I remember the first time I saw one of these. It was in the lunchbox of my childhood best friend, her mother was known for her amazing baking, and it didn’t look like the usual tempting treats she had. In fact, it looked plain boring! I think my first taste of it would come much later, at a visit to her house with my parents over the festive season. It was on tiered plates amongst other typically Canadian Christmas goodies like Butter Tarts, Nanaimo Bars and Whipped Shortbread. Needless to say, it was not the first thing I went for.
But then I did the same thing with flapjacks. Never had a ‘treat’ looked so unappealing. Its granola bar similarity, full of sugar and fats, did nothing to improve its appeal. I don’t even know what possessed me to try it, and then to wonder why it took me so very long to do so!! These were the same. Not interesting enough to try it but once I did, well, that is what brings me here.
So, these quickly became one of my favourites. As a mother, I loved the good dose of oats and unsweetened date filling. It made me feel like at least it was better than a biscuit (cookie)! The recipe has always been remarkably easy and quick to put together. I think pitting the dates and then heating them with water and vanilla on the stove has got to be the most trying aspect of this. But it is also a really good way to use up some neglected dates forgotten at the back of the cupboard, which have gone too hard for much else. I made this gluten-free (for a guest), dairy-free and with unrefined sugar. The nuts I included are optional, so if you are also nut-free (or making them for school lunches) then you can swap these out for more flour or even buckwheat groats to keep the crunchy texture.
Makes an 8×8 tray; 9 large squares or 16 medium squares
- 250g (1 1/2 cups) Dates, pitted and chopped
- 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) Water
- 1 tsp Vanilla paste
- 100g (1 cup) Oats
- 40 g (1/3 cup) Walnut pieces
- 160g (1 1/4 cup) Buckwheat Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
- 1/2 tsp fine Sea Salt
- 1 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 200 g (1 cup) Coconut Palm Sugar (alternately use brown sugar)
- 160 g (3/4 cup) Coconut Oil (alternately use a 50:50 mix of non-dairy shortening like Pure Sunflower with Coconut oil)
8×8 baking tin/glass
Oven 180C/ Fan 160C / 350F
Firstly, measure out the coconut oil and then put this into the freezer for 20 mins before you use it. (I actually forgot and left this too long and had to then grate it, which I can confirm will work in a pinch.) You need the coconut oil to be firmer than room temperature in order to create the crumb, as you would with butter.
Prepare your 8×8 baking tin with coconut oil. Set aside.
Meanwhile, place all the dates with the water into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dates breakdown and you have a soft paste. Allow to cool, then add the vanilla.
Put the oats into a food processor and pulse it a few times to break down some of the oat flakes. Pour this out into a bowl and set it aside. Next, add the walnuts to the food processor (Don’t worry about washing the bowl from the oats.) and blend until you have a very coarse flour – you are not looking to get powder here, but nice crunchy bites.) Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, sugar and salt. Mix through before adding the cold coconut oil. Pulse until a coarse crumb forms.
Pour half of the mixture into your tin and press this down firmly to form a flat surface. Top with the cooled date filling and then the remainder of the crumb. Press down gently. Bake for 40 minutes, until the crumb is golden and it is set in the middle. Allow to cool before cutting into squares. (Dare I say it? These are really nice warm with a dollop of coconut yoghurt ice cream on the side as a warm crumble style dessert!)
These will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container at room temperature, or you can freeze them if you need to keep them longer – assuming of course, there are any left.
Note – This can of course be made by hand to form the crumb. I chose to use the food processor as I have warm hands which melt the coconut oil very quickly, which won’t give the best results.