Saturday, January 27, 2007

Date Crumb Bars: the Lazy Man's Homemade Fig Newtons

I served these to the book club last week. When I said, "Have a Date Crumb Bar," everyone looked rather nervously at the plate of cookies.

"What are they?" said someone.

I thought fast. These are really an old-fashioned style of cookie and clearly I had to find common ground.

"Like a homemade Fig Newton."

Everyone's faces relaxed and smiles came up all around. "Oh, homemade Fig Newtons? Wow!"

The cookies were a big hit.

Obviously, they are not quite a "homemade Fig Newton." For one thing these contain dates not figs. For another, I've seen actual recipes for homemade Fig Newton style cookies. I am just too darned lazy to even contemplate making a dough, rolling it out, and all that jazz.

These are so very simple and I bet they're just as good as anything in those other recipes, if not better. Long ago Gourmet ferreted out the recipe for a bakery's Date Crumb bars in response to a reader's request. No wonder they wanted to be able to make these at home.

You'll never buy another Fig Newton after you make these.

Step 1: the filling
1 pound pitted dates
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in saucepan. Bring to simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer 1 minute. Puree mixture in processor. Cool until lukewarm.

Step 2: the crust
1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chilled butter, in small pieces

Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350°. Butter 9x13" baking pan. Mix dry ingredients. Rub in butter with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Firmly press half into bottom of prepared pan. Carefully spread filling over crust. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over filling.

Bake until topping is golden brown, 35-38 minutes. Cool in pan. Cut into squares.

Be sure to let these sit at least one day before eating. The flavor matures and melds.

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