So simple and so delicious: shortcrust pastry layers filled with pureed dates with a tang of orange and a hint of cinnamon. And there’s a romance there too…
‘Date bars’ should bring to mind nightlife and romantic restaurants. Sadly - this won't be about All Bar One, Tinder or date nights. Shame, I know, but then I don't know much about Tinder. In fact haven't dated much at all recently, unless you count date nights with husband (I should).
On the other hand, there might be some scope here to let my silly imagination go.
About dating shortcrust pastry
This is about soft chopped dates meeting perfect, albeit quite hard to come together, shortbread pastry. Interesting coupling: dates will think at first the pastry is a bit boring, quite a bit dry and not very attractive.
Pastry will think the dates are a bit wet (already had a drink or two for Dutch courage?), not quite as sweet as they appeared to be (no sugar added) but possibly wholesome for the very same reason.
At first they won't gel, being a bit awkward towards each other, not to mention the fact that one will have to wait for quite a long while for the other to arrive.
But once they've spent some time together (as little as 25 minutes), magic starts working. They suddenly seem made for each other even though admittedly the pastry does look longingly at plain jam once or twice.
But dates won't let go, firmly stuck in the middle and the chemistry (or the hot oven) makes them a match made in heaven.
Matchmaking - oops, I mean recipe - by Dan Lepard, from 'Baking with Passion'.
All joking aside, the shortbread bars or squares, depending how you cut them, with soft and chewy date filling in the middle are just gorgeous and not too sweet at all. The recipe can be dissected into a really good shortbread and date mash that can be used to fill all kinds of pastry or biscuits.
The shortcrust pastry
This is a butter-rich, not too sweet pastry with the addition of cornflour which makes it flakier. It is perfectly easy to make it by hand, by rubbing butter into the dry ingredients until the texture resembles wet sand. It can be then pressed together into a ball of dough.
There is no need for chilling, then struggling to roll out pastry bottom as once mixed, you just press the dough into the bottom of the tin, then chill. The top is even easier – it’s roughly crumbled over the filling, making for interesting texture.
The date filling
Completely foolproof, it’s chopped dates boiled briefly with butter, flavouring of orange zest and cinnamon and some water. When cooled down to room temperature, it can be easily spread over the shortcrust pastry bottom – or a cake layer if used in a different recipe.
When baked, it keeps both layers of the pastry together, making it easy to cut the whole thing into bars or squares, or even triangle if you so wish.
More date recipes
Bars-squares again, this time studded with almonds, pecans and pistachios. These date and nut bars are gorgeously decadent!
Tamarind paste added to a date cake gives it a wonderful tang. This tamarind date cake with cardamom icing is one of the best.
Date and walnut nougat meringues, the most exquisite sweets for all meringue, nougat, marshmallow and turrón lovers. Meringue never tasted better!
More dessert bar recipes
Gooey butter cake bars with raisins and almonds, chewy sticky topping on an Italian pasta frolla shortcrust base, are inspired by St Louis gooey butter cake.
Not only for dessert: rice flake (poha) cereal bars with cardamom and cinnamon flavour, barely sweetened, for when you get tired of oats for breakfast.
Marzipan and shortbread biscuit chocolate coated bars, made from scratch. Like Twix, only better; like Ritter Sport’s all best bars combined into one.