Delicious Date Bars

Now that the brunch series is complete, it's time to get back to my weekly baking shenanigans. In other words, these treats serve as breakfast, a school snack for my sister, a snack for the office for my dad, an evening pick-me-up alongside a hot drink for my mom (and I - but I don't do the whole drink thing; drinks aren't really my thing - I'm a water kind of gal!) or even an after dinner dessert.

Moving on to these date bars. Dates are one of my all time favorite foods and ingredients. They're actually perfect. Having grown up in Dubai, dates were a daily staple of mine. Dates are very filling and just one or two (stuffed with some nuts or nut butter - yum!) are a perfect snack to keep you going. Because they're sweet, they also definitely satiate any sugar cravings you may have. In recipes, they provide sweetness, gooey-ness, heartiness, healthiness, moisture, color and a caramel-like flavor. They are die-hard delicious.

Just like these date bars! The crumble mixture used for the top and bottom acts in two different ways. When pressed down, it forms a base for these bars. When sprinkled on top, it forms a wonderful crumble. Most of the sugar in this recipe comes directly from the dates. There's a total of one tablespoon of added sugar, plus some freshly squeezed orange juice! And let me assure you, these taste decadent. When the bars are refrigerated to set, the date filling gets almost as hard as a gooey brownie, but just sticky and soft enough that you're teeth don't have to work hard. That creamy, sticky, slightly orange-flavored filling juxtaposed against the crumbly, delicious, subtly-salty crust and topping is a blast of textures and flavors in your mouth. Just take a look for yourself! These bars even got the daddy approval stamp (a big deal!), so I can promise you they're good.

If you were to taste these bars, you'd swear they have lots of sugar and butter. Then you'd take a look at the ingredient list and swear your eyes were deceiving you. But no, it's true. You don't need all that butter or sugar to make indulgent-tasting treats like these!

For the date filling:
1 1/2 cups pitted dates
3/4 cup water
freshly grated zest of 1 orange
freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

For the top and bottom (crust and crumble) layers:
1 cup almond flour
1 tbsp unrefined cane sugar
3/4 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, cold

Preheat oven to 175 C.
Line a square baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
In a food processor, pulse together all the ingredients for the top and bottom layers until just combined. Place this mixture in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling.
Combine all the ingredients for the date mixture in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until liquid has fully evaporated and you are left with a wonderful, creamy, heavenly date mixture. Set this aside to cool.
Press 2/3 of the crust mixture into the baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until crust begins to slightly brown.
Remove from the oven, spread the delicious date mixture on top and sprinkle the rest of the crust mixture on top.
Place back in the oven for 30 minutes or until crumble on top is a beautiful golden brown.
Let the bars come to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Cut into large squares, grab a glass of cold milk, and enjoy!

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