Here’s another option that’s quick and easy to bake for the holidays, or any time of the year. The first option was this recipe for holiday cookies in my previous post. I tested this recipe for delicious date bars twice in a row. The first time was great and very flavorful. But the texture was more like that of coffee cake, which wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I wanted something more compact and less airy, just like a cookie bar. So I made some adjustments by reducing the flour, adding a little more dates and making a few more minor tweaks here and there. The result… well, I’ll just say the recipe requires no further adjustments. To put it plainly, these date bars are delicious.
I baked the date bars at 325 F for 37 minutes and got this deep, golden, reddish color, almost like the color of dark honey. Ovens may vary so if you want to give this recipe a try, just start watching it after 30 minutes and add a few more minutes if it’s not quite done yet.
I sprinkled powdered sugar to add some visual texture. The powdered sugar is optional as the recipe is delicious on its own—so good, scrumptious and delicious. And did I say it was delicious?
It took me only about 30 minutes of prep time and little more than 30 minutes to bake. The aroma of the date bars baking was just sheer heaven. I could rhapsodize about these date bars all day long, but I think I think it would be better just to make them again.
I measured out two cups of whole pitted dates, and then chopped them finely in a food processor. I used the pulse setting and chopped for a few seconds at a time until the dates were as small as I could get them without getting too clumpy. I wish I had a picture to show that step, but the day was overcast and I didn’t have enough natural light indoors.
The recipe just uses the conventional creaming method where the butter is first creamed with a flat blade, then sugar is added gradually until the mixture is light and fluffy, eggs are added one at a time, followed by vanilla. The sifted dry ingredients are then added gradually at low speed.
To evenly distribute the chopped dates all throughout the batter, I added them at low speed in small portions, lightly separating them with my fingers as I dropped them into the batter.
I haven’t tried making this recipe with pre-chopped dates. I think it would work too, but I’m just not sure if it would come out as good. Pre-chopped dates are a bit chunky and dry, and, since they are coated with sugar, it might throw off the amount of sugar in the recipe and make it too sweet. The edges in pre-chopped dates are also sealed. Whereas finely chopping whole dates in the food processor exposes that moist interior of the dates, so the flavor is easily released and absorbed into the batter thereby bringing out that deep taste of dates when baked.
Once the dates were all blended with the batter, I added the walnuts last. I used pre-chopped walnut topping that was super convenient. Chopped walnut topping pieces are finer than chopped walnuts. There is a difference. The package will be labeled “chopped walnut topping”. Plain chopped walnuts will work too if you can’t find walnut topping. If you place them in a Ziploc bag and pound them with something heavy, you can break them into even smaller pieces.
When all the ingredients are added, the batter will be thick. I sprayed a 9” x 13” baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and evenly spread the batter in it. I wanted to bake it at a lower temperature than the usual 350 F, since it’s not the type of batter that needs to rise rapidly like a cake. Also, I wanted it to bake at a slow even heat so I didn’t end up with edges that baked so quickly and a center that was far softer than the sides.
The edges turned out firm and chewy, but not hard. The center was evenly baked, firm and ever so slightly softer than the edges. All in all, these date bars had just the right density all throughout, packed with flavor that was really dynamite!
- 2 cups dates, finely chopped
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- Measure out 2 cups of whole pitted dates. Place dates in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.
- Pre-heat oven to 325 F and spray a 9” x 13” baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer, cream butter at medium speed with a flat beater until creamy.
- Gradually add sugar and beat until fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.
- Add vanilla extract, increase speed to medium and beat until well incorporated, about 1 minute.
- At low speed, gradually add dry ingredients and beat until well blended.
- Still at low speed, drop about ⅕ of the dates by hand a little at a time into the batter, separating the dates as they are dropped so they do not clump. Repeat until all the dates are evenly mixed with the batter.
- Add the chopped walnuts and continue to mix just until blended. Do not over mix.
- With a few strokes, finish mixing by hand making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
- Batter will be stiff. Pour and evenly distribute the batter into the prepared baking dish.
- Bake for about 30 – 37 minutes or until the surface is a nice even, golden brown finish and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, with just a few crumbs.
- Transfer out of the oven and allow the date bars to cool completely.
Delicious Date Bars Recipe