Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Date Squares

The only reason I can tolerate a Canadian winter- full of unnecessary bone-chilling winds and snow, is because it's the number one reason to spoil myself with comfort food. Comfort food is such a subjective subject, and can be defined as a kind of food that makes you feel warm, cozy, and at home. It fills you up and reminds you of good times and brings you back down to earth. Whichever food can do this for you is up to you, which is what makes "comfort food" so versatile. For me, the favourites are pancakes with maple syrup and bacon, a deliciously juicy hamburger, my Dad's beef and barley stew, and a classic grilled cheese sandwich (just to name a few, because trust me, there are so many more). If there is such a thing as a comfort food dessert, than for me it has to be cinnamon buns, and every once in a while- I crave Date Squares.
It may seem random, I know, but for some reason that time-tested combination of brown sugar and butter, paired with the sweetness of pureed dates, is smile-inducing. Dates may not be the prettiest looking fruits out there, but when boiled with the addition of lemon zest, then pureed in a food processor, the resulting paste is to die for. To top it off, when this paste is sandwiched between a "brown sugar and butter" oat crumble, it is true perfection.
I've tried to make a point to delve into my cookbooks every once and a while for a recipe, because lately I've come accustomed to the easy way out- finding a recipe online. There is no shortage of delicious and craving-inducing recipes online, but sometimes nothing beats a hard-copy paper recipe, especially when it's from Pastry Chef/TV Personality/Baking Genius Anna Olson.
I own both of her baking centric cookbooks- Sugar & Another Cup of Sugar. Her simple yet elegant recipes, easily adaptable to add your own personal touch, fill these books. I've bookmarked more than a few recipes that I plan on trying when time permits, and today time was on my side. I struggled between making lemon squares or date squares, but as I looked outside to a gloomy, and certainly cold looking, winter day, I knew it had to be date squares. Thankfully my Mom had recently brought me a gift bag of ingredients full of chocolate, pecans, corn syrup (for the pecan tarts that I made for my girlfriend Jacquelyn), and dates!

If there's one thing that I love about baking, it's those few last minutes of baking time, when your whole kitchen is filled with the aroma of whatever is within your oven. When I finally opened the oven door (after waiting a grueling 40 minutes- well, it wasn't so grueling, I was catching up on Top Chef Season 2 online) I was greeted with a wave of sweet datey-goodness. Cutting out a piece for myself, I bit into it and felt purely content. The sweet crumble topping and smooth date puree tasted magnificent, it tasted exactly like a date square should. I didn't want something new, or a different kind of texture, I just wanted a date square and that's exactly what I got. Furthermore, the crumble to date filling ratio was perfect, not too much of one or too little of the other. What these date squares lack in aesthetics they make up for in flavour, trust me when I say they are delicious! I substituted lemon zest in place of the orange zest the recipe called for (partly because I didn't have oranges) but that's besides the point. The lemon added a nice zing of citrus to accompany the sweetness of the date puree.

I'd say this was another successful baking day for me, and as I sit here writing this, I feel sleepy and completely in the mood to lie down and watch the Food Network. But today isTtuesday, and that means that tonight is my Baking Arts Course, so my wish shall have to wait. Tonight we are learning how to pipe, which may seem amateur to some, but I'm sure there is an art to it. I'm excited, because then I can attempt some really awesome cupcakes that I've been wanting to bake, and not only make them taste good, but look good as well. Anyways, I have an 8 X 8 inch square baking pan of date squares to myself, which probably isn't a good thing. Anybody want some?
Till next time!

Addison


Date Squares Recipe-
inspired by/courtesy of Anna Olson's cookbook- Sugar


Yield: 16- use a 8 x 8 square baking pan

Ingredients

Date Filling

  • 3 cups pitted dates
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup water

Crumble

  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats (regular or quick cook)
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup golden brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted

Directions

  1. For filling, place all ingredients in a pot and bring up to a boil. Remove from heat and let dates sit and soak until room temperature. Purée until smooth and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350° F, grease and 8-inch square pan and line bottom with parchment paper so that the paper hangs over the edge of the pan on 2 sides. Combine oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Stir in butter and blend until an even crumbly texture. Press half of the crumble into the bottom of prepared pan. Spread date filling over base and top with remaining crumble (not pressing). Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top of crumble begins to brown. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

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