At markets and bake shops I am a sucker for buying date squares. Two weeks ago I wondered aloud why I never make them myself? Rose to the 'self-challenge' using this recipe from Canadian Living's new Sweet & Simple Cookbook. I have been a CL subscriber and fan for years. This book knocks it out of the park. Many of the recipes use fruit that is at the market now, or in the months to come. I gave up putting stickies on pages I like - I may have to try every recipe over time... I just finished posting Date Orange Muffins - eek - I must be having a date, orange craze!

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Line an 8" square pan with parchment (use two sheets criss-crossed)

2 cups water
1 pkg (375 g) pitted dates
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 TB lemon juice
2 TB orange juice

In saucepan stir together 2 cups water, dates, sugar, lemon juice orange juice. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently, stirring often, until thickened - about 10 minutes. Let cool.

2 1/2 cups large flake rolled oats 
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
1 cup packed brown sugar 
1 TB grated orange zest 
1/4 tsp salt 
1 cup cold butter cubed 

1/4 cup sliced hazelnuts

In large bowl whisk together oats, flour, brown sugar, orange zest and salt.

Cut in butter until mixture is in coarse crumbs.

Press half of the oat mixture evenly into bottom of pan. Spread date mixture over top.

Toss remaining oat mixture with hazelnuts. Sprinkle over date mixture, pressing lightly to adhere.

Bake until light golden about 45 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on rack before cutting into squares. (Make ahead: cover and refrigerate for up to three days or overwrap with heavy duty foil and freeze for up to two weeks.)

Notes and Tips...

  • Dates -  their recipe notes refer to pitted dates coming in a 375 g block. I remember that, but can't say I have seen them sold that way lately. My grocer carries Parnoosh Dates - they are pitted, but loose, in a tub that weighs 350 g. Can't imagine that 25 g makes a difference.
  • Chopping Dates - can be tricky since dates are sticky - one tip is to spray the knife blade with a bit of oil. I find it easier to cut up one date at a time. Some people "chop" dates by cutting each up using kitchen shears.
  • Orange Juice - zest first since that is needed for the dry / oat mixture, then juice for the wet ingredient step.
  • Cooking Dates - I found it took longer than 10 minutes for the mixture to thicken. It continues to thicken a wee bit while cooling.
  • Butter - not specified, but in baking it is always unsalted
  • Cut in Butter - I can get into a Zen mode doing many kitchen tasks, but cutting butter into dry ingredients makes me nuts! (Maybe a bit easier when cutting into flour, but cutting into large flake oats - geesh...) I did persevere and do this, because I knew that a quick whiz in the food processor would wreck the large flake oats. Next time I plan to quickly whiz (pulse) the cold butter and the flour, then stir in the oats, sugar, and salt by hand.
  • Sliced Hazelnuts - ?? I don't even know what that is - I did a coarse chop on the hazelnuts.
  • Cutting into Squares - whew - that's tough. I used my sharp meat slicing knife, and gently pressed down - hard to make tidy squares especially since top comes out nicely browned and crisp. Did my best - and it doesn't affect taste! Next time - am going to create little "slicing channels" with my pastry bench tool when it's still hot, and that should make slicing when cooled easier.

<== Questions or Comments about this recipe? Visit the Recipe Q. C. page - looking forward to hearing from you!