Date Squares – A Canadian Tradition

Date squares are like a big hug from Grandma.  They are sweet, comfort food treats that bring back memories of childhood for me.  Soft chewy dates macerated down with brown sugar and vanilla and then sandwiched between two buttery flaky layers of oatmeal crumble.

Serve with earl grey or orange pekoe tea in a beautiful tea cup and  milk and your heart will melt.

Two date squares stacked on top of a beautiful antique saucer with a stunning gold rim

While I would like to say this is my Grandma’s recipe I unfortunately can’t.  This is one recipe of hers I have to track down. The recipe for the date filling is actually from our church cook book.  The entire church was asked to submit their favourite recipes and the cook book was used to raise funds for some local charities.

One of the best purchases ever!

This cook book I cherish is filled with one heirloom recipe after the other.  Classic recipes that never go out of style.  This recipe is particular is not straight out of the book.  Bishop Bergie submitted a date square recipe and I am in love with the recipe for the filling.  I have never had luck with the top and bottom crumble part of the recipe so that is where I have branched out on my own.

The filling super easy to make.  Simply add pitted dates to a large sauce pan with 1 cup of water, vanilla and brown sugar and simmer to soften and break down the dates.  Once softened macerate the dates in the saucepan with the back of a spoon and simmer until thickened and the water has been absorbed.

I find that once you mash the dates up the liquid get absorbed pretty quickly so try and do this as soon as the dates are soft enough to mash or mush up with the spoon.

The crust is made of softened butter, oats, cinnamon and flour.  The trick was getting the right balance between the butter and the dry ingredients so that the crust would hold together and not just fall apart.  I had to test a number of variations to get this right but the outcome I think is a perfect buttery crust that is flaking, crumbly and has a little crunch.

A sheet of date squares cute into pieces on a piece of parchment paper showcasing the sweet date filling and crunchy crumble crust

Date squares are a Canadian Dessert and can usually be found at coffee shops pretty much anywhere.  What is strange though is that Dates are not grown anywhere near Canada.  So how originated in Canada I would love to know.

Being a proud Canadian myself I thought I would share some of my other favourite Canadian Desserts… perhaps I should do a post on all desserts Canadian … food for thought.  Pardon the pun LOL.

Favourite Canadian Desserts or Treats:

  • Butter Tarts – a whole lot of sugar, eggs and butter in side a pastry shell.  I know right!  Drools…They can be made plain or with raisins, walnuts and or pecans.
  • Sugar Pie in Quebec is is called Tarte au Sucre – basically a huge butter tart … big enough to serve 8.
  • Nanaimo Bars – named after a city in British Columbia.  A butter flavoured sugar centre… notice a sugary theme here in Canada. Topped with chocolate ganache and a bottom layer of chocolate and coconut crumb crust.
  • Beaver Tails – fried sweet dough flattened into the shape of a beaver tail and topped with sugar…. surprise!  Sugar again. They are now often found at festivals and come with a tonne of other toppings too like chocolate, nutella, strawberries, whipped cream or all of the above.

An overhead shot of a table spread with an assortment of cookies and date squares.

With this recipe you don’t need to visit Canada to give them a try but we sure would love to have you visit eh!

DATE SQUARES RECIPE:

Dates squares – sweet, chewy and set between a perfect buttery crust that is flaking, crumbly and has a little crunch.  So good with tea and coffee which is likely why they can almost always be found at any Canadian coffee shop or bakery.

If you like this recipe please give it a 5 star recipe rating.

Date Squares
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Cool Completely
2 hrs
Total Time
45 mins
 

Dates squares - sweet, chewy and set between a perfect buttery crust that is flaking, crumbly and has a little crunch.  So good with tea and coffee which is likely why they can almost always be found at any Canadian coffee shop or bakery.  

Course: Dessert, Treat
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Baking, Date Squares, Dessert Squares
Servings: 16 squares
Calories: 300 kcal
Ingredients
  • 16 oz chopped pitted dates
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or maple syrup
  • 1 cup unsalted Butter softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan combine dates, sugar, water and vanilla.  Mix well and simmer until dates soften and thicken.   Use the back of a large spoon to break down the dates when they soften to create a thickened smooth mixture.  Do this before all the liquid is absorbed.

  2. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.

  4. In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar until smooth and light.  

  5. In a medium bowl add oats, flour, cinnamon and salt and mix well to combine.

  6. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and mix only until combined.  You want the crust a little flakey and crumbly so don't over mix.

  7. Grease an 8 X 8 baking dish and line with parchment paper. Add half of the oatmeal mixture and press lightly and evenly into bottom of pan.

  8. Add cooled date mixture and spread evenly over bottom layer.

  9. With the remaining oatmeal mixture evenly drop spoonfuls on top of the date mixture.  It will look like dumplings on top but don't worry.  Then place a piece of wax paper on top and use the back of a large spoon or bottom of a small glass to help spread the oat mixture out evenly  across the top.  Don't press hard of the oat topping will sink in.  Simply coax the oat mixture to spread out to form a thin crust as evenly as possible.  When done remove the wax paper.

  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the oat mixture starts to turn a light golden brown.

  11. Remove from oven and cool completely.  Once cooled completely you can easily lift the whole item out of the baking dish and cut into squares but to do this the dates squares must be completely cool.  Store in a sealed container or freeze for up to 2 months.

Nutrition Facts
Date Squares
Amount Per Serving (1 square)
Calories 300 Calories from Fat 108
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 18%
Saturated Fat 7.4g 37%
Trans Fat 0.46g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.7g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.2g
Cholesterol 31mg 10%
Sodium 80mg 3%
Potassium 259mg 7%
Total Carbohydrates 48g 16%
Dietary Fiber 3.5g 14%
Sugars 35g
Protein 3g 6%
Vitamin A 15%
Calcium 4%
Iron 6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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One thought on “Date Squares – A Canadian Tradition

  1. Oh man, I haven’t been able to track down my Me-mere’s date square recipe either so I’m going to give this one a try. I have all of her old cookbooks but the date square recipe isn’t in any of them so it must’ve just been one of those recipes she knew off by heart. Thanks!

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