Date and nut bars

December 2, 2009

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Makes 32

Dense chewy date and nut bars are traditional in New England. Begin with whole pitted dates (rather than chopped dates, which tend to be dry) and snip them with a scissors. Then let them soak in boiling water to soften.

Butter (for the pan)
8 ounces (2 cups) whole pitted dates, snipped with a scissors into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups walnut pieces, coarsely chopped
Confectioners’ sugar (for sprinkling)
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

2. In a bowl, combine the dates and water. Set aside for 15 minutes or until cool.

3. In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt to mix them.

4. In an electric mixer, cream the butter until light. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat until well blended. Beat in eggs, one by one, followed by the vanilla. Stir in cooled dates and water.

5. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, blend in the flour mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. With a large metal spoon, fold in the nuts.

6. Transfer the batter to the baking pan. Smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is firm to the touch. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.

7. Make 3 lengthwise and 7 crosswise cuts to form 32 bars. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Store in airtight container. Sheryl Julian