I will never forget the first time I tasted date squares. I was still in public school. My best friend’s Mom was an excellent cook and baker. One day after-school she served us a treat that had me over the moon. A sweet square that looked a little crumbly around the edges . One bite and I was swooning over a rich, buttery, caramel enhanced oat crumb with an intensely exotic filling of dark, sweet dates. She called these magical morsels matrimonial squares. Even the name was wonderful. Matrimonial squares. Were these a special creation for weddings? Or did they bring about marriage?
Date squares (matrimonial squares) were my first introduction to baking squares. None of my cookbooks had a section for “squares”. My cookbooks were published in the thirties and early forties and were all that was available. I had started baking around l945. I asked for the recipe and these many years later I am still baking Mrs. Rybka’s Matrimonial Squares.
|DATE SQUARES ... aka MATRIMONIAL SQUARES|| |
- 2½ generous cups pitted dates
- 1 cup water
- 3 tbsp. lemon juice
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1½ cups large-flakes rolled oats (not quick cooking)
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¾ cup unsalted butter cut into small chunks - room temperature.
- Preheat oven to350F. Grease an 8 inch square baking pan with butter and line with parchment paper.
- Combine the dates (there is no need to chop them up, water, brown sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the baking soda. Continue to cook stirring occasionally until the dates are soft and lose their shape (about 5 min.).
- Remove from heat and allow the filling to cool completely.
- To make the crumble topping whisk together the oats, flour, salt and baking powder until combined.
- Add the butter and mix in with your hands until it forms a crumble.
- Divide the crumble in half and firmly press into the bottom of the baking pan using the flat base of a measuring cup.
- Gently spread the cooled date mixture over this base then sprinkle with the remaining crumble topping, pressing lightly.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the topping is a light golden colour. For even baking rotate the pan from front to back halfway through.
- Allow to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before removing from the pan and cutting into squares.
- The squares can be stored in an airtight container for about two 2 weeks.
- CHEF'S NOTE: For a delicious and different alternative you an use equal amount of prunes in place of the dates.