Date-Nut Snack Cake
If I had to make a list of my favorite dried fruits (which, incidentally, would have been a much better school exercise than, say, calculus), dates and figs would always fight it out for the number one spot. Unlike the Fig Newton bars that I can remember eating when I was younger, I really can’t remember eating dates when I was younger aside from one very specific memory. I remember my mom in the kitchen doing some holiday baking and I don’t remember what she was making, but I remember a bag of those diced, sugared dates sitting on the counter. And I remember reaching into that bag over and over again. Those things were so darn good! Other than that, I just sort of knew I liked dates, and would be more than happy to eat any type of baked good that included them. Nowadays, chopped dates and pecans are my favorite way to top a morning bowl of oatmeal. But, as I found out, these date bars (which also include pecans) make a pretty fantastic breakfast as well!
This is one of those ultra-easy, no mixer required, two-bowls-and-a-spatula recipes. Which means it can get into the oven in no time, which in turn means that I can bake it and have a piece in front of me, ready to be devoured, in the time it takes to watch one Beverly Hills 90210 rerun (or favorite one-hour TV guilty pleasure, take your pick). You do soak the dates in rum (drool), but this can be done well in advance of making the recipe so it doesn’t really take up any active prep time.
The resulting bars, as you can see, are absolutely packed full of dates and pecans. There is definitely no lack of flavor or texture here. They do have the consistency of a cakey blondie, or a good old-fashioned snack cake. I deemed them more than appropriate for breakfast on multiple occasions last week. Breakfast, dessert, snack – I’d take them any time of day.
Date-Nut Snack Cake
8 ounces diced pitted dates (about 1½ cups)
1 tablespoon rum
1 cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1. Toss the dates in the rum and let them sit for at least one hour (up to 3 or 4 hours).
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch or 9-inch square pan with foil and coat the inside with non-stick spray; set aside.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, and eggs until smooth. Mix in the butter, hot water, and vanilla, then stir in the flour mixture. Use a spatula to stir in the dates (and any liquid) and the pecans.
5. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let date bars cool, then lift out the bars. Peel away the foil and cut into squares. The bars will keep for up to four days at room temperature, or can be frozen for up to two months.