Very Important Date

This past weekend was Thanksgiving for those of us that call Canada home. Aside from Christmas, Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday and this year certainly didn't disappoint. For one, the weather was gorgeous: I don't think I can remember a time when I could sit on the patio all day in a skirt and t-shirt on Thanksgiving! Two,  I was lucky enough to be invited to two home-cooked turkey dinners, and they were goooood. My bloated tummy can attest. I contributed a dessert platter this year and decided to try baking a new treat: date squares. Aside from Dads, who universally seem to worship the old-fashioned bars, I've discovered most people are extreme in their love or hate of them. Haters out there, this recipe has the power to convert. I know from personal experience. Give it a try -- they just might surprise you. For the lovers, you're welcome.

Date Squares
Adapted from recipe in Breakfast, Lunch, Tea

Date Filling:
3-4 cups (400 grams) pitted dried dates
1 cup (240 ml) water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Oatmeal Crust:
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Place the dates and water in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the dates are soft and have absorbed most of the water (about 5 - 10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature and then puree in your food processor until smooth. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Butter an 8 x 11 inch or a 9 x 9 inch pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon. Then add the butter and knead until the mixture is crumbly. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the base of the prepared pan.

Spread the dates evenly over the oatmeal crust. Sprinkle the remaining dough evenly over the top of the dates. Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool. Once the squares have cooled, cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator at least one hour or until firm enough to cut easily into squares..

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