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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Date Crumbles


Date Crumbles, Date Squares, Matrimonial Squares or Cake--they're all the same thing--a thick date filling sandwiched between a crumbly oatmeal cookie base and topping.  I grew up calling them "Date Crumbles" as would have many Newfoundlanders from my area of the Island. It wasn't until I was an adult I ever heard them called anything other than that until a friend of mine gave me a recipe for "Matrimonial Squares" and I was quite surprised to see they were the same thing.  Where I live now most people call them "Date Squares". Of course, every recipe varies slightly in the amounts of ingredients but they are basically the same thing. 

Lots of people like Date Crumbles.  They're favourites on the cookie tray at church socials and baby and bridal showers. My friend, Ruth, always looks for them when we eat at a certain restaurant but they're usually sold out early in the day to the morning coffee drinkers.  Even though Mom made these quite often they were never a favourite of mine. As a child I'd rather have had a peanut butter or chocolate chip cookie but... I could be forced to eat one or two when put to the test.  I like them now and Don loves them. I should really make them more often for him as they are probably one of the more healthier treats we could eat (if you don't count the butter and sugar). 

I have, over the years, done a little experimenting with the recipe and one of my favourite ways to make them is with orange juice and grated orange rind added.  Oranges and dates just seem made for each other and I know other bakers who make them this way also.  My daughter-in-law's uncle is famous for his orange flavoured Date Crumbles.  I guess I don't make them often enough to be famous for this cookie.    The Orange Date Crumbles are good but if you want to really dress up a Date Crumble and take it to a party, just spread the date mixture with an even layer of chocolate chips before adding the crumb topping.  Oh, my.....if oranges and dates were meant to be together then chocolate and dates should be the law.  And if you combine the orange and chocolate in the one square you might as well say, "I love Date Crumbles"!

This recipe makes a large batch but can easily be cut in half and baked in a smaller pan.  But as these are excellent freezers I'd suggest you make the full recipe and freeze some for another day or when company pops in unexpectedly.  A warm Date Crumble with a scoop of vanilla ice cream makes a delightful dessert any time.  

Date Crumbles
Date Filling, see recipe below
2 cups flour (may be part or all whole wheat if you are in a healthy mode)
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups very soft butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan. Line with parchment for easy removal of squares.
 
Mix all dry ingredients together with the margarine until mixture is crumbly but moist enough to cling together.  Press half crumble mixture in prepared pan.  Spread with date filling and remainder of crumble mixture.  Pat down gently.  Bake 30-35 minutes in 350 degree oven.  Cut into squares or bars when cool.  


Makes 24-36 squares or bars or even more if you cut them smaller.

If you wish, the date filling can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for a few days before using.  

Date Filling
1 500 gram package dates, chopped (about 1 pound)
1 ¾ cups water
¼ cup packed brown sugar, optional

Place all the ingredients in a pot over medium heat. Cook until soft and thick but not wet.  More water may have to be added if the dates were very dry.  Sugar may be added but is not necessary.  Some people like to add a teaspoon of vanilla to this mixture but I usually don't.  It's up to you.  When the filling is ready let it cool a little before using.

Orange Date Filling: Make the date filling replacing some or all of the water with orange juice and add the grated peel of one orange to the date mixture while cooking.

Chocolate Date Filling:  Spread an even layer of chopped chocolate or chocolate chips over the date filling before adding the crumb top.  This is very good with the orange filling.  



Dates usually come in bags or boxes like the one in the picture.  You can also purchase cooking dates pressed together in blocks wrapped in cellophane wrapping.  Either kind is good for date squares.

 Today I made the Orange Date Crumbles.  
Just grate the orange rind into the pot of dates.

 Place the dates, water/orange juice and sugar in a pot and bring to a simmer.

 In about 10 minutes the dates should break up and start to get mushy. 

Keep the heat low and stir occasionally. Cook an additional 10 or 15 minutes until thick and almost smooth.  The filling is now ready to use but let it cool down a little before spreading on the cookie base. 

While the filling is simmering and getting thick, start the cookie crumble.  Mix all the dry ingredients with the soft butter.


You can use a spoon but your hands will do just as good or even better job.  Mix everything together until a moist crumb is formed.

Test the crumb texture by squeezing a handful.  The crumbs should come together in a solid lump.  If the crumbs are too dry to cling together add a little more butter. 

Spread half the crumbs in the pan and press down lightly with a spoon or your hand.

Spread the date filling over the base.  Don't spread it right to the edge.  Leave a little margin of exposed cookie dough.


I had a few slices of a chocolate orange that I chopped up and spread on part of the filling.  This will make a tasty dessert later on this week.  


Spread the remaining cookie crumble over the filling.  Pat down lightly.  This should push the filling closer to the sides of the pan.

When baked, the crumble should be golden brown.  Let cool completely before cutting into squares or bars.

 Look how fast these Date Crumbles are disappearing.  Make a full batch.

Here's one "date" you won't want to miss!

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