I confess: I’d never really been a fan of Date Squares. But then in 2015 I found Anna Olsen’s recipe and everything changed. See why!
Formerly on Team Anti-Date Squares
I don’t like date squares. Or dates. Or at least that’s what I used to think. I probably first ate a date square 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 found them cloyingly sweet and not very flavourful, And dates seemed scratchy in texture to me.
In recent 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.
Date Squares Inspiration
In 2015, 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 Date Square 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 (to be fair, it is a lot of crumble). I resisted the temptation to skimp and, oh, the flavour!
Did you know that date squares are often called matrimonial cake on the Canadian Prairies? My friend Renée Kohlman explains why on her blog, SweetSugarbean.
Go Ahead, Indulge
Yes, this is an indulgent recipe. Dates are expensive (although you can use less expensive varieties than the fresh Medjools) 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 (square)!
Anna Olsen’s Date Square Recipe
See Anna Olsen’s Date Square Recipe on the Food Network Canada website.
Looking for More Recipes with Dates?
First Published 2015 12 15
Republished 2021 02 20