I have to be honest with you guys. Before I made this recipe, I had never eaten a date. Is that weird? Or is that normal? Do you guys like dates and have them all the time, or was it just me who had been deprived of dates my entire childhood? Either way, now that I’ve tried ’em, dates are here to stay. Their sweet, smoky flavor paired with a soft, chewy texture makes them the perfect secret ingredient in healthy baking alternatives. Where these Oatmeal Date Squares could have easily been stuffed with caramel (don’t get me wrong, that’s an awesome idea… see for yourself), they’re naturally sugary, nutty, and absolutely addictive.
This recipe comes from a new favorite baking book of mine – Have Your Cake And Eat It by Mich Turner. It’s full of healthier baking ideas, and utilizes lots of fresh and dried fruits. I’d been itching to play around with some dates (again, is that weird? #justbakerthings), and was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon this recipe.
Not only does it use a whole layer of dates, but it pairs them with oats – another favorite healthy baking ingredient of mine. You guys will love the combination. it’s a cross between brown sugar stirred into oatmeal and an oatmeal raisin cookie, but even better.
One thing I love about this recipe and Mich Turner’s whole book is that the healthy baked goods aren’t too healthy. You know what I mean? It’s not obsessively fat-free or sugar-free at all. Rather, it lightens up recipes while still keeping them palatable. One of my favorite parts of this recipe is the unbelievable, melt-in-your-mouth oat crumble on top. It’s like a crumbly pie crust made of oats and butter and all things delicious. You guys, writing this post for you has me craving this (healthy!!) dessert big time… I’m about to go make a batch, and you should too!
Oatmeal Date Squares
Inspired by Have Your Cake and Eat It by Mich Turner
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 38 minutes
Yield: One 8-by-8 inch pan
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
- 1 banana, mashed very well
- 3 cups Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 2/3 cup water
- Preheat your oven to 350*F, and grease an 8-by-8 inch baking pan, then line with parchment paper.
- Combine the flours, sugar, and oats in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, stir together the butter and mashed banana. In the center of the dry ingredients, make a fist-size divot and fill it with the melted butter/banana mixture. Gently stir together, creating a crumbly oat mixture.
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the dates, lemon zest, and water. Occasionally giving the mixture a gentle stir, cook until the dates are soft and the water is mostly absorbed – about 8 minutes.
- Press half of the oat mixture down firmly into your pan, then top it with an even layer of the date reduction. Distribute the rest of the oat mixture evenly over the top, and give it another firm press. Bake for 38 minutes, or until the oats are looking nice and golden. Let cool fully before cutting into 16 squares. Enjoy!