rice cereal. Set aside 2 cups for the topping.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cake pan with parchment paper so that it rides up the sides of the pan and can be lifted out after baking. Take the mixture for the bottom crust and pour into the lined pan. Press it into the pan with your fingers pressing into the corners and making it level across the top and sides, about 1/2 inch thick. Next, spread the pasty date mixture over the crust leaving just a small line around the edge clean. Sprinkle the reserved topping over the date mixture and place into the oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until the topping has sufficiently browned.
Let the pan cool completely, then gently lift the parchment paper out of the pan onto a cutting board. Slice into bars. Store in airtight container.
Makes approximately 30 bars.