I didn’t discover the joy of date squares until I returned home from university for a visit one weekend. We ventured to the Covent Garden Market in downtown London, Canada (and yes, this much smaller “London” has similar building and street names to London, England) for coffee and a treat. Our favourite coffee shop didn’t have the baked treat I was looking for so I ventured to some other stands. We chose to split a giant date square. The square had a gooey filing with a crunchy topping. Just enough sweetness that it was perfectly satisfying without feeling overly sweet.
Since that time, I have baked many date square recipes and have incorporated medjool dates into my baking repertoire. This recipe features spelt, a flour that I greatly enjoy baking with. Although it is not gluten free, the benefit of using spelt is to provide variety in a North American diet which is heavily dependent upon wheat. Spelt flour is often viewed as superior in nutrition to wheat flours but their nutritional profiles appear to be quite similar with spelt being only slightly beneficial nutrition to wheat flour (see this article on Wellness Mama for more information). On a personal level, I am interested in the cultivation of the plant and this also has an impact on my choice to bake with it when possible. I find it easier to purchase an organic spelt flour that is GMO free. In doing so, I am hoping that it has less of an impact on the environment.
Dates have been having their health food moment in baking. In some baking recipes, medjool dates have replaced sugar because they are naturally sweet. I hope to bring you more recipes that offer variety to your diet but do not compromise on taste and will be testing out recipes using medjool dates.
Happy baking, friends!
Spelt Date Square Recipe
Makes: 35 x 25cm (13 x 9 inch) pan (cut the squares as large as you’d like!)
Time: 30 minutes (prep time) + 32-36 minutes (baking time)
470g (3 ½ cups) of pitted dates
455ml (2 cups) of hot water
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
215g (2 cups) light spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
150g (3/4 cup) brown sugar
340g (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
270g (3 cups) rolled oats, divided
1. Preheat oven 350°F (180°C). Line a 35 x 25 cm (13 x 9 inch) baking tray with parchment paper.
2. Combine the dates, water and butter in a medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil and then reduce heat. Cook for 8-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the dates have broken down. The mixture will be quite thick (note, some recipes call to blend or process the date mixture- I think this is an unnecessary step and extra clean up). Once cooked, take off the heat and set aside.
3. While the date mixture is cooking, add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and brown sugar to a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to combine. Add half of the rolled oats (135g or 1 ½ cups) and pulse to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse until just incorporated. Mix the last half of the rolled oats by hand (this will ensure that they keep their shape and give the crumble some more texture).
4. Divide the oat mixture in half. Press one-half of the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Evenly spread the date mixture on top of the oat crust using the back of a spoon. Crumble the remaining mixture on top and lightly press down using your hands.
5. Bake for 32-36 minutes. The topping should be golden. Let cool before cutting into squares and serving.
Best enjoyed with a steamed milk or a latte.
If you tried making this recipe, let me know! Tag your creations on Instagram using the hashtag: #lindenandlavender