My husband and I recently spent a week in Palm Springs, California. It was beautiful there! During our visit we went to the Shield’s Date Farm. It was a kind of retro little place, as it had been a roadside attraction in the 1950s. We didn’t get to tour the actual farm, since they were doing some construction, but the shop had many types of dates and you were able to taste test nearly everything. We ended up buying some of the blonde dates, which we thought had the best flavor.
I figured that I would make date bars with the dates that we bought. I had made some sour cream date bars quite a few years ago. My husband found a date bar recipe in one of my newer cookbooks: Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey, so I decided to make those. I hadn’t made anything from the cookbook yet, so it was high time to do that!
These are very basic: a very butter-rich cookie base with a date filling. This recipe calls for an entire pound of butter! My mixer had a little trouble getting everything combined, so I had to mix the last bit of dough together by hand. Even then, there was some unmixed flour at the bottom of the bowl. There seemed to be so much dough that I wasn’t worried. I put some of the dough into the pan and set it aside to chill. The date filling was super easy, with the exception of pitting and chopping the dates. They are so sticky and a bit challenging to work with. My husband pitted the dates so that helped me a lot.
After assembling the bars, I still had a lot of dough left; I probably only used 2/3 of the dough. I shaped the remaining dough in balls and then rolled them in coconut. I baked those up and they made some fine cookies! The date bars are excellent! The date filling is so good and the cookie part is so buttery and yummy. The filling is lighter in color than I expected, but the blonde dates aren’t quite as dark as Medjool dates, so I expect that’s the difference. These are great and I will absolutely make them again.
1 pound butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/3 cups coconut
1 pound dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
1-1/2 cups water
¼ cup sugar
Combine the butter and sugars in a large mixer bowl. Beat on medium until creamy. Add the vanilla and salt and beat to combine. Stir in the flour, baking powder and 1 cup of the coconut and mix until a soft dough forms.
Grease a 9” x 13” pan and press 1/3 of the dough into the pan to form a bottom crust. Wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap. Refrigerate all of the dough for 30 minutes.
Make the date filling: combine the dates, water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cover the pan and cook on medium for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the date mixture is very soft and glossy. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Transfer the date mixture to a food processor and process the mixture into a fine paste.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the bottom crust for 20 minutes, until it is just starting to brown around the edges. Allow to cool slightly. Spread the date filling over the partially baked crust and then crumble the remaining dough over the date filling to form a crumbled topping.
Bake until the topping is firm and crisp, about 30-35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup coconut. Allow to cool to room temperature and then cut into bars.
Recipe from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor