Date and Lemon Bars With Sesame

Time1 hour 30 minutes, plus overnight cooling
YieldsMakes 16 squares
Creamy, brown-sugar-y dates cut the sharpness of lemon in these refreshing dessert bars.
(Rebecca Peloquin/For The Times)
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Creamy, sweet dates soothe out the lemon in these bars, while the tart lemon brightens up the dates. All this flavor hand-holding makes these bars perfect for snacking, a showy dessert or just a fun and tasty baking project. There’s several steps here, so be sure to read through to the end before you begin. If you have trouble finding date paste, you can make it yourself by pulsing soft Medjool dates until smooth (see note below).

Date Layer
Tahini Crust
Lemon Layer

Make the date layer: In a small saucepan, combine the date paste, water, vinegar and salt and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the water starts simmering, remove the pan from the heat and use a wooden spoon or sturdy whisk to break up the paste and incorporate it with the warm water until a spreadable paste forms. Stir in the chopped dates and set the paste aside to cool to room temperature.


Make the crust: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square metal baking pan with foil so it hangs over the sides; grease the foil on the inside of the pan generously with butter.


In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter and tahini until smooth. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the tahini-butter mixture and stir with a spoon until the dough comes together. Using your hands, knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball. Transfer the ball of dough to the prepared pan and use your hand to press it into an even layer over the bottom (not up the sides). Bake until golden brown around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes.


While the crust bakes, make the lemon layer: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour and salt. Add the eggs and whisk slowly until combined. Pour in the lemon juice and stir with the whisk until smooth.


Once the crust comes out of the oven, let cool for 5 minutes. Scrape the date mixture over the crust and gently spread it evenly over the bottom. Holding the bowl of a spoon upside down and a few inches above the date layer, pour the lemon mixture over the spoon, letting it gently fall onto the dates.


Return the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the sesame seeds evenly over the top of the bars, then return the pan to the oven. Bake until the lemon layer is set and is no longer loose in the center when you tap the side of the pan, 15 minutes more. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the bars cool completely to room temperature. Refrigerate the bars in the pan until cold and firm, at least 2 hours or overnight.


To serve, use the overhanging foil to lift the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut the bar into small squares and transfer to a serving platter. The bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Date Paste
Date paste is simply dates that have been pitted and pureed into a smooth spread. The paste’s richness, body and sweetness makes it a great substitute for butter in paleo or vegan baking, in which it is often used. You can usually find it in grocery stores but if not, make your own by pitting moist, sticky dates, like Medjool, and pureeing them in a food processor until smooth. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, date paste will last up to 2 weeks.