It is finally starting to cool down here in B-more, and I love it. (Just wait, though, in a month I'll be shivering with complaints). Wool cardigan, corduroy skirt, tights, and boots...these clothes I wear today tell me it's autumn. And although I can't say I like shorter days, I do like the fact that the sun is rising when I run/bike in the mornings. This morning I rode out to the reservoir and saw the golden light breaking through the dark clouds and bathing my city in glory. Good way to start the day!
To celebrate autumn (and my sweet tooth) I put together these dear little treats (actually, the real impetus was that moths were trying to get into my dates. Had to rescue them). A combination mainly consisting of brown sugar, walnuts, and dried dates, this dessert comes together beautifully. I found the recipe years ago from I can't remember where, but forgot to write down the oil/butter. I had to guess, and went with half a cup of olive oil. (However, now that I have stored these treats for a few days, I think 1/4 cup or maybe 1/3 cup of oil would be better -- the squares are a bit messy to hold.) I suppose canola would have made more sense, but I didn't have it, and besides, the olive-y-ness is not detected after baking. Butter would probably work just as well, but I wanted these to be dairy-free.***
A note about the dates --
Use ones with the pit still in them. I know it's a little tedious to pry the pit out of each one, but pitted dates are much dryer and not as tasty. It will probably only take you seven minutes to pit all of the dates. Take a date, slice it lengthwise, and pop the pit out with the edge of your knife. Another note -- the batter will be sticky and dense. Use your hands, dive in and mix it up, and press it into the pan.
A good way to store these is to cut them into squares, wrap them individually in parchment or wax paper, and tie a rubber band around them like a present. (Repeat in December for gifts). They will keep for about a week in an airtight container, or you can freeze them for a few months.
Enjoy them with a strong cup of black coffee. The sweet and the bitter provide a nice contrast. Or, have tea. Or hot apple cider. Whatever you choose, you'll feel happy sitting down to a mid-afternoon snack of chewy date walnut bars.
Chewy Date Walnut Bars
Note -- Use dates with the pit still in them for moister bars. After baking and cooling, the bars will be sticky and a little crumbly. To cut them neatly, put them in the fridge for about an hour, then use a sharp knife to cut into squares.
2 large eggs
*1/4 cup olive oil (if the mixture is too dry to work with when you combine it with the flour, add a bit more oil)
*NOTE: I make these now with a stick of melted butter (1/2 cup) instead of olive oil. I like butter better when baking at higher temperatures, and the bars last longer with butter than with olive oil. You can still choose to use olive oil, but you may want to use 1/3 cup instead of 1/4.
Beat in large bowl, set aside.
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup brown sugar
Whisk together in separate bowl. Add to eggs.
1 cup (packed) pitted, chopped dates (I used about 30)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Fold into flour/egg mixture, using your hands if necessary. The mixture will be stiff. Press mixture into greased 9-inch square pan. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 18-22 minutes. Cool, then chill before cutting into squares.
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