Old Fashioned Date Nut Oat Bars
Date Nut Bars are rather old fashioned and pretty common in New England bakeries. This is similar to the Raspberry Squares recipe (click here) but I’ve added some whole wheat flour and a few spices to compliment the dates. On my drives from Los Angeles to Palm Springs I often stop by the famous Hadley Fruit Orchard which sells dried fruits and nuts including large plump Medjool pitted dried dates, which I used in this recipe. You can order them at their site http://www.hadleyfruitorchards.com
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (2.5 ounces)
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces and softened but still cool plus 2 additional tablespoons for topping
2 cups pitted dried dates (about 10 ounces)
1/2 cup boiling water
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup walnuts, toasted (toast nuts at 350F for 6-7 minutes and then set aside to cool)
1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch-square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Fold two 16-inch pieces of foil lengthwise to measure 8 inches wide. Fit one sheet in bottom of greased pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan (overhang will help in removal of baked squares). Fit second sheet in pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In bowl of standing mixer, mix flour, oats, sugars, baking soda, salt, and nuts at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. With mixer running at low speed, add butter pieces; continue to beat until mixture is well-blended and resembles wet sand, about 2 minutes.
3. Transfer 2/3 of mixture to prepared pan and use hands to press crumbs evenly into bottom. Bake until starting to brown, about 20 minutes. Work in remaining 2 tablespoons butter into oat mixture by rubbing mixture between fingers until butter is fully incorporated. Pinch mixture with fingers to create hazelnut-sized clumps; set streusel aside.
4. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, add boiling water to dates and stir to combine and soften dates. Add the brown sugar and zest and transfer to a food processor until pureed, about 1 minute. Add remaining cup of walnuts and pulse to chop nuts and combine filling. Spread the filling on top of the hot crust. Sprinkle the reserved streusel on top of the filling. Bake for about 30 minutes until top is golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating pan from front to back halfway through baking time.
5. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 1½ hours, then remove from pan using foil handles. Cut into 1¼- to 1½-inch squares and serve.