Throw away whatever Fig Newtons you may have in the house. They cannot compare. (And please forgive the not-so-great pictures…my camera wasn’t being too compliant with me).
The natural caramel-like sweetness of the dates + chewy oatmeal crust make the best pair. These may not be as cute as Pop Hearts, but they’re absolutely delicious. And (relatively) healthy compared to your average bar with rolled oats replacing the majority of the flour and apple sauce in place of a third of the butter.
I used to dislike dates, but as I grew older I discovered that dates are similar to cheese (not in taste, obviously). You can dislike certain kinds of cheeses, but you can’t possibly hate all cheese. The same rule applies with dates–there are so many different varieties of dates (Wikipedia it and you’ll find over 40 kinds) that it’s impossible to generalize.
In America, there isn’t much variety. You know those already-pitted dates that come in those large plastic bags? Blegh. In my opinion, they’re stale, bland, and taste like the plastic they come in. The Medjool dates here, however, are great. I usually find them at wholesale stores such as BJ’s or Sam’s Club…they aren’t pitted, but who cares? They’re near-effortless to pit and taste incredible. So soft, sweet, and caramelicious!
Oh, and random fact: Dates are actually a staple during the month of Ramadan, when Muslims have to fast from dawn until sunset. When it’s time to eat, it’s sunnah (religious tradition, but not obligation) for dates to be the first thing you eat before you start digging in.
Okay I’m going to stop sounding like an advertisement for dates and get back to what’s really important: these almost-guilt-free bars. Give them a try and I’m sure you and your family will love them.
And they also happen to be perfect with a cup of tea. (But I secretly think I’d rather eat it with chocolate milk).
Date Bars (loosely adapted from allrecipes.com)
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1 1/2 cups sifted
pastry flour(I used all-purpose. Worked great, and I think it would be fabulous with 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 all-purpose)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda (or 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder)
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 3/4 cup butter, softened (I used 1/2 cup butter + 1/3 cup of unsweetened apple sauce. It worked perfectly, but keep in mind that it also made my crumb mixture a whole lot less crumby, which I liked)
- 3/4 pound pitted (preferably Medjool) dates, diced
- 1 cup water
1/3 cup packed brown sugar(I omitted this since dates are naturally sweet and added a dash of molasses instead)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (I didn’t add this since I used baking powder instead of baking soda)
- A tablespoon or 2 of flour to thicken the mixture
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- In a large bowl, combine oats, pastry flour, salt, 1 cup brown sugar, and baking soda. Mix in the butter until crumbly. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 9 inch square baking pan. (Note: I tried using a 9 x 13 pan and it wasn’t enough to fill the entire pan.)
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the dates, water, and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Bring to a boil, and cook until thickened. Stir in lemon juice, and remove from heat. Spread the filling over the base, and pat the remaining crumb mixture on top.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in preheated oven, or until top is lightly toasted. Cool before cutting into squares.