There may be those who don't understand the wonders of dates, how sweet and buttery they can be, how richly satisfying and oh-so-decadent. But freelance writer Marcy Goldman, whose bar cookie recipes were published in September, knocked our socks off with these dense, chewy cookies. They especially captivated the date-lovers among us. Goldman, author of "A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking" (Doubleday, 1998), began her baking career with squares--bar cookies. These homey miracles are best served large and chilled with a glass of milk, a cup of tea or espresso.
Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour plus 40 minutes cooling
2 1/2 cups pitted dates (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 2/3 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon orange oil, optional
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cold
* Combine dates, 2/3 cup brown sugar, water, vanilla, lemon juice and orange oil in 2-quart saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Cook until dates are softened, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from stove and cool. Puree in food processor until smooth.
* Place flour, oatmeal, 1 cup brown sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in work bowl of food processor. Pulse to combine, then add chunks of cold butter until mixture is crumbly.
* Pat 1/2 mixture into lightly greased 9-inch-square baking pan. Cover with date mixture, spreading evenly. Top with remaining crumb mixture as evenly as possible. Press down lightly.
* Place pan on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until top is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool 20 minutes then put in freezer 20 minutes before cutting into squares.