Wow, these were a surprising hit. If there was an award for Best Use for an Old Bag of Dried Dates this recipe would be a winner for sure. Recipes using dried fruit don't always generate a great deal of enthusiasm for me but these little lovelies defied all my preconceptions and were so much nicer that I was expecting. Cooking the dates reduces them to a sweet, sticky, almost toffee-like goo which is then surrounded by the buttery, crumbly base and topping. They remind me of fig rolls in a way but sooo much nicer!
(adapted from Bake by Rachel Allen)
250ml/9 fl oz water
200g/7 oz dates (stoned weight), chopped
175g/6 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
175g/6oz soft light brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar with no trouble)
100g/3 1/2 oz porridge oats
good pinch of salt
175g/6 oz butter, diced
1) Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 20 x 20 cm (8 x 8 inch) cake tin.
2) Place the water and chopped dates in a medium-sized saucepan and bring up to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, uncovered, on a low-medium heat until the date mixture is very soft and thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
3) Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Add the sugar, oats and salt and mix well. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, rub it in until moist clumps form.
4) Press half of the oat mixture evenly over the base of the prepared tin. Spread the cooked date mixture over this, then sprinkle with the remaining oat mixture. Press gently with the palm of your hand to flatten it on top.
5) Bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until golden brown at the edges and set in the centre.
6) Allow to cool completely in the tin, then cut into bars and serve.
Makes about 16 bars