First Date Squares

2 Feb

Well, since I’m currently studying linguistics, I can tell you  that the title of this post is what is known as an “ambiguous sentence”…there’s your fun fact for today!  Use it to impress your friends and neighbours.

This is the first time I have made date squares, after a long love affair with them on baking platters at weddings, paint conferences, and other gatherings where you can find me loitering at the dessert table.  Why I waited this long to make them is beyond me, as is why my first baking post is not devoted entirely to something chocolatey.  (Don’t worry, those will come.)  I figure this is acceptable only because these squares contain a healthy dose of brown sugar and butter, a combination I would bathe in if social mores allowed.

Also, I bought dates in Ottawa and forgot about them and they were expiring.  I recommend not using expired dates, although I am living proof that they won’t kill ya.

So, this is what I made, and they are delicious room temperature or frozen, but in my opinion best chilled from the fridge.  (This is going to be hard on my waistline, testing all these options for you folks, especially since they need to be tested in quick succession for a fair comparison!)

The resulting recipe is a loose adaptation from ones by the amazing Anna Olson and from “The Best of” cookbook.  These recipes called for a 9″ square pan but I like my dates on the thinner side, (HA) so I used a 9×13″…make ’em how you like ’em.



2 1/2 cups pitted dates

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup water

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2  tbsp fresh lemon juice


1 1/2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup cold butter, cubed

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease a 9×13″ baking dish and set aside.

For filling: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook for 2-3 minutes to soften dates, then remove from heat and let cool.  Once cool, puree in food processor until quite smooth.

For crust: Combine all ingredients except butter in food processor and pulse to combine.  Add butter and pulse until crumbly (without a food processor, just use your hands to mix in the butter until pea-sized crumbs form).  Pat 2/3 of the mixture into prepared pan.  Spread date filling evenly on top and sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over dates.  Press down lightly.

Place the pan on a large baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until topping is golden brown.  Cool completely before cutting into squares.  (To get the nicest squares, refrigerate them for an hour before cutting.)

9 Responses to “First Date Squares”

  1. Sara L. February 3, 2011 at 2:47 am #

    Love date squares! The recipe I have is with orange juice! Will have to try this one! What made you take linguistics? Took a bunch in university with my program and there was one course called mathematical linguistics which scared me and I dropped and took Irish Gaelic for fun (managed to take an extra elective)!
    Have fun!

    • hiddenponies February 3, 2011 at 8:59 am #

      Yay, I was worried no one else liked dates! The recipes did mostly call for orange juice, or orange oil or orange extract…I just didn’t have any 🙂 I don’t think there’s anything missing though without it!
      As for linguistics, I’m a bit of an English nerd and having kids has made me super interested in how they learn language – I love when Gemma learns something like past tense, or adding -ing to words, and I love being able to recognize which stage she’s at! I’m also thinking when I eventually finish my BA maybe I’ll one day do my masters at UBC to do speech therapy, so I have to get my base linguistics courses now 🙂 But mathematical linguistics would definitely scare me, I wouldn’t touch anything with “math” as part of the course title!

    • Tanya Harriman June 23, 2011 at 2:38 am #

      Hello Would you mind sharing your recipe with orange juice? I lost mine that I had that was so good. Thank you

      • hiddenponies June 23, 2011 at 3:51 am #

        You could easily substitute orange juice for the lemon juice in the filling, and if you want even more orange flavour, grate the zest of one orange into the dry ingredients for the crust – delicious!

  2. Andrea February 3, 2011 at 6:16 am #

    Oh Anna, I love how you can make even a write-up about date squares fun and humorous. 🙂

  3. Sara L. February 3, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    Whoops my comment disappeared. 🙂 The recipe looks great! Gotta try the lemon juice since I always make mine with orange juice. How did you get in to linguistics?

  4. Kim Kampen February 4, 2011 at 3:09 am #

    To those who would like to try these squares, I would recommend looking for the precut dates in a bulk store or the bulk section of a grocery store. I just made something with dates at the tea room yesterday and I had to cut them up from a solid block. What a pain! The precut ones are great!

    • Sara L. February 4, 2011 at 4:19 am #

      I totally agree. Jaffa Brand has the pre-cut dates and a great recipe right on the back and they are delicious. 🙂

    • hiddenponies February 4, 2011 at 6:19 am #

      Hm, I just bought a bag of pitted dates the same way I’d buy raisins…

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