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date shortbread bars

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Date shortbread bars

Sadly - this won't be about All Bar One, speed dating or trendy wine places. Shame, I know, but then I don't know much about speed dating, in fact haven't dated much at all recently, unless you count husband (I should). On the other hand...

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'.

date shortbread bars

Servings: 16Time: 1 hour

INGREDIENTS

  • For the shortbread:
  • 225g plain flour
  • 4 tbsp corn flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 125g caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 150g butter, at room temperature
  • For the date filling:
  • 250g pitted dates
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 200ml water


METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Butter or line with parchment a 20 x 24cm flan tin.

2. Make the pastry: sift the flours with the baking powder and salt into a large bowl and add the sugar. Dice the butter and rub it into the dry ingredients with your hands or in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. When the mix resembles wet sand, form it with your hands into a ball – or at least two thirds as the remaining amount will be crumbled over the filling.

3. Press the two thirds of the pastry into the tin and chill in the fridge.

4. Make the filling: chop the dates quite finely, put in a pan with the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Leave to cool completely.

5. Spread the date filling over the pastry in the tin and crumble the remaining pastry on top.

Shortbread date bars

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until only very faintly coloured on top. Cool in the tin, cut into bars with a sharp knife.

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