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A classic date bar recipe for Christmas or any day

It's the peak of cookie baking and consumption, and ovens everywhere are working overtime. With Christmas just a few days away, you're probably in really deep. Cookie sheets are in high rotation. You've made a lot of sugary cookies, decorative icing, plus gingerbread spiced cookies, thumbprints with glistening centers of jam, and chocolate in all forms.

How about date bars for something different? The classic bar cookie with a jam of sweet dates between layers of crumbly oats and cinnamon is perfect for the holidays, and yet you don't see it enough.

Danny's mom mentioned a couple months ago that her mother used to make them, and they've been on my mind ever since. I couldn't remember ever trying a date bar, but it sounded like my kind of cookie.

The preparation is simple. I pitted the luscious, soft dates and soon our home was fragrant with the aroma of cinnamon and butter melting into oats. Our home was instantly and wonderfully cozy, as it should be on these earlier nights.

Consider adding the date bar to your Christmas cookie collection. A fresh batch of the crumbly cookies would be ideal for Christmas morning, especially with a cup of coffee. Or save it for dessert. Gently warm a date bar and top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you go the ice cream route for breakfast, then I believe you're doing December very well.

I may stir in some chopped walnuts with the oats next time. Freshly grated nutmeg would be a welcome addition, but if you haven't yet, try a simple and classic version first. The holidays are also fairly nostalgic times, and a solid, old-fashioned cookie is a good companion.

Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend, Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be reached at alittlesaffron@gmail.com.

>>Moderate

Date Bars

These sweet and fragrant little bars are perfect with a cup of coffee or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Your choice, though I promise you can't go wrong. The amount of sugar is dialed down from the original recipe in Bon Appétit, which is a good thing. Dates are pretty sweet all on their own.

1 ½ cups water

1 ½ cups fresh Medjool dates, pitted and chopped

A squeeze of lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled oats

¾ cup dark brown sugar

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold and cubed

Bring water to a boil. Stir in the dates and lemon juice and let simmer until thick and glossy, about 10 minutes. Don't worry if it takes a bit longer. Let the date mixture cool before stirring in the vanilla.

Meanwhile, prepare the crust. Heat the oven 350 degrees. Mix the flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Mix in the cold butter with your hands, rubbing it in until it breaks down into smaller clumps throughout the mixture.

Lightly press half of the flour and oat mixture into the bottom of an 8- by 8-inch pan lined with parchment paper. Spread the date mixture evenly to cover the oat and flour mixture. Sprinkle the rest of the crust over the date mixture. Bake until golden brown and the center sets, 30 to 40 minutes. Let the date bars cool in the pan, and then cut them into squares. Serve with coffee or vanilla ice cream.

Store bars in plastic wrap or in an airtight container, and they'll keep up to a few days.

Makes about 16 bars, depending on how you cut them.

Source: Noelle Singh,

xobreakfast.com.

A classic date bar recipe for Christmas or any day 12/18/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 3:30am]

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