Date squares were always my favourite Christmas treat when I was a child. My Mum had a recipe that she had tweaked and perfected and it was part of a cook book that she gave to my sisters and me many years ago. These date squares take me right back to my childhood and all the wonderful Christmas memories of that time.
My sisters and I divide up the Christmas baking between us, and I always opt to make the date squares and the butter tarts. It is a joy to make them.
I left my Christmas baking a little late this year to minimize the temptation factor - it didn't work. The only way for me to remove the temptation is to not make them at all.
So here is my Mum's recipe:
Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour a 9" x 13" pan.
The date filling
You will need three cups of chopped dates. You can use medjool dates in a tub, or you can use a block of pressed dates, which is what I used. Whole dates are great for stuffing with almonds or turning into date caramel, but considering that these dates are going to be cooked and turned into a paste, the block of dates is a fine option.
Place the dates in a saucepan along with one and a half cups of water and a quarter cup of sugar.
Cook over a low heat, stirring frequently until the dates are soft and the water is all absorbed. There should be no hard bits of date left at this point. Set the dates aside to cool.
In the meantime, as the dates are cooking (and you are keeping an eye on them!), mix three quarters of a cup of vegan margarine ( I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks) with one cup of packed brown sugar.
When this is all mixed, add one and three quarters cup of flour, one quarter of a teaspoon of baking soda and a half of a teaspoon of salt. Mix until this is all combined well with the butter and sugar mixture. You will have to scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl a few times.
Now add one and a half cups of rolled oats to the flour mixture and mix them in.
Scoop slightly more than half of your flour and oats mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan, and press the mixture firmly into the pan. You want the bottom layer to be firm so that it will hold up to being sliced and handled.
Spoon your cooled date mixture down the middle of the pan and use the back of a spoon to spread it evenly from side to side in the pan.
Evenly sprinkle the remainder of the flour and oats mixture onto the top of the dates. Gently press down so that the topping is pressed into the oats just a bit.
Place your pan into the oven and cook for 22 to 30 minutes, until the top layer is golden brown.
In my oven, I find that the lower end of this time range is best. Of course, every oven is different so you will want to keep your eye on your date squares if this is the first time you make them.
These treats are lovely with tea or with hot chocolate!