I don’t like date squares. Or at least that’s what I’ve always thought. I probably first ate one as a kid, and then a few times over the years I may have nibbled on one from a dessert tray here or there. Nope, they didn’t change my mind. I’ve found them cloyingly sweet, not very flavourful and what I can only describe as scratchy in texture. Yet …
In the last couple of years I’ve become an aficionado of the fresh Medjool date. I mean, who knew? This is the date as treat — satisfying, rich and sweet as candy. But good for you, too. I started to use dates as both a snack and in recipes like my almond milk and these indulgent choco-caramelicious patties (excuse me while I swoon). The idea of trying my hand at a date square started to dance through my mind, but I still had that nagging doubt about them.
Recently, a friend confessed their love of date squares to me and that was just the inspirational kickstart I needed to get into the kitchen. I checked out a few recipes online first and found that many had far too much sugar for my liking. Good dates are sweet enough on their own without adding lots of extra sweetener. Going through my recipe books (where it was surprisingly hard to find a date square recipe, which tells me they’re too old-fashioned to be trendy, which also tells me they may be the next big trend), I found an appealing recipe by Anna Olsen in her book Sugar.
Anna’s recipe doesn’t specify what kind of dates to use. My first instinct was to use Medjool dates, but there was a bag of the then unfamiliar to me Deglet Noor variety on the shelf at Costco, calling my name. They aren’t as soft and luscious as the Medjool, but they worked wonderfully all the same.
I made a couple of minor modifications to the recipe (for instance, I used a tablespoon of lemon juice instead of orange zest), but not enough of a change that I feel I can call it my own. I urge you to check out Anna Olsen’s recipe here, where it appears with her permission.
There’s one change I’m glad I didn’t make: the crumble calls for a whole cup of butter (and to be fair, it is a lot of crumble). I resisted the temptation to skimp and, oh, the flavour!
Yes, this is an indulgent recipe. Dates are expensive and so is half a pound of butter. But the good things in life are worth it. Not to mention, even a small piece of these date squares is satisfying.
The naturally sweet, smooth date paste interior contrasts beautifully with the crisp and buttery crumble. So yes, I like date squares now! Enough, in fact, that I’ll likely make another pan of them this week. As I get more familiar with them I may switch things up and develop a recipe of my own, but in the meantime I’m quite happy to keep making them just like this.
To date or not to date? Oh yes, let’s date!