Depending on your palate, likes and dislikes, and whether you have a sweet tooth or not, these may be serious business for you. They’re a wonderful companion to mid-morning coffee or tea rituals. But you won’t want to limit your consumption after you’ve tasted this date bar.
Moist and chewy flesh, fresh dates of the medjool or bahri variety aren’t at all gritty. They’re slightly sweet with a creamy honey taste. As I described last week, they remind me of chocolate truffles only softer with caramel and vanilla butteriness, oozing ambrosial flavor. I’d even call them a delicacy.
I made two batches of bars, one with medjool and the second with noor. While both turned out worthy, the medjool bars had more flavor depth and were slightly sweeter without added sugar. These are for people who like a small, not too sweet treat and don’t want to feel guilty eating one.
I made the dough part of the cookie then put it in the refrigerator overnight. That speeded things up after work the next day.
Figs would be a great substitute for dates- no pit to remove just crunchy little seeds inside to enjoy.
For an easy dessert with a wonderful symphony of tastes, try French vanilla ice cream (I made a batch using Elise’s fantastic recipe at Simply Recipes). Pour sherry over the top (Corti Bros has a nice selection including my favorite splurge, Garvey Gran Orden Pedro Ximenez (PX) Jerez-Xeres-Sherry). Serve with a date bar and you’ll be um-ing and awe-ing.
Easy Date (or Fig) Bars
Makes about 25 cookies
1 cup finely chopped dates, pits removed
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup apple juice
¼ cup sugar (optional)
¼ teaspoon orange zest
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon orange zest
1 large egg white
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour (all-purpose, whole wheat or a combination)
To make the filling:
Combine figs, water, juice and sugar (if using) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook at a simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. (You want the dates to be soft and spreadable, so however long it takes to get this consistency. Mine still had soft little lumps that are fine.) Add the orange zest and cool.
To make dough:
Cream butter, sugar, and orange zest. Beat in the egg white and vanilla. Add the flour and stir or beat with a mixer until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350F.
(I recommend working quickly on this next step. As the dough gets warmer, it becomes more difficult to handle.)
On a floured surface, roll one half of dough out to about a 12 x 16-inch rectangle. Cut into 2 or 3 strips that are 4-inches wide, depending on how wide you want your cookies. Spoon a line of filling down the center of each strip.
Fold one side of dough over the filling; fold the remaining side over to slightly overlap the first side. Press or softly pinch to secure the dough, then carefully flip it over so the seam side is on the bottom. (It’s easiest to flip it directly onto a baking sheet.)
Using a serrated knife, slice each log into individual cookies. (I cut mine every 2 ½ inches or so.) You can also put them into the freezer for 10 minutes before slicing to make it a tad easier.
Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
Adapted from Sherry Yard’s “Desserts by the Yard”
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