There are things you bake regularly every week and then there are things you bake only for weekend treats (well that me anyway ;-)) and these dangerously delicious date squares or slice falls somewhere in between. I love the fact that you need to add very little additional sugars because of the natural sugars in the dates and the addition of cardamom reminds me of the middle eastern “Kleiche” biscuits that were always around me growing up.
The combination of the sticky and soft toffee like date centre with the gold toasty crumble is heavenly and I urge you to make double as they will fly off the plate fast! There is a bit of effort involved here as there are a few parts to this bake – but nothing is difficult per se. Which is another reason why you should make double!
You do have to make these a day before or at least 6 hours before you are going to serve them to allow them to come together and not crumble so you will have to resist the urge to snaffle them all up as they come out of the oven.
approx 16 squares in a 20cm square pan
2 1/2 cups Medjool or soft iranian dates, pitted and chopped (lightly packed)
250 ml water
Pinch ground cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Crumble topping & Base
1 3/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats (Can use old fashioned rolled & pulse them up a little)
1 cup (250 ml) unbleached finely ground wholemeal flour (or regular plain)
3/4 cup unrefined brown sugar or coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup salted organic (if possible) butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 180 °C (160C Fan). Line a 20 cm square baking tin with baking paper as shown in picture, letting it hang over both sides. Grease the other two sides with butter.
In a saucepan, bring the dates, cardamom powder, water and lemon juice to a boil. Add the baking soda and simmer for about 5 more minutes (this will soften the dates) stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the dates have fallen apart. Set to one side to cool down.
Topping & base
In a bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown/coconut sugar, and baking powder.
Cut the butter up into squares and rub in as though you would a crumble until you have a moist crumbly mixture.
Spread half the mixture in the greased and lined pan pan and press down firmly. Next spread the date mixture evenly over the packed down crumble mixture.
Lastly sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture and press down lightly, not too firmly.
Bake for about 55 minutes or until the crisp is golden brown. Let cool thoroughly for at least 6 hours or overnight to set. You can also put it into the fridge if you prefer once its cooled to speed up the process and serve at room temp. however It’s definitely best to wait.
This bake has just got to be one of my favourite and I don’t know one person who has ever tried them who hasn’t gone in for a second square…. so make sure you get to try one first!!
They will keep nicely in an airtight container for up to a week – however mine generally last a day or two if we are lucky! These yummy squares also make a fabulous lunchbox addition!